What is a “borderline narcissist”?


Feelings of emptiness and shame lie at the core of all “disorders of the self.”  

From time to time, I have heard the term “borderline narcissist.” I was always a bit confused about exactly what that meant. Did it mean a person who was on the borderline of having NPD? Or was it a person who was comorbid for both BPD and NPD (a not unusual combination, since these disorders often appear together in the same person).

Actually, it means neither of these things. There’s a theory floating around  (I currently have no sources or knowledge of whose theory it is but I’ll research it further) that borderlines are essentially narcissists, located at the middle level of the NPD spectrum.

I found a good description of how this works on a psychology questions and answers site, by an anonymous contributor.

All borderlines are narcissistic to some extent but not all narcissists are borderline.

All people who are described as having Borderline Personality Disorder also, as a prevailing clinical fact, display strong traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, although to wildly varying degrees. It’s just that, with Borderlines, Borderline Personality Disorder is the prevailing pathology. It is definitely possible to have both.

To explain into further detail, BPD and NPD are more of on the lines of a continuum. They are both clinically grouped as “Cluster B Personality Disorders” (to which Histrionic Personality Disorder- a disequilibrium best described in a few words as somewhere in between both but not located on the same continuum- also belongs). To people who have “only one” of these disorders, they display varying characteristics in relation to their place on that continuum. For example- the merciless cold calculative and uncaring corporate executive Narcissist who has more normalized personal relationships would be “low” to “none” on the borderline comorbidity scale; vs a similarly described individual who has chronic personal relationship issues who would be “high” on the borderline part of the scale.

Borderlines, for their part of the continuum, start at “mild” or “medium” on NPD comorbidity, and there is no such thing as “low” or “none” going from this particular side of the continuum.

To continue, Borderlines often are unofficially categorized into 4 sub types- the waif, the witch, the queen, and the recluse (the least common type). Without going into detail about each type (the names are descriptive of the particular subset nuances) it is not difficult to ascertain that waif and recluse types fall more mid-way on the Narcissistic section of the Borderline-Narcissist continuum with witches and queens falling much higher on the Narcissistic side of the scale.

To restate part of my argument, ALL OF US are narcissists to some extent, 5-20% degree of Narcissistic behavior to put it in a perspective, due to evolutionary factors far beyond our control. All Borderlines are also going at something like 30%-80% degree of Narcissism. Narcissists are 100% degrees of Narcissism, but not necessarily any degree Borderline.


No wonder I’ve been so confused over these past six months about my own diagnoses, and spent about four of them absolutely certain that I was really a covert narcissist (which BPD closely resembles anyway).   If the borderline-narcissist continuum theory is correct, then I really am on the NPD spectrum after all, as are all borderlines. Of late I’ve been seeing a lot of similarites between BPD and Complex PTSD and have considered they may really be the same disorder.  Could NPD itself be a more pathological and intractable manifestation of severe Complex PTSD?    All of them have at their core a compromised sense of self, and chronic feelings of emptiness and shame.   So is it possible all these labels really mean nothing at all and mental health providers should be focusing on and treating the symptoms  rather than a “disorder?”   You just can’t throw people into a box and expect them all to fit.


8 thoughts on “What is a “borderline narcissist”?

  1. “You just can’t throw people into a box and expect them all to fit.”

    Amen! PTSD, rather then being a “disorder,” is a remarkable and amazing survival skill. These things only become disorders when they stick with us and start interfering with our lives years later.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I think a bad case of narcissism “fleas” can turn into a Cluster B disorder if the fleas stick around too long…it’s not a choice. The bad thing is, most people who get them start to think everyone else is the problem. But it starts with complex PTSD —-> “fleas”—-> a cluster B disorder
      NPD and ASPD are the worst of them. My whole view of it is different than most ACONs (who vilify cluster B disorders), because I see these people as victims themselves but only a very few want to get better. I don’t know if it’s possible in most cases, and at that point only an act of God (or a total loss of all supply) can drive them to finally look inside themselves and stop blaming others. Maybe I’m more sympathetic having a cluster B disorder myself.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey Lucky, the theory that borderlines fall on the middle of the narcissistic spectrum is from Alexander Lowen in “Narcissism: Denial of the Truth Self”.

    Is this “borderline narcissist” theory apply to ALL borderlines, or just some? I guess the ones higher on the spectrum?

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I think you’ll enjoy it. There is also a chapter or two that delivers a scathing criticism of the West’s cultural narcissism.

        Glad to see you changed your domain name, didn’t think the “healingnpd” one was fitting considering you tend to write more about BPD issues. 😀

        Liked by 2 people

        1. ALso because I don’t have NPD lol.
          I thought I did when I started this blog in August though, but had to wait to change the URL because it isn’t free. I feel a bit foolish tbh.

          I am ordering that book right now!


  3. Yes! He was the constant “victim”, and rarely ever smiled! He was not seductive, but instead was highly emotional and prone to bouts of crying, and expressed suicide feelings often. He was never to blame for anything, and did major Triangulation, Gaslighting, Antagonizing me, Baiting me, and had the saddest childhood imaginable (from what he said)…. But, when he got angry, he would block me constantly from FB and Smear me on his timeline. Because I tried to tell him my feelings, our relationship ended with him sending me several Hate emails, (blocking me so I couldn’t respond), and then he completely ghosted me. I’m thinking Histrionic, possibly, or BPD.

    Liked by 1 person

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