Narcissist Personality Disorder vs. Borderline Personality Disorder (2016) – We live in a day where social media has become the number one means in which people receive their news, or become informed on societal issues. The upside of new wave of social interaction means that more and more people are opening up and with a new found voice of inter-personal bravery they are starting to discuss their personal issues such as depression, mental illness, narcissist partners, and relational abuse. Facebook appears to be the primary platform where this is happening.
Recently an article was posted to this site entitled, “Narcissism – A World Lost To One’s True Self”. In light of the comments generated as a result of this article, there seems to be a great deal of confusion over the difference between borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is recognized as a serious mental illness which focuses on a person’s inability to manage or utilize their emotions properly and effectively. This serious mental illness often reveals itself within the confines of relationships where sometimes all relationships are affected, or only one. This mental illness, like many mental illnesses or psychological disorders, usually begins during adolescence or early adulthood, often decreasing in intensity by the time a person reaches his or her mid-fifties in age. Paranoid personality disorder is the only mental illness known to intensify and grow worse with age.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “narcissistic personality disorder is a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem that’s vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”
As stated in previous writings, narcissists are found in every arena of life, and many are high functioning people such as lawyers, doctors, college professors, church ministers, elementary school teachers, bus drivers, CEO’s, accountants, and even presidential candidates. In their professional and social environments, they can be well liked, appear quite normal, and very high quality workers producing excellent results, but somewhere in their circle of life there will be one person who has been specifically chosen as the target of their narcissism.
In a recent response to the picture below which was posted to a Facebook group for those who had been in relationships with narcissists, people had this to say:
C. wrote, “True story … I remember the last time my narcissistic mother contacted me and I told her if she had any idea how much it hurt me that she was in my children’s lives I’d hope she’d just leave us all alone … Within 2 minutes she was back on Facebook , rewriting on my sons wall in capital letters a message she’d put on an hour earlier and she ended it , ‘I just wanted to make sure you saw this!’ It is about winning to them they are ugly people inside and out!”
P. wrote, “I tried this out many times. Knowing he was hurting my feelings only made him angrier, because, in his words, ‘You choose to be upset. That’s not my fault, that’s on you. If you were more like me or had a thicker skin, things wouldn’t bother you so much.’”
M. wrote, “My ex is still doing this. Every text, Facebook message, and even calls will be a constant stabbing to my self-esteem or threat of me or my children’s safety. Then, out of nowhere, he’ll call to ask me a question or ask me how I’m doing. And one wrong word will make him erupt. Sometimes just a facial expression will get him going.”
D. wrote, “This is so true. Every time he would do something and knew I was mad or hurt he would treat me like I was the one who had done something to him.”
What exactly is Narcissistic Personality Disorder?
Narcissistic personality disorder is one of several different types of personality disorders. Over time, personality disorders go through a rebranding process, and names and labels change. In general, personality disorders are conditions in which people exhibit deep seated traits which cause them to feel and behave dysfunctionally in socially distressing ways, limiting their ability to function according to societal norms in romantic, marital, professional and plutonic relationships.
Traits Often Found In Narcissists
There are several core traits found in narcissists, but having stated this, one must understand that not every narcissist will exhibit all of these traits, as the degree of a person’s narcissism will vary in intensity from one narcissist to the next.
- Narcissists are the real egotists, and they love to be admired by others. They may present themselves in an excessively positive image to others in an attempt to secure and justify admiration. This should not be confused with those who promote themselves in a positive light to obtain job promotions, a new romantic partner, etc.
- On the flip side of narcissists enjoying adulation from others, recent research shows that narcissists can also be “ego dystonic” — that is, as master manipulators, while harbouring beliefs of self-grandeur, they outwardly have mastered the facade of humility. The risk to narcissists who walk through life putting on an “ego dystonic” persona, is that after time, they begin to believe their own lie developing a permanent “ego-dystony”. When in such a fictitious mood of self-doubt, the narcissist is likely to utter things like “I’ve never considered myself to be attractive”, “you deserve better”, and “I can never please anyone”. In the face of these comments, one must always remember the highly manipulative ways of a narcissist recognizing that such proclamations are uttered as a way to TEST the narcissist’s closest, nearest, or dearest. Always in the back of the narcissistic mind is the question, “Will this person abandon or betray me once they discover my true face?”
- A narcissist often criticizes, or vilifies others, but the narcissist hates it and often goes on the offensive when others criticize him or her. The manipulative nature of the narcissist makes them very adept at vilifying what is perceived to be a weaker person, doing it masterfully in an innocent, sarcastic, or humorous manner, making his or her backbiting seem socially acceptable.
- A narcissist loves to manipulate others to do things for them because they believe they are worthy of being served. This is often seen in on ongoing practice of asking favours of people who are seen as soft touches, but when others ask too many favours of the narcissist, privately they quickly get upset. They may make a huge production out of doing a small favour for someone else, failing to mention that they may have passed the task off to someone else.
- Inside a relationship, and sexually speaking, the narcissist struggles in areas of foreplay and pleasing their partner. This is borne out of their self-centredness and strong desire to only have themselves sexually satisfied.
- Relationships to a narcissist are for a specific purpose, and when that purpose is met, or it becomes clear the purpose will never be met, the narcissist disgards the relationship. This is the same with people as it is with pets.
- A narcissist lives a life based upon one lie stacked upon another, but at the same time they are the master of disguise and can lie very convincingly. If one questions the inaccuracies of a narcissist, their response will often come in the form of rage over the fact that one would dare to question their integrity, or gas light the person questioning them (gas lighting is the process of making another person falsely think or believe they are going crazy), or berating their victim for being so petty as to point out their fabrication.
- A narcissist thinks that he or she is entitled to special privileges or special treatment, but may not voice this inner belief. In relationships, they will hate buying gifts for their partner’s birthday or special life events, but inwardly expect to receive gifts of great value for their own.
- A narcissist is normally very highly exploitative and feels powerful when they successfully take advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends, without regard as to how their choices or actions might affect others. When such manipulations occur, the narcissists will often justify their actions by claiming that they did it ‘for the other person’s own good’ or proclaim how the ‘end justifies the means’.
- A narcissist experiences no remorse and has little or no empathy, although they can create the façade of empathy, especially if the charade of empathy advances the public opinion of the narcissist. Deep down, the narcissist is not only unwilling to show empathy, but in their brokenness they are unable to recognize or identify with the true feelings and needs of others.
The Public Perception of Narcissists
Narcissists never reveal their real face in public, as power and control over their personal reputation is very important to them. However, often, especially in marriage situations, extended family members will often see the reality of the narcissist’s inappropriate, unethical, bullying behaviors. When confronted, the narcissist will immediately dismiss those individuals as being meddlers, gossips, busy bodies, sick in the head, hotheads, jealous, liars, or as having any number of other defects. When a narcissist behaves this way, they are deflecting their real issues onto someone else.
In relationships, the narcissist will often project, criticising their partner for the very things that the narcissist is guilty of. He or she might accuse their partner of having no sympathy, or make claims their target is a control freak. The narcissist may belittle their partner telling them that they are behaving hysterically when their partner isn’t even angry, or use sarcasm to accuse their partner of being too thin skinned. It’s always important to listen carefully to what a narcissist accuses you of as it often tells a person what the narcissist is doing, thinking or planning behind the scenes.
When In A Relationship With A Narcissist
The 3 Stages of A Narcissistic Relational Cycle: Over-Evaluation, Devaluation, Discard
Being in a relationship with a narcissist is no easy feat. Manipulation abounds from beginning to end. A relationship with a Narcissist has often been compared to an emotional roller coaster, with increasing highs and dynamic lows. There are three recognized stages to a narcissist’s relational pattern.
Normal healthy people move forward into relationships for reasons of love and the desire to build a long term bond with a life partner. Narcissists seek out and get involved in relationships for entirely different reasons. Narcissists are broken people who do not feel love, remorse or empathy, and as such, they lack the real ability to connect and form normal healthy relational attachments.
Stage #1 … Over-Evaluation
A Narcissist is very careful when choosing their relational “target”. Once a target has been identified, it’s as if the Narcissist becomes blind to all others and develops a psychological form of tunnel vision. As their tunnel vision strengthens, so too does their world of implementing manipulations to achieve dominance over their target. Narcissists will create the façade of being excessively caring, loving and attentive at this stage, and on-lookers will believe a special romantic relationship is forming. Some narcissists might shower their targets with adoration, and compliments. This is as close to a Narcissist ever experiencing what they believe is love. This kind of idolization on the part of the narcissist is what others would call infatuation.
With all the praise and adoration swirling around them from what appears to be such a great catch, the target’s defenses drop willingly and they are likely to get so caught up in all the attention that it becomes very easy for them to believe they have found their one and only. Narcissists study their partner and know how to mirror exactly what their partner wants in a mate. Often the target ends up thinking how lucky they are and that such a catch (the narcissist) is still single.
The over-valuation stage can last for weeks or even months, and it’s not uncommon for this stage to last long enough for engagements and marriages to happen.
As all defenses come down in the target, the narcissist manipulates patiently, waiting for the perfect minute to pull the rug out from under their target.
Stage #2 … Devaluation
With the target’s love and devotion firmly established, the mask comes off the narcissist and he or she begins to reveal their true colours. Many targets compare this change in their relationship to a narcissist to “a switch getting flipped”.
The narcissist shift in behaviour can be gradual or almost immediate. Suddenly the adoration and attention they poured out onto their target is gone and replaced by confusing indifference, emotional distance, and/or silence. The target is left genuinely confused wondering what possibly they could have done wrong to offend their narcissistic partner. Long term partners of narcissists almost always believe that they are responsible for the breakdown in the relationship and not the narcissistic partner.
Relationally speaking, narcissist get bored easily and the high they once were feeding off of in the over-valuation stage begins to wear off. In their boredom, the narcissist begins to inwardly question their target’s worthiness. A psychological void begins to develop in the psyche of the narcissist, and that void may in time outwardly manifest itself in belittling, devaluating thoughts and comments towards their target. The target begins to experience warning signs of increasing verbal and emotional abuse. Over time, the narcissist becomes increasingly moody and gets agitated easily, blaming their target for the slightest transgression or problem in the narcissist’s life.
At this point, the narcissist begins to withdraw from the relationship, possibly disappearing for periods of time, increasing his or her social or professional autonomy, withdrawing from sexual or intimate relations with the target, often causing panic in the target. Manipulated into believing they are at fault, the target begins to strive to make the relationship work. The harder the target tries to make the relationship work, the more the narcissist withdraws. The narcissist, in their desire to hold power and control over their target begins to blame and criticize the target for everything, treating the target like an emotional punching bag. At this stage, the target is beside themselves – an emotional wreck left wondering what had possibly happened to their “happily ever after” story.
In the midst of the pain, most targets try desperately to reach out to the person they fell in love with, failing to realize, this person never really existed – it was all a carefully crafted lie on the part of the narcissist. As the target’s emotions and self-esteem are worn away by the narcissist’s actions, in vain, the target may seek out counselling, or relational advice still believing they are the reason for the decay in the relationship.
The Narcissist never apologizes, and takes no responsibility for their actions, as they simply don’t have the ability to care about how they’ve treated their target, or how the narcissist’s actions have left the target feeling. Narcissists do not have the ability to form normal healthy attachments to people.
When most relationships would end, the narcissistic personality isn’t finished with their target. In fact, the narcissist needs their target in order to feed a craving for power and control. At this point, the narcissist will return to the relationship for short emotional times repeating their “I love you” charade to the target only to withdraw again. Narcissists are masters at breezing in and out of their target’s life as if nothing ever happened, completely oblivious and indifferent to the pain and suffering they have inflicted upon the target.
As this on again, and off again, relational roller coaster takes it’s toll on the self-worth of the target, one of two things happens: the narcissist gets bored with their little game and begins to seek out a new target to feed their addiction for power and control; or the target awakens to the reality of their abuse and decides to leave the narcissist.
Stage #3 … Discard
There is nothing more amazing than to watch the speed and lack of emotional attachment that a narcissist does not feel when they walk away from their target. Many targets are left asking themselves, “What did I do wrong? Did my partner ever love me? Did I mean anything to him or her at all?” The answers to those questions are simple. No, the target did nothing wrong (recognizing that there is no such thing as the perfect partner). The narcissist never did love the target; it was all part of a psychological game for the narcissist. No, the target never meant anything to the narcissist other than as a source to feed his or her need for power and control.
Now alone in the world, the target is most often an emotional wreck – a person whose self-identity is lost to themselves, and their self-esteem crushed by the persistent wearing away of the demeaning, belittling comments, insults and psychological as well as the sometimes physical cruelty of the narcissist. Depending on when and how the target was able to break free, the target is forced to begin the process of navigating their way through life as a mere shadow of their former self; hurting, embarrassed, ashamed, with a long road of inner rebuilding to do to their shattered self-image.
It’s important to state clearly at this point…former targets must never be willing to drop their guard when it comes to their former narcissistic partner. Narcissist’s walk through life with a twisted belief that they can simply step in and out of their former victims lives whenever they need to satisfy their hunger for power and control. For this reason, it’s very important for a target to never allow their former narcissistic partner back into their world, even for a moment, and steps and measures (personal boundaries) must be put in place to ensure this does not happen. Don’t, as a target, expect family and friends to understand why you refuse to show up at larger family events such as the weddings of children of the union where the narcissist will be attending. When it comes to a narcissist, the target must exercise due diligence in ensuring their paths never cross with the narcissist. If a family event, such as a wedding of a child is scheduled to happen, a narcissist cannot prevent themselves from trying to feed upon their need to hold power and control over their former partner.
To the target’s of this world…the way we perceive our own self-worth as a person has a profound influence on every aspect of our life. Learn to put the narcissists in your life behind you. Self-confidence, self-worth and self-esteem are all closely related and are based on your own unique personal belief systems. It’s important to realize that there will always be those in this life, such as narcissists, who will work very hard in their attempts to influence, or alter our self-perception and personal values. You, and you alone, are the author of your true inner happiness. Step back…take time…get to know the real inner beauty of who you are. There is a healthy worthy person out there in this big wide world, ready to accept you for who you are, and desiring to walk beside you in this adventure called life.
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