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Are women with Borderline Personality Disorder & Psychopathy similar in Relationships?

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Are those with Borderline Personality Disorder & Psychopathy similar in relationships?

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Individuals with personality disorders, regardless of the type have interpersonal difficulties. Relating to others in a healthy consistent manner is problematic for them. However, I’d like to touch on two personality disorders that particularly for women are sometimes confused – borderline personality disorder and psychopathy.

We suspect one of the reasons the conditions are confused for women is because psychopathy (i.e., secondary variant) presents with significant emotional dysregulation. The emotional dysregulation is often similar to the profile of borderline personality and often associated with a history of trauma. However, for the woman with psychopathy, she not only demonstrates some of the personality traits of borderline personality, but she also has strong psychopathic traits present.

Let’s look at some of the similarities that they may demonstrate within their relationships. 

Individuals with psychopathy, as well as those with borderline personality disorder often appear to take on the persona of those around them. However, the reasons behind this similar occurrence is different. The psychopathic individual does so for manipulative reasons; to perfect the con. The borderline personality individual does so for approval, to fit in, or to belong.

Similar to those with borderline personality disorder, individuals with psychopathy do not seem to have a core sense of self. However, unlike the person with borderline personality disorder, they are not desperately seeking someone to define them. They are ’empty’ and tend to fill this emptiness with pieces of personality ‘taken‘ (imitated) from others. They often imitate what they feel is considered normal or comfortable for the specific audience they are attempting to manipulate.

Individuals with psychopathy are often social chameleons and can become whoever/whatever is needed for the task. They feign normalcy and manipulate those in their environment. If there is something they want, they will wear the necessary mask to achieve their goal. They do not do this for approval. They rarely care about approval from others.

The individual with borderline personality will ‘put on’ a persona as well. However, they are often doing so to be accepted. They desperately want to fit in. They want to actually ‘feel’ normal. They need the validation and approval of others to give them feedback that they are alright. They will be whoever they think others want them to be, as there is no core, stable sense of self. They can (will) morph into whoever they admire, want to impress, or need approval from.

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Individuals with borderline personality disorder give other people (e.g., romantic partner) the responsibility of regulating their moods. They need the stability, strength, support, protection, and/ or validation of others. They devour this and of course to do so is an unfair burden to place on anyone, particularly a romantic partner. These individuals are often experienced as ‘clingy’ by their intimate partner.

It is not uncommon for them to shift from loving their partner to hating their partner within a short window of time. There need not be a valid reason, but merely their perception of some form of violation. They can become extremely angry if they feel someone is wavering in their responsibilities of care, loyalty, protection, or support.

Individuals with borderline personality disorder tend to be hyperaware of possible abandonment. They become easily suspicious and tend to inaccurately interpret the behavior or intentions of others. They can be extremely hypersensitive and often disintegrate in the face of criticism.

Their demanding, manipulative, and dramatic behaviors tend to repel intimate partners. Their intimate relationship are turbulent, unhappy, and severely distressing for both the borderline personality sufferer and her partner.

Unlike those with borderline personality disorder, those with psychopathy never seek anyone to regulate their moods or serve as a stabilizing source for them. To do so would imply that their partner is superior to them and psychopaths always feel superior to their intimate partners. They do not give anyone else the upper hand (unless they are purposely doing so in order to manipulate).

They will not seek emotional regulation from others. Actually, individuals with psychopathy tend to be resistant to outside control or even the impression that another is attempting to regulate them. Some with psychopathy will accuse their intimate partner of “controlling” them, even if that person is merely expressing an opinion, asking a question, or giving advice. “Let’s get together for lunch Friday.” or Why didn’t you come home last night? ” or ” You’re so angry, you’re frightening me. Please, please calm down?” could ignite a vicious attack and accusations of the partner’s attempt to control.

Unlike psychopathy, there are effective treatments and interventions for those with borderline personality disorder and many of these individuals seek help to improve their condition. Many of those with borderline personality disorder are desperate for relief of their symptoms. They want to feel normal and they often have insight that something is wrong. An excellent source for more information, particularly treatment, of borderline personality disorder is Dr. Marsha Linehan (The Linehan Institute). There is definitely hope for this population of individuals if they are properly diagnosed and committed to treatment.

Conversely, individuals with psychopathy rarely seek treatment without there being an ulterior motive (e.g., condition of legal sentence; manipulate lover into believing they are attempting to change).Their morality is impaired and hence they do not care if they cause pain to others. We suspect they do not have a sense that something is seriously wrong. Or perhaps they do know that something is very wrong, but they simply do not care. 

The bottom line is that there is a difference between the woman with borderline personality disorder and the psychopathic woman with borderline features. One of those individuals can feel the full range of human emotions. One of those individuals have a conscience – borderline personality disorder.

Although both groups are manipulative, demanding,  intensely angry, impulsive, and cause immense suffering within their intimate relationships, there is a difference between the conditions.

An individual with strong psychopathic traits who has borderline personality features can be an extremely volatile, manipulative, and dangerous individual. Psychopathic women with the borderline features are more likely than women with psychopathy only to batter their intimate partners (intimate partner violence | IPV). The violence of psychopathic women with borderline features is frequently situational, rather than associated with power or control (Ross, 2011). They tend to be reacting to something (e.g., rejection, jealousy). Often, her violence and brutality toward her partner is a reflection of the emotional dysregulation symptoms that is common with borderline personality disorder.

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