The Four Types of Borderline Personality Disorder

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People with borderline personality disorder (BPD) have trouble regulating their emotions. Their emotions can be intense and last for long periods of time. It’s hard for them to return to a stable place after an event triggers their emotions.

The exact cause of BPD isn’t clear. Experts think it may be a combination of a few things, like:

  • Genetics
  • Environmental factors
  • Brain function

Several risk factors can make a person more likely to experience BPD. One of these is having a parent with BPD or any other mental disorder.

This article looks at the symptoms of borderline personality disorder and its four types.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

People with BPD have mood swings and can feel unstable and insecure. Other symptoms may include:

  • Fear of being abandoned: They may frantically try to avoid real or imagined abandonment by friends and family.
  • Unstable relationships with others: They may switch between looking up to and looking down on the people they are close to. 
  • Distorted and unstable self-image: People with BPD may have a poor self-image and be very self-critical.
  • Impulsive behaviors that can have dangerous outcomes: They may engage in excessive spending, unsafe sex, reckless driving, or misuse or overuse of substances.
  • Self-harming behavior: People with BPD may threaten or attempt suicide.
  • Periods of intense mood: They may have periods where they feel very irritable or anxious. These periods may last from a few hours to a few days.
  • Feeling bored or empty: These feelings may go on for long periods of time.
  • Anger that may be intense, inappropriate, or uncontrollable: These outbursts are often followed by feelings of shame and guilt.
  • Dissociative feelings: People with BPD may feel disconnected from their thoughts or sense of identity. They may also have stress-related paranoid thoughts.

People with BPD tend to view things in extremes, such as all good or all bad. Their opinions of others can change quickly. This is one reason why people with BPD tend to have unstable relationships.

Recap

People with BPD have strong feelings of insecurity and can experience mood swings. Other symptoms may include fear of abandonment, poor self-image, and unstable relationships with others. 

Types of Borderline Personality Disorder

There are four types of BPD. You can be diagnosed with more than one type at the same time or at different times.

Types of Borderline Personality Disorders - Illustration by Michela Buttignol

Verywell / Michela Buttignol

Impulsive Borderline Personality Disorder

Impulsive behavior is a primary symptom of BPD. A person with BPD can act in impulsive and often dangerous ways. They may do this without regard for others or possible consequences.

People with this type of BPD may appear:

  • Charismatic
  • Energetic
  • Elusive or detached
  • Flirtatious
  • Engaging or motivating

Some example behaviors include:

  • Bingeing behaviors: Binge eating, overspending
  • Risky and self-destructive behaviors: Unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, driving under the influence, drinking alcohol to excess, doing illicit drugs, gambling
  • Aggressive behaviors: Outbursts, physical fights, breaking things, hitting things, yelling fits

Recap

People with impulsive BPD may engage in risky behaviors, like unprotected sex, drinking too much alcohol, and gambling.

Discouraged Borderline Personality Disorder

This is also known as quiet borderline personality disorder. People with this type are afraid of being abandoned. They may take extreme actions to prevent real or imagined abandonment.

Compared to people with other types of BPD, people with this type may keep their emotions inside. They also tend to blame themselves rather than others. 

Discouraged types may:

  • Be perfectionists 
  • Be very successful
  • Be high functioning 
  • Feel alienated and detached in groups
  • Feel like they don’t have real or strong bonds with others 
  • Seek approval but also self-isolate
  • Engage in self-harm or suicidal behavior
  • Feel lonely and empty a lot of the time

Signs of discouraged BPD include:

  • Clinginess
  • Codependency 
  • Neediness 
  • Anger and emotional mood swings if abandonment issues get triggered

Recap

People with discouraged BPD are afraid of being abandoned. They may keep their emotions hidden and blame themselves for problems instead of others. 

Self-Destructive Borderline Personality Disorder

People with this type of BPD struggle with self-hatred and often feel bitter.

Symptoms of self-destructive BPD are similar to those of other conditions. Look out for these additional symptoms:

  • An increase in energy
  • A decrease in the desire to sleep
  • Feelings of euphoria

These may be signs of a manic episode or bipolar disorder rather than self-destructive BPD. Talk to your doctor so you can be sure to get the right treatment.

Example behaviors of people with this type of BPD include: 

  • Substance abuse: This includes recreational drugs and prescription medications.
  • Risky adrenaline-seeking activities: People with this type of BPD may do these activities without preparing for them first.
  • Self-harm behaviors: These may include cutting, burning, scratching, or hitting.
  • Threats of suicide

Don’t discount suicide threats from people with BPD. You may need to intervene and help your loved one get emergency care.

Petulant Borderline Personality Disorder

People with this type of BPD may be angry one moment and sad or sulky the next. They may swing unpredictably between one emotion and another. They may also feel unworthy and unloved. This can lead to relationship challenges and an unhealthy desire for control.

People with this type of BPD can be manipulative. They often feel very dissatisfied in their relationships. Substance abuse and other dangerous behaviors often follow.

The research literature isn't always consistent about BPD subtypes. Some may list different subtypes or more than four.

Example behaviors of people with this type of BPD include:

  • Irritability and impatience
  • Stubbornness and defiance
  • Passive-aggressiveness
  • Severe mood swings

If you or someone you know is in crisis and threatening self-harm or suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a national toll-free number that is available 24/7 that will provide confidential support and connect you to local crisis centers.

Summary

The four types of BPD include impulsive, discouraged, self-destructive, and petulant. Each highlights a different aspect of BPD.

For example, people with impulsive BPD tend to act without thinking about the consequences. People with self-destructive BPD struggle with self-hatred and suicidal thoughts.

A Word From Verywell

If you or someone you know has BPD, it can be helpful to learn more about the subtypes. This can help give you insight into the disorder.

A person who has these symptoms experiences a significant amount of emotional pain. Remember, though, that no two people experience BPD the same way. Similarly, the same person may experience BPD in different ways.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How are different types of BPD diagnosed?

    There are no absolute measures that mark the different types of BPD. In fact, they overlap significantly, but they may vary in aggressiveness and anger as well as other traits.

  • Is there medication to treat BPD?

    Psychotherapy, not medication, is not the first step in treating BPD. Medication, though, may be used for some symptoms or to treat mental disorders that occur with BPD. When medication is appropriate, antidepressants, mood stabilizers, or other drugs known as psychotropic agents have been shown to be effective.

  • What is Quiet BPD?

    Quiet BPD is also known as discouraged BPD. People with this type of BPD usually focus their anger and harsh feelings on themselves. They tend to cling to others, always seek other people’s approval, and feel abandoned easily.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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