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Exploring & Understanding the Four Types of Borderline Personality Disorder

Reviewed by: Melody Stone

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a complex mental health condition affecting 1-3% of the population. It is characterized by unstable emotions, self-image, and relationships, with symptoms that include mood swings, fear of abandonment, and impulsive behaviors. The causes are believed to be a combination of genetic, environmental, and social factors.

BPD is further categorized into four subtypes, including discouraged borderline, impulsive borderline, petulant borderline, and self-destructive borderline. Each subtype has its distinct characteristics, and it is important to note that individuals with BPD may exhibit traits of multiple subtypes or may not fit neatly into any one subtype category.

At Acera Mental Health, our experienced team of mental health professionals provides personalized, evidence-based care for individuals struggling with borderline personality disorder and its subtypes. We understand the complexity of this condition and are dedicated to helping our patients manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

Brain divided into the four different types of BPD

Signs and Symptoms of BPD

BPD is a complex mental health condition that can significantly impact a person’s daily life. It is important to be aware of the common signs and symptoms associated with BPD to seek early intervention and receive proper treatment.

Some common signs and symptoms of BPD include:

  • Intense mood swings
  • Unstable self-image
  • Impulsive and risky behaviors
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Unstable relationships
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Difficulty controlling anger
  • Self-harm or suicidal thoughts
  • Feeling disconnected or paranoid


Individuals with BPD may experience a wide range of symptoms that can have a profound impact on their lives. The hallmark symptom of BPD is intense mood swings, which can make it difficult for individuals to regulate their emotions and behaviors. Often, these periods of instability are referred to as BPD episodes. Unstable self-image and chronic feelings of emptiness can also be present, leading to a sense of confusion and lack of identity.

Individuals with BPD frequently engage in impulsive and risky behaviors as a means of coping with intense emotions and avoiding feelings of emptiness. Substance abuse is a common behavior in this regard, with roughly 78% of adults with BPD also developing a substance-related disorder or addiction. 

Furthermore, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and feeling disconnected or experiencing paranoid thoughts may require immediate attention, as they can pose serious risks to the individual’s safety. With proper care and support, individuals with BPD can learn to manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life.

If you are experiencing symptoms consistent with BPD, consider taking our BPD self-test to determine whether seeking an official diagnosis from a mental health professional may be beneficial for you or a loved one.

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The Four Subtypes of BPD

There are four recognized subtypes of BPD, each with its own unique characteristics and coping strategies. Understanding these subtypes can help both individuals with BPD and their loved ones better manage the condition.

Discouraged Borderline

Individuals with discouraged BPD often have an intense need for reassurance and may struggle with feelings of worthlessness and dependency. They may feel like they are not good enough and often experience self-doubt and self-criticism. In addition to these feelings, individuals with discouraged borderline also experience intense fear of abandonment and may cling to others for support.

Discouraged borderline individuals may neglect their own needs and struggle to set boundaries, leading to difficulties in forming healthy relationships. They may also experience chronic feelings of emptiness and engage in impulsive behaviors as a way to cope with their emotions.

Impulsive Borderline

Impulsive BPD is characterized by impulsive behaviors and a lack of self-control, such as substance abuse, binge eating, reckless driving, and promiscuity. These behaviors may serve as a coping mechanism for intense emotions and can lead to further problems.

In addition to these impulsive behaviors, individuals with the impulsive borderline subtype may also experience intense mood swings. They may feel like their emotions are constantly shifting and may struggle to regulate their feelings. These mood swings can lead to difficulties in relationships, as others may have a hard time understanding or keeping up with their emotional state.

Petulant Borderline

Petulant BPD is characterized by irritability, anger, and a tendency to feel rejected. These individuals are overly sensitive to criticism and minor setbacks, leading to emotional outbursts such as yelling or throwing objects. They may also struggle with chronic emptiness and engage in impulsive behaviors like substance abuse or binge eating.

Childhood trauma, including abuse and neglect, has an average of 60% prevalency in those with BPD. This may be one of the contributing factors to the development of the petulant subtype. Addressing and treating this trauma could be essential in managing the symptoms associated with petulant BPD, such as emotional instability, sensitivity to criticism or rejection, and difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships.

Self-Destructive Borderline

Self-destructive BPD is marked by a pattern of engaging in behaviors that harm oneself physically, emotionally, or socially. Individuals with this subtype may engage in self-harm, such as cutting or burning themselves, as a way to cope with intense emotions or to feel a sense of control over their lives. They may also experience suicidal thoughts or engage in suicidal behavior. 

Individuals with self-destructive borderline personality disorder engage in self-harm, suicidal ideation, and self-sabotaging behaviors, such as substance abuse, reckless driving, and risky sexual behavior. These behaviors are often used to cope with feelings of emptiness and the need for attention or validation.

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Find Treatment for BPD at Acera Mental Health

Understanding the four subtypes of borderline personality disorder can provide valuable insight into the unique challenges faced by individuals with this complex mental health condition. By recognizing the specific characteristics and coping strategies associated with each subtype, both individuals with BPD and their loved ones can better manage the disorder and work towards recovery. Seeking professional help and treatment is crucial for anyone struggling with BPD.

If you’re looking to understand more about the causes of BPD, consider reading our article to learn more about why it may occur in certain individuals.

Acera Health is dedicated to helping individuals with borderline personality disorder overcome their unique challenges and work toward recovery. By offering personalized, evidence-based care tailored to each BPD subtype, we strive to improve the lives of those affected by this complex mental health condition.


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