Difference between Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Borderline and narcissistic personality disorders are somewhat common mental conditions. Both disorders are characterized by unstable moods and a distorted sense of self-identity. However, the two disorders are different in their nature and applications. In this article we will explore what these differences are.


Borderline Personality Disorder vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Amy Winehouse, celebrity singer-songwriter is believed to have been a sufferer from borderline personality disorder

Persons suffering from borderline personality disorder have ever-changing moods, chaotic relationships and emotional instability. A borderline person experiences intense bouts of anger, depression and anxiety that last for several hours. These shifts in mood and in the sense of self may seriously harm long-term plans, career prospects, friendships and the overall values of a person. Borderline personality disorder is often accompanied by episodes of self-destructive behavior, alcohol and drug abuse and impulsive aggression.  People with borderline personality disorder are prone to commit potentially risky actions, such as unsafe sex, reckless driving and alcohol abuse. Among the celebrities thought to have  borderline personalities disorder are singers Britney Spears and Courtney Love and actresses Lindsey Lohan, Wynona Ryder and Angelina Jolie.

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

  • Shifting sense of identity
  • Spurts of impulsive behavior
  • Frequent uncontrollable anger
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Extremities in personal relationships. An idealization of a partner is easily swapped for a devaluation of the same person
  • Constant feeling of “emptiness inside” and inability to remain alone for a long period of time
“Narcissus.” A painting by Michelangelo Caravaggio (18th century)

The term “narcissist” which describes a person with a narcissist personality disorder goes back to Greek mythology. Narcissus was a young man who saw himself as the most beautiful human being. At one point he went to the pond, couldn’t stop looking at his reflection and eventually drowned, being dragged into the water by his own image. Modern psychologists see a narcissistic personality disorder as a state in which an individual is fixated on himself to the point that anything else becomes unimportant. It’s very easy to spot a narcissist in almost any sphere because narcissists tend to rise very high. They often become CEOs, champions, prominent politicians and television stars.

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • Fantasies of high success, absolute power, perfect romance
  • Need for admiration and recognition
  • Arrogant behavior and attitude towards other people
  • Unreasonable jealousy of other people’s successes and achievements
  • Exploitative tendencies
  • Exaggerated feelings of self-importance

Comparison chart

Borderline Personality Disorder Narcissistic Personality Disorder
People with borderline personality disorder view themselves as fundamentally bad and worthless People with narcissistic personality disorder view themselves as perfect
Borderline personality disorder is characterized by the fear of being alone People with narcissistic personality disorder feel perfectly well while being alone
Borderline persons tend to cling to other people Narcissistic persons couldn’t care less about other people
People with borderline personality disorder are prone to self-damaging behavior and suicide People with narcissistic personality disorder would rarely damage themselves or commit suicide
Borderline personality disorder is more common among women Narcissistic personality disorder is more common among men
People with borderline personality disorder have spurts of empathy People with narcissist personality disorder lack empathy
Borderline people need attention to be saved Narcissistic people need attention to confirm their self-image

Borderline Personality Disorder vs Narcissistic Personality Disorder

What is the difference between Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder?

  • Borderline persons tend to have very low self-esteem. They see themselves as bad and worthless. Narcissistic people, on the other hand, see themselves as “kings of the world.”
  • An individual with borderline personality disorder would often be scared to be left alone. A borderline person is clingy and in need of company. A narcissistic person, on the other hand, feels perfectly well when left alone.
  • Borderline persons often “stick” to the members of the family, partners or friends. They might sacrifice their time in order to care for the close person because they think they will receive care in return. Narcissistic people do not care about other people. What they do care about is their own self-image. They often project a “take it or leave it” attitude.
  • Suicides and suicide attempts are frequent among people with borderline personality disorder. Other self-harming and self-abusive behavior is also the sign of a borderline syndrome. People with narcissistic personality disorder wouldn’t harm themselves because their body and their health are necessary prerequisites of their overall successive personality.
  • Statistics show that women are prone to borderline personality disorder more often than men. Narcissistic tendencies, on the other hand, are found more among men than among women.
  • For people with borderline personality disorder empathy is organic. They always “feel” people around, and the feelings are often excessive. Narcissistic people do not care about others; they do not have any empathy whatsoever. This symptom is characteristic of psychopathic behavior, and psychopaths share a lot of traits with narcissists.
  • The two types of disorder are characterized by totally different attention-associated traits. For a borderline person, constant attention is needed to ensure the “safety” of a suffering person. Narcissistic people, on the other hand, are “fed” by attention. It’s as though attention for them is a sort of “ fuel” for their self-image vehicle.


In this video you can see an analysis that explains Borderline and Narcissistic Personality Disorders and compares them: