By Dana Morningstar
A personality disorder that usually includes impulsive and risky behavior, unstable and intense relationships, highly manipulative behavior, frequent outbursts of anger/poor emotional regulation, unstable or fragile self-image, fears of abandonment, and suicidal behavior or threats of self-harm. There can be a lot of overlap between the behaviors associated with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, Antisocial Personality Disorder, and Borderline Personality Disorder.
Many trauma specialists believe that PTSD (or C-PTSD) is often misdiagnosed as Borderline Personality Disorder. It’s very common for a person to get out of an abusive relationship and feel “unstable” (because they’ve been psychologically abused), have “a poor self-image” (because they’ve been continually told that there is a lot wrong with them), have “impulsive and risky behavior” (because they struggle with what’s normal behavior after living with a crazy-maker), have “poor emotional control” (because they’ve been traumatized), and “feel suicidal” (because they are emotionally devastated and generally have PTSD), and “fear abandonment” as they’ve been in a relationship with someone who was continually threatening (or actually) leaving.
Many targets of narcissists tend to be diagnosed with BPD, which can be devastating, if they’ve only read about extreme stories of BPD behavior (which is usually abusive and/or dramatic). If they have a diagnosis of BPD, they may wonder if the narcissist/abuser was right—that they were the problem all along and somehow deserving of being mistreated. Please know that even if you do have BPD or have some sort of mental illness such as bipolar, it is still no excuse for being abused.
Borderline Personality Disorder is often treated with a therapy called Dialectal Behavioral Therapy (DBT), which is based in mindfulness and acceptance techniques which help a person understand and express their feelings. (Frankly, DBT is something I wish could be taught starting with children in kindergarten, as we all could benefit from it.)
Dana Morningstar is a former psychiatric nurse turned domestic violence educator who specializes in abuse awareness and prevention. Her passion is working with survivors of abuse to reclaim and rebuild their self-esteem, boundaries, confidence, and identity. She is an author of multiple books on the subject, and also has a blog, podcast, and YouTube channel, as well as several online support groups, all of which you can find under the name “Thrive After Abuse.”