Do Narcissistic Parents Cause BPD?

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BPD stands for borderline personality disorder, and it shares many characteristics with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Both are Cluster B personality disorders, and as such, there are many similarities between them, but the underlying reasons behind the behaviors differ. Narcissists are focused on self-aggrandizement and have few deep emotions while borderlines fear abandonment and become overly emotional. They are difficult to distinguish from each other, however, and it’s reasonable to wonder if it’s possible for one to cause the other. 

Because narcissistic parents are abusive, their children can develop BPD or one of many other personality disorders. It’s not the narcissism itself that is causing the borderline personality disorder, however. It’s the abuse that can interact with genetic predispositions to cause BPD. 

To get a better idea of how these two personality disorders compare to one another and how one might affect the other, let’s explore exactly what can cause each as well as their symptoms. This is important information for anyone dealing with a narcissist or a borderline.

Can Narcissistic Parents Cause BPD?

Research has shown there are multiple contributing factors to the development of borderline personality disorder, including genetic components and an abusive environment. Like narcissism, BPD normally develops in childhood with symptoms appearing in the teenage years or in early adulthood. 

Can Narcissistic Parents Cause BPD

Symptoms include dramatic and overly emotional behaviors, depression, impulsive behaviors, and an extreme fear of abandonment. Borderlines often have severe mood swings and suicidal thoughts. The environmental factors that contribute to the development of BPD include childhood abuse or neglect. 

Because narcissistic parents are abusive, the result can be that their children develop borderline personality disorder. It’s not really correct, though, to say that narcissism is causing BPD directly. The abuse inflicted by narcissistic parents is causing the personality disorder, not the narcissism itself. 

Abusive parents who are not narcissists can also have children that develop borderline personality disorder. Additionally, parents who are not abusive can have children who develop BPD. Children who are separated from their parents are also at higher risk of becoming borderline. Additionally, there are some differences in the brains of people with BPD which result in the parts of the brain that control emotion having difficulty communicating with the parts that control behavior.

That said, narcissistic parents represent one of the most abusive scenarios a child can experience, so it’s not surprising that their children would suffer some kind of personality disorder. Narcissists are also famous for being neglectful which is another type of abuse that can cause a child to develop BPD.  

The children of narcissists can become narcissists themselves or develop any of several other personality disorders and/or mental problems including BPD. There are also many similarities between BPD and NPD. To better understand each personality disorder, it’s worth examining the symptoms of each. 

What are the Symptoms of BPD?

People with BPD usually start exhibiting symptoms in their teenage years or in early adulthood. The symptoms are often triggered by stressful events, and as an individual with BPD gets older, the symptoms may decrease or even disappear. 

What are the Symptoms of BPD

The range of symptoms a person may experience varies significantly. Some people only experience a few symptoms while others have several. Additionally, the symptoms range in intensity with some people having very mild problems to others who experience very severe expressions of the disorder. 

Many symptoms are similar to bipolar disorder, and in fact, people are often misdiagnosed because of that reality. One of the most similar symptoms for each disorder is frequent and intense mood swings. An individual with BPD can suddenly change their feeling about the people in their life, the world, and even themselves. 

They also experience irrational emotions including sudden, inexplicable changes in feelings of fear, anxiety, uncontrollable anger, sadness, and love. This makes their temperament very volatile. They will lash out without reason, and they often have difficulty calming themselves down. 

A symptom that sufferers of BPD share with narcissists is a fear of abandonment. Most people with this personality disorder feel uncomfortable when they are alone, and they often track the people in their life so they always know where they are. They also will try to stop them from leaving. Sufferers of BPD are often very paranoid too. They frequently accuse people in their life of plotting against them somehow. 

Because of their unstable moods and volatile emotions, people with BPD have problems maintaining relationships. Most of their relationships are chaotic and unstable. They are also prone to impulsive and even dangerous behavior, and they are sometimes self-destructive. They will often become depressed, and it’s not uncommon for them to have suicidal thoughts. 

What are the Symptoms of NPD?

People who suffer from NPD share several symptoms with sufferers of BPD. Like borderlines, narcissists also fear abandonment and can be very paranoid. They also have dramatic mood swings and have difficulty maintaining relationships. 

What are the Symptoms of NPD

Narcissists frequently lash out at people with their characteristic narcissistic rage, and they can turn on the charm when they really want to as well. As with borderlines, the relationships of a narcissist are chaotic and unstable. 

Narcissists, however, don’t have a strong sense of identity. Because of the trauma they suffered in childhood, they have buried their true self and erected a false sense of self in its place. They infuse that false sense of self with grandiose ideas about how superior they are in comparison to other people. 

Their problem, however, is that the false sense of self cannot support those egoic ideals. Thus, they need other people to constantly feed them a steady flow of adoration to prop up their self-esteem. Because this is their focus, their emotions tend to be very shallow with the exception of their rage. 

While some narcissists may experience depression, their deeply held belief that they are entitled to the best of everything usually prevents them from engaging in suicidal thoughts. That fuels their manipulative behaviors as well as their belief that they don’t have to follow the rules. 

Additionally, narcissists don’t have the capacity for empathy. They can’t put themselves in other people’s places because they are only able to focus on their own needs. That’s what causes them to exploit the people around them. 

They don’t really care to get to know you; they just want to get you to do what they need you to do. They only want to know as much about you as they need to know to manipulate you successfully. 

How Do the Two Personality Disorders Compare?

People with either BPD or NPD live in alternative realities in which they will go to extreme measures to create the facts that best suit their needs. Both disorders result in people who need other people to help them either manage their moods (BPD) or boost their self-esteem (NPD).

How Do the Two Personality Disorders Compare

In both cases, the sufferers see the world in terms of black and white. They don’t see any gray areas. Both disorders are characterized by people projecting their bad feelings onto people around them. Both blame everyone else in the world, except themselves. 

Both personality disorders cause people to be unable to create stable, healthy relationships, and in both cases, the sufferers experience extreme shame. This causes sufferers of both disorders to lash out, lie, and manipulate. 

The differences between the two disorders lie in the underlying reasons behind their behavior. Whereas borderlines feel inadequate internally, the narcissist has convinced themselves they are superior and entitled. 

Borderlines are capable of genuine emotions even if they are chaotic and subject to frequent changes. Narcissists, on the other hand, really don’t go deep. Even their rage is often a ruse to distract from something their target has discovered about them. 

While borderlines are focused on keeping people from rejecting and abandoning them, narcissists are focused on manipulating people to keep the flow of narcissistic supply going. Though they result in similar outward expressions, the reasons behind these two disorders are very different. 

Final Thoughts

It is possible for the children of narcissists to develop BPD, but it’s not the result of the personality disorder their parents have. It’s the abuse that narcissists heap upon their children that can cause them to develop BPD or any of several other personality disorders or psychological problems. 

To learn more about the differences between different types of personality disorders and how they manifest, this post has some valuable information you need to know.


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Narcissistic abuse takes a terrible toll on your life. I’m Patricia, and my mother is a narcissist, so I know what you’re going through. These blog posts will help you understand narcissism better and give you tips for dealing with the narcissists in your life. Healing starts here!

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