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Is It Borderline Personality Disorder

Is It Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Victim Syndrome?

Is it borderline personality disorder? BPD is a term that is overused and frankly misused, by many people, much like the term narcissist. People will often call someone borderline because they exhibit unstable moods and angry outbursts, but these can also be symptoms of other conditions, including Narcissistic Victim Syndrome. Dr. Hawkins explains the differences and similarities between Borderline Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Victim Syndrome that most people don’t know about.

Is It Borderline Personality Disorder or Narcissistic Victim Syndrome?

In the realm of mental health, labels can sometimes do more harm than good. It is essential to correctly identify and diagnose psychological conditions to provide individuals with the appropriate treatment and support they need.

However, there is a growing concern that some individuals are being inaccurately labeled as having Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) when they may actually be suffering from Narcissistic Victim Syndrome (NVS). In this article, we will delve into the confusion surrounding these two conditions and explore the crucial distinctions between them.

Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Borderline Personality Disorder is a complex mental health condition characterized by several key features:

  1. Intense Fear of Abandonment: Individuals with BPD often experience a pervasive fear of being abandoned or rejected by loved ones. This fear can trigger intense emotional responses.
  2. Unstable Relationships: BPD is marked by tumultuous and often short-lived relationships, characterized by idealization and devaluation of partners.
  3. Mood Swings: Rapid and unpredictable mood swings are common among those with BPD. These mood fluctuations can be challenging for both the individual and those around them.
  4. Inappropriate Anger: People with BPD may struggle to control their anger and may have outbursts that seem disproportionate to the situation.
  5. Feelings of Emptiness: A persistent sense of emptiness and lack of identity is often present in individuals with BPD.

The Confusion with NVS (Narcissistic Victim Syndrome)

Narcissistic Victim Syndrome is a term coined to describe the psychological and emotional impact on individuals who are exposed to narcissistic abuse. It is important to note that NVS is not recognized as an official diagnostic category, but it is used to describe a set of symptoms frequently observed in victims of narcissistic abuse:

  1. Questioning Sanity: Victims of narcissistic abuse often find themselves questioning their own sanity due to the manipulative tactics employed by the narcissist.
  2. Ongoing Mistrust: They develop a deep-seated mistrust of others as a result of the repeated deceit and manipulation they experience.
  3. Feelings of Abandonment: Just like individuals with BPD, victims of narcissistic abuse can feel abandoned, primarily because the narcissist constantly threatens to leave or withdraw love and affection.
  4. Low Self-Esteem: Narcissists systematically undermine their victims’ self-esteem, leading to feelings of worthlessness.
  5. Obsession with Faults: Victims may obsess over their perceived faults and continuously strive to meet the narcissist’s unrealistic expectations.
  6. Distorted Sense of Blame: They often internalize blame and believe that they are responsible for the narcissist’s abusive behavior.
  7. Difficulty Concentrating and Sleeping: Victims of narcissistic abuse frequently struggle with concentration, experience sleep disturbances, and may even develop symptoms resembling post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) due to the ongoing trauma.

Differentiating Between BPD and NVS

While there are overlaps in symptoms between BPD and NVS, several distinctions can help mental health professionals and individuals alike differentiate between the two conditions:

  • Risky and Impulsive Behavior: BPD often includes risky and impulsive behaviors, which are less characteristic of NVS.
  • Suicidal Behavior and Self-Injury: Suicidal tendencies and self-injury are more commonly associated with BPD and are less prevalent in NVS cases.
  • Hyper-Vigilance: The hyper-vigilance seen in NVS, including intrusive thoughts and fear of harm, is not typically a feature of BPD.

The Perpetrator’s Role in Confusion

One significant reason for the confusion between BPD and NVS lies in the actions of the narcissistic abuser. These perpetrators often engage in a tactic known as “blame-shifting” or “diagnosis weaponization.”

They may falsely attribute BPD symptoms to their victims as a means of deflecting attention away from their abusive behavior and maintaining control. This tactic serves to protect the narcissistic abuser by casting doubt on the legitimacy of their victim’s emotions and reactions.


In summary, it is crucial to recognize that not all emotional distress and instability are indicative of Borderline Personality Disorder. Victims of narcissistic abuse may display similar symptoms, leading to confusion in diagnosis. Professionals and individuals should exercise caution and consider the context of the individual’s experiences before hastily labeling them with BPD.

Understanding the distinctions between BPD and NVS is a crucial step in providing appropriate support and interventions for those who have endured narcissistic abuse. This complex and challenging topic demands a nuanced approach to ensure that individuals receive the help they truly need.

To learn how we can help, reach out to us at (206) 219-0145 or info@marriagerecoverycenter.com to speak with a Client Care Specialist

Also read: Does your Spouse Blame you for Everything?

About Dr. Hawkins:

The internet is inundated with hyperbole and misinformation about narcissism, leaving many people confused and hopeless. Get the facts on narcissism and emotional abuse from someone who has been researching, writing about and treating narcissism and emotional abuse for over a decade.

Dr. Hawkins is a best-selling author and clinical psychologist with over three decades of experience helping people break unhealthy patterns and build healthier relationships.

He is the founder and director of the Marriage Recovery Center and the Emotional Abuse Institute which offers education, training and counseling for people who want to break free of, and heal from, emotional abuse. Whether the perpetrator of the abuse is your spouse, partner, parent, boss, friend or family member, we offer practical advice for anyone trapped in a toxic, destructive relationship.

In addition to narcissism & emotional abuse, you’ll learn about the lesser known forms of abuse, including covert abuse, reactive abuse, spiritual abuse, secondary abuse, relationship trauma and much more.


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