Antisocial vs. Borderline Personality Disorders

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Because they are both personality disorders, antisocial personality disorder (ASPD) shares many of the same traits as borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, the causes of these conditions and the ways in which they manifest can be strikingly different.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), a person with antisocial personality disorder must be at least 18 years old and have severe problems functioning in these two specific areas:

  • Self-functioning: ASPD is broadly defined as behaviors in which people think only of themselves and/or focus on personal goals and gratification without taking into account what is culturally acceptable or ethical. By definition, people with ASPD gain a sense of self-esteem from the pursuit of pleasure, power, or getting what they want.
  • Interpersonal functioning: People with ASPD have an inability to display concern or empathy for other people's feelings or needs. They have difficulty forming any true sense of intimacy and instead use power to exert dominance in a relationship.

ASPD Personality Traits

According to the DSM-5, people with ASPD may exhibit the following behavioral characteristics:

  • Antagonism: Antagonism in ASPD is displayed through manipulation, such as using charming behavior to influence someone. People with ASPD often engage in vengeful behaviors over minor slights and may even resort to aggression, violence, and cruelty.
  • Disinhibition: Disinhibition in ASPD is characterized by a disregard of social conventions and reckless, risk-taking behaviors at the expense of others' safety or feelings. It is not uncommon for people with ASPD to break promises, miss appointments, or drop activities out of boredom or spite.
  • Emotional detachment: People with ASPD exhibit greater egocentric behaviors, making it difficult to establish balanced and supportive relationships. This emotional detachment can complicate psychotherapy, the practice of which relies heavily on open interaction.

Borderline Personality Disorder

To be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, a person must have severe problems functioning in both of these areas:

  • Self-functioning: People with BPD typically struggle with identity and are prone to feelings of emptiness, self-loathing, and worthlessness. Because of this, they have difficulty establishing goals or pursuing long-term interests, often undermining themselves at every turn.
  • Interpersonal functioning: Feelings of low self-esteem typically manifest in hypersensitivity to anything construed as criticism or rejection. People with BPD tend to lash out irrationally at even minor slights (like interruptions in conversation). Unable to see beyond their own feelings, people with BPD tend to lack empathy and find themselves in unstable relationships prone to conflict.

BPD Personality Traits

People with BPD may have the following personality traits:

  • Negative affectivity: Negative affectivity is characterized by unstable and unpredictable mood changes that are more dramatic than a situation warrants. This includes intense anxiety over social situations, persistent fear of rejection, or sudden swings into a deep depression, shame, or guilt. Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon.
  • Disinhibition: People with BPD may engage in impulsive, risky behaviors, often due to frantic efforts to avoid real or anticipated abandonment or to change intolerable emotional states. These actions are often turned inward, resulting in self-harm or self-destructiveness. Appointments, promises, and activities will be readily dropped more out of a sense of hopelessness or anger than out of boredom.
  • Antagonism: People with BPD are easily spurred to anger but are less likely to shut others out. Rather, they will seek out relationships that can alternate between extremes of idealization and devaluation.

Similarities Between ASPD and BPD

Both ASPD and BPD are classified as Cluster B personality disorders in the DSM-5. Cluster B disorders are characterized by overly emotional, dramatic, and unpredictable thinking and behavior. Among the similarities between ASPD and BPD:

  • Disinhibition: Both ASPD and BPD are associated with disinhibition. However, people with ASPD demonstrate disinhibition by engaging in impulsive behaviors "because they can," while people with BPD do so to combat negative emotions.
  • Hostility: People with ASPD and BPD will get inordinately angry over minor slights. People with ASPD tend to lash out with consciously cruel and hostile acts, while those with BPD remain persistently angry and may engage in self-harm.
  • Impulsivity burn-out: According to the DSM-5, by later middle age, people may be less likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for either ASPD or BPD. This is referred to as "burn-out," a state in which the emotional expression of the disorder changes with age.
  • Suicidality: The rate of suicide in both ASPD and BPD is between 3% to 10%.

If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

Differences in ASPD vs. BPD

There are just as many differences between ASPD and BPD as there are similarities, including:

  • Symptoms: ASPD consists of few emotions, while BPD consists of extreme emotions, mood swings, and an inability to regulate emotions.
  • Gender: Some research suggests that BPD is equally common in men and women, but that men are less likely to seek treatment. By contrast, ASPD is around five times more common in men than women.
  • Age: There is no age requirement for BPD. However, you must be 18 or over to be diagnosed with ASPD.
  • Treatment: Certain forms of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and mentalization-based therapy (MBT), have been extremely effective in treating BPD. By contrast, ASPD is notoriously difficult to treat with psychotherapy.

A Word From Verywell

Antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are two distinct conditions, although they do have some overlapping features. It's possible to have both, since many people have more than one personality disorder. If you think you might have a personality disorder or you're concerned about your mood and behavior, talk to your doctor. Only a trained mental health professional can diagnose you.

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