This article is for informative purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Please reach out to a qualified mental health professional if you are struggling.
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) are two disorders that have many striking similarities, however are both quite different. People with either disorder can be misdiagnosed which can be problematic given that the two are treated very differently. To better understand the differences between BPD and CPTSD, in this article, we will look at signs of CPTSD that are often mistaken for BPD
What Is BPD?
Borderline Personality Disorder is a Cluster-B personality disorder characterized by unstable moods, relationships, and self-identity (Mayo Clinic 2019). In many cases, this disorder develops out of traumatic events, usually in childhood, but can develop genetically as well. People with BPD may also experience:
- Fear of abandonment and rejection
- Self-harm and suicidal behaviors
- Intense and rapid mood swings
- Difficulties with knowing who they are and changing interests based on who they are with
(Source: Mayo Clinic 2019)
What Is CPTSD?
Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is a type of PTSD characterized by repeated traumatic events happening over a long period of time – whereas PTSD is usually a single incident or incidents that happen in a relatively short time span (Giles 2018). People with this disorder may feel:
- Difficulties trusting others
- Being on high alert
- Difficulties regulating emotions
- Flashbacks, nightmares to traumatic events
(Source: Giles 2018)
In What Ways are They Similar?
BPD and CPTSD have many overlaps with one another. Both tend to have difficulties regulating emotions and can have unstable relationships. They also are characterized by:
- Mood swings
- Fear of abandonment
- Negative perception of self
(Source: Tanasugarn 2020)
Here are some of the ways they are different:
BPD Has an Inconsistent Self-Concept
One of the big overlaps between the two disorders is that people with either tend to have negative perceptions of themselves. However, the difference lies in the fact that with BPD, this self-concept can change dramatically in a short period of time (Tanasugarn 2020). In CPTSD however, self identity remains the same, but it’s consistently negative, broken, or worthless (Franco 2018). In BPD, it’s possible for people to go from feeling broken or worthless to having an exaggerated sense of self-worth.
People with CPTSD Usually Do Not Have the Same Fear of Abandonment
Fear of abandonment is often present in either condition, but it manifests differently between the two. With BPD, this fear of abandonment can lead to frantic efforts to avoid it (Mayo Clinic 2019). People with the disorder may threaten others, block them from leaving, or cut them out of their life. People with CPTSD may struggle more with trust and avoiding others (Giles 2018).
People with CPTSD are Less Likely to Self-harm
BPD has a high incidence of self-harming and impulsive behaviors that are not typically seen in the same way as with CPTSD (Tanasugarn 2020). BPD is much more associated with suicidal actions than those that have CPTSD. While suicide and self-harm can happen in CPTSD, those with BPD may be more impulsive in their actions.
With CPTSD, You are More Likely to Avoid Relationships
People with CPTSD are more likely to avoid relationships and push people away as a defense mechanism than those with BPD (Tanasugarn 2020). People with BPD have a higher tendency to fear being alone so they will find more opportunities to be with other people. While people with either disorder may push others away, those with BPD may do so to avoid abandonment or rejection whereas those with CPTSD may do so as they feel threatened (Tanasugarn 2020).
While the two disorders have many similarities, they require very different treatments and have different causes and complications. If you feel you were misdiagnosed, or that you have either condition, it is best to reach out to a qualified mental health professional. Thank you for reading and feel free to share any insights in the comments below.
- Advantage Mental Health Center. (2020, August 3). Borderline Personality Disorder VS Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. advantagementalhealthcenter.com/borderline-personality-disorder-vs-complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder/
- Clearview Women’s Center. (2021, August 11). How is Borderline Personality Disorder Similar to PTSD? Clearview Women’s Center | BPD Treatment Los Angeles. www.clearviewwomenscenter.com/blog/bpd-similar-ptsd/
- Ford, J. D. (2021, May 6). Complex PTSD and borderline personality disorder – Borderline Personality Disorder and Emotion Dysregulation. BioMed Central. bpded.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s40479-021-00155-9
- Franco, F. (2018, August 2). How Do the Differences Between BPD and C-PTSD Affect Diagnosis? GoodTherapy.Org Therapy Blog. www.goodtherapy.org/blog/how-do-differences-between-bpd-cptsd-affect-diagnosis-0802184
- Gilles, G. (2018, September 29). Understanding Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Healthline. www.healthline.com/health/cptsd#symptoms
- Mayo Clinic. (2019, July 17). Borderline personality disorder – Symptoms and causes. www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/borderline-personality-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20370237
- MedCircle. (2019, September 10). BPD vs. CPTSD: How to Spot the Differences [Video]. YouTube. www.youtube.com/watch?v=87UhgkE4-qU
- Tanasugarn, A. (2020, June 5). Is It Borderline Personality Disorder or Complex PTSD? PsychologyToday. www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understanding-ptsd/202006/is-it-borderline-personality-disorder-or-complex-ptsd