It’s sometimes common to think people with Borderline Personality Disorder (BDD), or Narcissistic Personality Disorder are suffering from the same condition. However, while it’s true there are some overlaps, they are in fact entirely separate clinical conditions. You could think of them as being different rooms of the same house; interlinked, but each operating as it’s own space.
In fact, as contradictory as it sounds, in many ways they’re the complete opposites of each other in terms of the characteristics and traits. The typical narcissist is known for being grandiose, arrogant, in need of constant attention and lacking in empathy, whereas someone with BDD is prone to suffering from poor self-image, fear of abandonment, chronic feelings of emptiness and mood swings.
The reason why these personality types are attracted to one another is they magnetise. Each one helps the other play out their individual drama by fulfilling their needs. In the case of the borderline sufferer, when they first encounter the narcissist, they see everything they are not and cannot do. They’re amazed by their confidence, as they recognise its absence in their own life. They find being involved with them validates their character, boosting their self-esteem. It provides a sense of completeness they have never experienced before in the initial stages of the relationship. The narcissist feels like the perfect match. So they throw themselves at this person, completely in thrall to them.
From the narcissist’s point of view, when they meet someone with BDD, they recognise in them the capacity to fulfil their need for continuing validation and attention. The borderline sufferer throws themselves at the narcissist so hard, affirming and re-affirming their idealised sense of self, it becomes all too easy to become romantically involved. In essence, these two personality disorders act as polar opposites to each other; positive and negative charges that attract one another.
How Do They Play out?
Relationships between people diagnosed with BDD and NPD can be relatively benign in the beginning, as each will settle into the dynamic, happily fulfilling the other’s needs. However, the balance is so finely poised that as soon as one person isn’t getting what they want, the relationship becomes extremely volatile.
Narcissists, by their nature, will demand ever-increasing amounts of adulation, which, if it isn’t fulfilled, can cause them to shift from the charismatic saviour-type to cold and distant. This is the borderline sufferer’s worst nightmare – the fear of abandonment. It then triggers their drama, causing them in many cases to give in to the original demand to hold onto what they have.
However, there can be just as much turmoil created by the person with BDD. In their case, they can push the boundaries of a narcissist so far they decide to cut them off and move on, thinking they can do just as well with someone else. The borderline sufferer will then pursue their love interest determined for it not fail, playing right into the narcissist’s control drama of seeking attention. They will often take their partner back, beginning the process all over again.
As a pairing, these two personality types reinforce each other’s distorted worldview, creating a highly addictive cycle of abuse that can persist for many years if left unaddressed.
***If you think you may be part of relationship cycle similar to the one described above and feel the need to address the issue, one of our specialists would be happy to provide you an initial consultation to determine the best way forward.