According to psychologist Theodore Millon (d. 2014), there are four types of borderline personality disorder. It can be helpful to family, the patient and the therapist to delineate patterns of behavior, ie; “types,” but for the casual observer, diagnoses for the sake of pigeon-holing is generally not useful.
Whether or not there is agreement on the types, there is certainly overlap in many cases. Instead of firm “types”, we might consider the terms “type-tendencies” or “states.” Many people struggling with BPD do shift between these states. There may also be confusion between these types of BPD and other personality disorders. (One day, we may even eliminate some other PDs and recognize that they are expressions of BPD.)
An individual diagnosed with BPD no matter the sub-type, or current state, needs encouragement and motivation to believe that they can get better, they are not their diagnosis.
The four types are:
- Discouraged BPD: The first is the discouraged type. This person feels they can never win, that no one will ever really-truly want to be with them, and that everyone will abandon them, sooner or later. They have elements of avoidance, and may even avoid relationships so they won’t be abandoned. They seem dejected and/or clingy.
- Petulant BPD: The person with petulant BPD engage in passive aggressive behavior and are generally unable to express their feelings. They see situations and even “set-up” situations in which they can prove that other people are “out to get” them. They can also self-harm. Complaining, defiant, easily annoyed, resentful, paranoid (mis-reads other’s people’s motives), mood-swings. Can explode.
- Impulsive BPD: This type can be quite charismatic, but also explosive and impulsive. They make rash (and often foolish) decisions and live “on the edge.” Dangerously reckless and feels empty inside. Aggressive/attacking. Seeks sensation and experiences.
- Self-Destructive BPD: Feels paranoid and can be suspicious of others’ motives. Has may be suicidal. Enraged, feels he is stupid or evil. He can also be reckless dues to his low self-esteem. May have depression.
This video with Dr. Daniel Fox, offers a simple introduction to these four types.