Antisocial Personality Disorder vs. Borderline Personality Disorder

How They Are Alike and How They Differ

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

Antisocial Personality Disorder

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5) issued by the American Psychiatric Society, 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 you think only of yourself and/or focus on personal goals and gratification without taking into account what is culturally acceptable or ethical. By definition, people with ASPD will 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's feelings or needs. They have difficulty forming any true sense of intimacy and will rather use power to exert dominance in a relationship.

ASPD Personality Traits

As defined by the DSM-5, people with ASPD will exhibit the following behavioral characteristics:

  • Antagonism: Antagonism in ASPD is displayed through manipulation, such as using charming behavior to influence someone into doing what you want. They will 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 APD to break promises, miss appointments, or drop activities out of a sense 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, you 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 with a hypersensitivity to anything construed as criticism or rejection. Because of this, 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

According to the DSM-5, people with BPD will 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, a persistent fear of rejection, or sudden swings into deep depression, shame, or guilt. Suicidal thoughts are not uncommon.
  • Disinhibition: Disinhibition in BPD is characterized by impulsive, risky behaviors with no regard for the consequences. Due to underlying feelings of low self-worth, the 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 hopefulness 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 in part to combat depression and to also maintain a damaged, victimized self-image.

Similarities

ASPD and BPD share similarities in that they are both 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 also associated with disinhibition. However, people with ASPD demonstrate disinhibition by engaging in impulsive behaviors "because they can," while people with BPD will engage the same behaviors to combat negative emotions or actively punish themselves.
  • Hostility: People with ASPD and BPD will get inordinately angry over minor slights. However, people with ASPD tend to lash out with consciously cruel and hostile acts, while those with BPD will remain persistently angry and may engage in self-harm.
  • Impulsivity burn-out: According to the DSM-5, by the time you're in your later middle age, you will be less likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for either ASPD or BPD. This is referred to as impulsivity burn-out, a state in which the emotional underpinnings of the disorder changes as you get older.
  • Suicidality: The rate of suicide in both ASPD and BPD is between 5 percent to 10 percent.

Differences

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: 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: According to the DSM-5, there is no age requirement for BPD. However, you must be 18 or over to be diagnosed with APD.
  • 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 extremely difficult to treat and often approached with MBT with varying degrees of success.

A Word From Verywell

Antisocial personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are really two distinct conditions, although they do have some overlapping features and it's entirely 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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