If you struggle with borderline personality disorder (BPD), then you’re most likely aware of the nine classic symptoms. From feelings of emptiness to needing someone’s attention at all times, BPD is truly one of the most versatile mental health conditions out there.
Due to this wide range of symptoms, it’s common for one person who has BPD to have extremely different experiences than someone else with BPD.
Due to this variety in individuals, Dr. John M. Oldham, M.D. proposed a theoretical representation for ten unique types of BDP. Within this article, we’re going to review the five most common types of BPD and how they might be affecting you. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Common BPD Symptoms
As mentioned, those with BPD have a wide range of symptoms that often differ from one person to the next. The following isn’t a complete list of symptoms, but rather a list of the nine most common symptoms found within people who struggle with BPD.
- Black and white thinking (sometimes referred to as “splitting”)
- Distorted self-image
- Feelings of emptiness
- Frantically avoiding abandonment
- Impulsive behaviors
- Intense mood swings
- Irritability (uncontrollable anger)
- Suicidal ideation and/or self-harm
If you struggle with BPD, it’s unlikely you find yourself experiencing all of these symptoms. The above nine symptoms have been laid out by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) as a means for medical professionals to identify and diagnose a patient with BPD. ¹
According to the manual, a person must experience five of the nine symptoms in order to be diagnosed. Since these symptoms have a wide variety of effects on an individual, it’s common for people to have vastly different experiences with BPD as a whole.
Type 1: Affective
For those who struggle with controlling their emotions and intense mood swings, you’re most likely experiencing the affective type of BPD. This type of BDP is characterized by emotional dysregulation that presents itself most commonly in interpersonal relationships.
If you’re experiencing relational stress with another person, it’s likely you’re also experiencing anxiety, depression, or even suicidal thoughts. Though this appears more often in romantic relationships, it can develop through friends and family. For example, if a family member or friend is angered or disappointed by you, you may assume your relationship with them is over and begin struggling with anxiety over this. ²
Affective BPD plays a significant role in someone’s day -to-day life. On one hand, mean comments from another individual – comments the average person can walk away from – may send someone into hopelessness. On the other, even after one feels hopeless, they may find themselves hearing their favorite tune and suddenly becoming overjoyed.
This type of BPD often creates difficulties for people who are trying to develop or maintain a relationship. We suggest you do a bit more research or talk to a mental health professional in order to properly understand how affective BPD is influencing you. We also suggest you openly communicate with those around you the difficulty you have with the disorder.
Type 2: Impulsive
Do you ever feel as though you lack control in certain day-to-day activities? If so, you may struggle with the impulsive type of BPD. This type is characterized when a person loses control of both their behaviors and emotions.
In turn, people who experience impulsivity are at risk for the following:
- Binge eating
- Compulsive shopping
- Risky sexual behavior
- Substance abuse
The biggest risk to impulsive behavior is it can lead to shame. When someone sporadically makes a life-altering decision – possibly not even realizing it – they are most vulnerable to the above-mentioned risks. While it’s natural to feel some level of guilt for bad decisions made in the past, people with impulsive BPD have a much more difficult time letting them go. ³
If you struggle with this type of BPD, it’s vital to remember there is always opportunity for change. Talk to a mental health professional and find out how you can work towards acting under thought rather than impulsivity.
Type 3: Aggressive
If you have uncontrollable aggression on a regular basis that is inappropriate considering the circumstances, you most likely struggle with the aggressive type of BPD. Though this type is often characterized due to a person’s temperament, it can also be a secondary response to trauma – most commonly, childhood trauma. ⁴
People with aggressive BPD are likely to find the little details of someone they’re interacting with. For example, they may find a specific facial expression on someone else’s face as a threat and, from there, create a fight. As can be expected, someone with aggressive BPD is going to struggle with interpersonal relationships purely out of the tension this creates.
If you struggles with both BPD and anger, the best think you can do is discover your “red flag.” When do you feel your anger rising within you? What does it make you want to do? By identifying these emotions, you can consciously walk away from them when they do arise.
Type 4: Dependent
People who struggle with the dependent type of BPD may have been called “clingy” at one time or another in their relationships. If you struggle with this type, you most likely hate being alone and find it difficult to know yourself outside of other people.
The most common reason you would “cling” to a loved one is due to your fear of abandonment. When someone with dependent BPD develops into an adult, life becomes more of a struggle when faced with decisions and experiences alone. These people tend to be prone to others “setting boundaries.”
It’s also common for people with dependent BDP to experience other personality disorders, such as identity struggles. You may find yourself struggling to develop personal traits without getting ideas from other people. ⁵
Type 5: Empty
Similarly to dependency, those who struggle with empty BPD often also have identity issues. More particularly, trust issues. People who have the empty type of BPD are likely to have experienced neglect, abuse, or invalidation in the home they grew up in.
Beyond trust issues, people with this type of BPD will often face difficulties setting personal goals for themselves. Or, in other words, they feel an emptiness that doesn’t allow them to live of fulfilling lives. ⁶
In many regards, this isn’t so much an emptiness as much as a longing. People who struggle with this type of BPD long for something they currently don’t have, whether it be a better position in their career or a relationship with someone.
Borderline personality disorder is an extremely complicated mental health condition that effects everyone differently. The types of BPD laid out above are meant to help you and mental health professionals identify which one you’re most affected by.
However, no sub-type of a mental health condition can define your experience. The purpose of laying out these sub-types is to help you understand certain symptoms better.
For example, if you’re struggling with aggressive BPD, you most likely also struggle with other symptoms linked to that particular condition. We wish you the best of luck on your mental health journey and hope you’ll continue using Bedlamite as a resource to improve yourself and the world around you.
Still have questions about the 5 types of borderline personality disorders?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge on the topic – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health: Borderline Personality Disorder
² Personality Disorders (HHS Public Access): Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms and Affective Responding to Perceptions of Rejection and Acceptance from Romantic versus Non-Romantic Partners
³ Journal of Psychiatry and Psychiatric Disorders: Defining Borderline Personality Disorder Impulsivity
⁴ Journal of abnormal psychology (HHS Public Access): The Rejection-Rage Contingency in Borderline Personality Disorder
⁵ Texas A&M University: Dependent Personality Disorder
⁶ Journal of Personality Disorders (PubMed): What is emptiness? Clarifying the 7th criterion for borderline personality disorder.