The Borderline Personality as Transient Sociopath

Editor’s note: This article was submitted by Steve Becker, LCSW, CH.T, who has a private psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, and clinical consulting practice in New Jersey, USA. For more information, visit his website, powercommunicating.com.

It is not unusual in my clinical experience to see, sometimes, some quite chilling sociopathic activity from my “borderline personality-disordered” clients. When someone has a “borderline personality,” it’s quite likely, among other things, that he or she will present with a history of emotional instability; a pattern of chaotic interpersonal relationships; and poor coping skills under stress, reflected in self-destructive/ destructive acting-out and a tendency to suicidal behaving.

These unstable trends are not explained by a core psychotic orientation, although individuals with borderline personality can sometimes lapse into psychotic thinking when feeling hurt and rejected enough. Borderline personalities tend to see others in “black and white,” as either all-good or all-bad; they struggle to retain more flexible, ambivalent views of others. Others are either idealized, or devalued; these swings of perceptions can be sudden, volatile, and complete.

Perceptions and/or experiences of abandonment often elicit the borderline’s dysfunctional responses and psychological deterioration. In his or her more stable state, the borderline personality can sometimes function well and seem to be well-adjusted. But more intimate involvement with him or her, over time, will expose an underlying, poorly disturbed sense of self and incapacity for mature relating.

A question I’ve found myself considering is: When the borderline personality is acting, and looking, like a sociopath, is it the case that he or she, in these states, effectively is a sociopath?

It should be noted that behaviors per se are never sociopathic, only the individuals perpetrating them. Sociopathy is a mentality from which antisocial, exploitative behaviors gestate and emanate with a destructive, historical chronicity. But one can infer the presence of the sociopathic mentality from a telling pattern of behaviors.

Clearly there are fundamental differences between borderline personalities and sociopaths, differences which I appreciate. At the same time, when the borderline personality’s rage or desperation is evoked, one sees (and not rarely) responses that can closely correspond to the sociopath’s calculating, destructive mentality.

Once inside this mentality, I’m suggesting that borderline personality-disordered individuals can lapse into a kind of transient sociopathy. Commonly, victims of the “borderline’s” aberrant, vicious behaviors will sometimes react along the lines of, “What is wrong with you? Are you some freaking psychopath?” They will say this from the experience of someone who really has just been exploited as if by a psychopath.

Because this isn’t the borderline personality’s default mentality (it is the sociopath’s), several psychological phenomena must occur, I think, to enable his temporary descent into sociopathy. He or she must regress in some way; dissociate in some fashion; and experience a form of self-fragmentation, for instance in response to a perceived threat—say, of abandonment.

These preconditions, I suggest, seed the borderline personality’s collapse into the primitive, altered states of self that can explain, among other phenomena, his or her chilling (and necessary) suspension of empathy. This gross suspension of empathy supports his or her “evening the score” against the “victimizer” with the sociopath’s remorseless sense of entitlement.

Case example

I worked not long ago with a male, 24, who slit his ex-girlfriend’s tires in the parking lot of the restaurant in which she tended bar. He’d suspected her of cheating with her manager. Notably, they were still together at the time of his act. Although his girlfriend surmised his guilt, he wouldn’t admit it, suggesting foolishly that the perpetrator was probably the manager. While his suspicions of her infidelity had some basis, the important point is that they activated an inner-self crisis and desperation characteristic of borderline personality structures.

Specifically, he feared losing her—a prospect so traumatic that rage was summoned to help mobilize his fragmenting self. His rage was experienced as cold, not volatile. He regressed into paranoia, as one who had been betrayed and, cruelly, left helpless. His failure to soberly examine the circumstances and his inflammatory reactions represented a form of mild dissociation/detachment from reality that enabled the paranoid experience, and processing, of his fear; his detachment (and regression) enabled him to formulate and execute his revenge with his empathy (and guilt) conveniently iced. In other words, he could perpetrate his vengeance with the detached calm of someone who has experienced a trauma, as in a state of depersonalization.

Upon emerging from this state, it would be as if emerging from a sort of dream, or seizure. The rationalization would kick in: what I do in those states really isn’t me, so I don’t really have to take full responsibility for it later on. It’s as if the borderline individual surfaces from his dip into sociopathy once again a borderline (and no longer a sociopath).

Motives that drive patterns of problematic behaviors frequently illuminate and distinguish the personality disorders. In this case, what seems to have driven my client was his crumbling sense of self in the form of an inarticulate terror of being abandoned. For this reason (among others), I can confidently say that he wasn’t a sociopath. But when he was in that regressed, dissociated, fragmented state—for as long as it lasted—I suggest he was.

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Hmmm. This is where I tripped up. I was very hooked on BPD as the problem with Bad Man but then my reading took me further and Sociopathy seems quite fitting as well. Originally, I thought BM qualified as an extreme case of BPD based on something I read. Also, he did identify for himself *once*… only once.. that he noticed that feeling abandond was a trigger for him. That was the only time I witnessed any real self reflection. Of course he would take this back in a flash if he was upset again.

Bad Man did seem to lack empathy as I witnessed in his comments and tied to a few moments where I was surprised by his response to something. He had told me he used to call himself the Minister of Compassion but then I never saw any compassion from him. At one point, I described him as the meanest, most inappropriate human being I have ever encountered.

He has demonstrated very Narcissistic thought patterns and moments. Also, very BPD behavior. And Sociopath stuff… well, I think so to the best of my understanding.

I guess I have a simple question. Can a person be diagnosed as BPD, NPD and SOCIOPATHY. Are any of these things mutually exclusive?

I went and read the description of BPD in wikipedia. When I read it, I saw things, situations, reactions, that the S got out of me…without him..I am perfectly sane and normal. Again…they DRIVE you crazy.

I only knew mine for a few months, and based on what I experienced, he is a sociopath. I’ve often wondered did he turn ‘sociopathic’ after finding out of his HIV status? or did he become HIV positive because he’s a sociopath? (reckless with their own lives, as well as the lives of others).

Everything that happened from start to finish was like it was taken out of a textbook example of how they target, mirror, use the pity-play, idealize, devalue, and discard. As well as deny the truth when it’s in their face, accept no responsiblity, blame the victim, and play the victim themselves. Not to mention the lies and manipulations.

I’ve never met anyone that so boastfully projects themselves so loyal, trustworthy, honest, etc…..but yet lying and risking others with their own non-curable, deadly disease.

A real mind-fuck.

Whether it’s transient socipathy by a BPD or a flat-out sociopath, or a Narcissist, the end result is always the same.

In my opinion- if someone is ANY of the above- that’s reason to stear clear.

Dodged a bullet, I couldn’t have said it better myself.

“Everything that happened from start to finish was like it was taken out of a textbook example of how they target, mirror, use the pity-play, idealize, devalue, and discard. As well as deny the truth when it’s in their face, accept no responsiblity, blame the victim, and play the victim themselves. Not to mention the lies and manipulations.”

This is exactly what happened to me except for somehow the devalue part didn’t really happen, much. She began to devalue me just a little, but it mostly went from idealize to discard. Also, when I confronted her, I used those exact words that you did which were “mind fuck”.

Still trying to figure out if she’s BPD or sociopath or some combination of both.

Can you explain to us in English what a fragmenting Self is? and Is the mentality that produces a sociopath’s instrumental aggression any different from the mentality that produces a non-sociopath’s instrumental aggression?

While this explanation of this is pretty complex, and difficult to follow, I think I see where it is going.

MY X-DIL has more of the, in my opinion, BPD characteristics, including self-injury, which I have seen in many patients I have treated through the years. However, I do know that many of my former patients were also very capable of rages that approached homicidal rages.

When I was working with BPD adolescent girls, one minute they would be trying to kill you, and 10 minutes later they would be trying to hug you. The mercurial rise and fall of their emotions was sometimes dumbfounding.

My XDIL seems in many ways to be “classic” BPD, but at the same time, her last coldly calculating attempt to murder my son was certainly P-type behavior as well.

He feelings apparently now vacillate between anger at herself, and at my son for sending her to jail…as if she had nothing to do with being arrested.

She is continuing to try to pull financial shenanigans toward my mother and feels justified in doing so apparently because my mother has “so much” and she “has nothing.” My mother is having to go to court to put a stop to that.

She apparently has a problem with “being alone” (without a male partner) and moves rapidly from one to the next. When he gets out of prison, she apparently is planning to “live happily ever after” with the sexual predator, diagnosed psychopath, habitual criminal, that she had the affair with and that tried to help her kill her husband. At this point, her family of origin, and even her BPD daughter have “disowned” her and she has no friends at all now, as all of my son’s and her mutual friends won’t have anything to do with her, and apparently those are her only contacts.

From what I have learned about her life prior to her marrying my son (they met on the internet) her life was pretty chaotic, multiple marriages, live-ins, etc.

Though her attack on my son, with her rage at him (it was her, not the BF, that wanted her husband dead) that sort of feels like P behavior to me, but everything else I have seen about her or know about her history is pretty much “classic” BPD.

When I first met her 8 yrs ago I felt that she was “deceptive” in some way, she never really became part of our family. She was overly polite and very distant. Even after they moved her to the farm near us, there was no real relationship between her and the rest of the family. I don’t think I have ever been in my son’s home long enough to sit down, and she never came to my house long enough to sit down either. She used her son in a wheel chair as an excuse to not socialize with the family. She did all she could to isolate my son as well.

It was ONLY after her affair started with the P-BF that she started to “curry” my mother’s favor, and to manipulate my mother into letting her control my mother’s finances, etc. which the BF was “in on” as well. At that point, she became openly belligerent to me.

I’m not sure if she is “fish, fowl, or good red herring” but like Dodged_a_bullet says, it really doesn’t matter what “label”you put on it she is TOXIC and dangerous STEAR CLEAR.

This is my first post, although I have been reading this site for over a year.

This is my mantra now: BPD, HPD, NPD, AsPD = Cluster B = a whole lot of misery on the receiving end.

They are ALL sociopaths, psychopaths at some point in relationship to YOU. (this is a great article)

If it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck its a sociopath ,, err,, I mean a duck !!


Dear K,

Welcome, and you are right on–Cluster B = misery.

For those of you who don’t know what “cluster B” is it is part of the psychiatric diagnostic process and includes a list of several personality disorders, in addition to say in other parts of the diagnosis “depression” or some mental illness, rather than a DISORDER.

None of the Cluster B problems are easily solved or solvable at all. Just because a person has Cluster B problems doesn’t mean they are not ALSO: Bi-polar, depressed, etc.

One or more mental illnesses added to a personality disorder can make things really “interesting”—

You know I just remembered… I had decided that it didn’t really matter what he was.. I knew he was not normal. I created “Bad Man” when I didn’t want to say his name anymore and didn’t know for sure what was wrong except that he was just BAD.

Part of me would like to know if I am correct in my diagnosis for after all… I am not a clinician. The other part of me knows that it doesn’t matter. He was a nightmare no matter what you would call it.

Somewhere along my journey, I stopped trying to determine the appropriate label for the behavior I believe I experienced. It just didn’t matter anymore. I knew what I experienced was NOT normal. What mattered was me. I focused on who I am instead of what he was. It was the key to my success.

I just found a beautiful poem that is about healing and life’s journey entitled, “My Journey”:


Interesting post. Having been involved with a BPD for five years, before my five years with the sociopath, and spending the last four years trying to sort it all out, I recommend Stephen M. Johnson’s work (“Characterological Transformation: The Hard Work Miracle” and “Humanizing the Narcissistic Style”) for some great models on the continuums of personality disorders and their historical causes.

I didn’t know I was involved with a BPD. My partner started to disintegrate, when I developed a friendship outside the relationship. Up to that point, I felt pretty lucky to be involved with someone who was so caring, so interested in anticipating my needs, so concerned about my personal development, etc., etc. It wasn’t until later that I realized that I was being “paid off” (in the currency that meant the most to me) to stay 100-percent focussed on the relationship. And that my partner viewed me as a kind of non-negotiable “emotional home” that was fixing early abandonment issues. I was the anchor. Or there was no anchor.

When I say disintegration, I mean it was wild. After seven years of sobriety, there were drunken car crashes, destructive machinations at the business we co-owned, arrests for disorderly conduct, and on and on. Through all of it, it was made clear to me that I could stop this at any time, by returning to being the totally involved partner I had been before.

When I broke it off, my partner went into a lockdown psychiatric ward and was in and out of lockdown and addiction treatment centers for years afterwards. I got re-involved periodically out of guilt, and then dis-involved myself when the emotional tentacles started wrapping around me again. I should have dis-involved myself because of the lying that went along with the addictions that escalated from booze to drugs. Or the way I was used in other ways for things that probably could have put me in jail. But I felt guilty and responsible for the mess.

It wasn’t until I went through the recovery process of dealing with the sociopath — who was actually a lot more straightforward in his exploitation than the BPD — that I realized how ruthlessly I’d been used. And with a BPD, it’s easy to overlook this, because their emotional needs are a lot more attractive than the sociopath’s emotional needs. The BPD needs emotional security, and is willing to pay almost anything to get it. As an incest-survivor, I had my own emotional security issues and arguably was a dependent type, so we got along pretty well for quite a while. Though there were a lot of serious peripheral issues, like the way my adolescent son was regarded as a competitor for my attention.

But in retrospect, after the experience of having a sociopath systematically work at dismantling my identity and values for his own profit, I’ve gotten a little more cynical about the BPD, who still calls me occasionally to see if there’s an opening for worming back into my life. There’s an illusion of caring deeply about me. But it’s just an illusion. What is really wanted is someone who will hold still so the BPD can get firmly attached and use my life to make up for the missing parts in the BPD’s life. And in this, the BPD is not very different than the sociopath. They both lie about what’s really going on. They both are experts at emotional manipulation.

But to characterize one as being as bad as the other misses the point. I think that one is the flip side of the other. The yin and yang. My sociopath was as desperately needy as the BPD, but it was the shadow side. The BPD was a ruthless and ultimately uncaring about what was right for me as the sociopath, but that was the background of the personality.

These two types represent the extremes of the continuum of personality disorders. They seem to have chosen extremely different strategies. The sociopath needing nothing but victory, the BPD needing nothing but connection. But it’s not different from the dark side of codependency, where all the “softness” of enabling and acquiescence is, in my mind at least, a front for “hard” expectations that these services will be rewarded with love and security.

While I was involved with the sociopath, I had a friend who was struggling with her own emotional problems. She was constantly outraged by the fact the I was so loving, understanding and generous to the sociopath, and he was none of those things to me. “He’s not playing by the rules,” she said.

I felt that way myself, but whenever I heard her say in her histrionic way (naturally, my best friend has histrionic personality disorder), I got a little squeamish. What rules were we talking about? I could try to be holier-than-thou, and say that he wasn’t “conforming to the social contract,” whatever that is. But the truth, and I knew it, was that I was trying to minutely catalog his every need and buy my way into his heart in exactly the same way my BPD partner had done with me. Beyond that, my unmet need for emotional security — because there was NONE in this relationship — had me so distressed that I was in full-blown BDP mode for the first time in my life. Including not giving the tiniest damn about what he wanted as long as I got what I wanted.


One of the points that Johnson makes in his books — and I think it’s a common understanding — is that personality disorders are basically the over-reliance on a single strategy for getting our needs met. My histrionic friend makes a great deal of noise about her emotional states. My sociopath is determined to triumph at everything. My BPD gives and gives and gives. And me, I have a history of doing whatever I have to do to see approval in other people’s eyes.

In “Strategy of the Dolphin,” one of my favorite books, the authors break the world down into sharks and carps. Sharks are addicted to winning. Carps are addicted to being loved. This is a rough approximation of the yin and yang I’m talking about. Sharks are loners. Carps are social. In interactions between sharks and carps, the carps become food. Sound familiar?

In these relationships in my life, I look at me and the BPD, and who was the shark? I’m not sure. I actually did very well out of it, though it cost me and continues to cost me financially and emotionally. With the sociopath, I think I was the carp, and he took advantage of my feelings for money, sex and something he wanted even more, a huge leap in professional and social status. But if you asked him, he would list all the ways he gave up the life he really wanted and the compromises he made in order to get my help.

You may wonder about the shark and the carp, and if there is any way out of that dichotomy. The reason the book is called “Strategy of the Dolphin” is because there is a third type, which was based on Eli Lilly’s discovery that dolphins adapt to changing circumstances and, if their usual strategies don’t work, they’ll experiment with new strategies.

Dolphins can look like sharks to carps, and like carps to sharks, because they adapt to the circumstances. They’re not stuck in one strategy. One of my favorite parts of the book is the description of what a dolphin will do when a shark comes in for an exploratory nip. They do “tit for tat,” doing an equivalent nip right back. It’s not mean to escalate, just to communicate in clear terms that the shark has picked the wrong victim, and the shark would be better off moving on.

That works with sociopaths too. Unfortunately, the only thing I know of that works with BPDs is just to keep saying no. It’s very hard and very sad, especially when you’ve known the person well and profited from the relationship. But it’s a boundary, and I think that all of this is about boundaries. Understanding our own, and not playing any game that involves us breaching our boundaries or anyone else’s.


You post is swingingme back to BPD for the Bad Man.. all except for one thing you said about the giving. He wasn’t a big giver but I loved what you said about being emotionally “paid off.” That’s another way of looking at setting the hook.


I am dealing with a few cluster bs.

I need help today. I am feeling very, very angry knowing the smear campaign that orchestrated behind my back.

I have to go on a trip with a histrionic and a psycho soon. No way around it– I don’t speak to either now, but the looks GRATE on my nerves. I want to tell them to F–k Off something I never did.

What to do? How do I cope?I am so angry and hurt. An dthis trip is supposed to be a “once in a lifetime” sort.

It’s a lot more complictaed. 10,000 investment

and there’s quite a few people going, a lot, so we will be separated, and I see them every week already.

I just am feeling angry about the injustice of it all. The stories I could tell. One, the hsitronic, lied to protect her married lover from TRUE chrgaes of child sexual abuse. THAT”S JUST ONE issue– and then portrayed me as the bad guy. I need to vent, or I will hyperventilate.


I guess, unless I give up a lot – I will never, unless they leave, be done with them.

I am OK each week- I do not acknowledge them etc. but I have feelings and I am hurt.

I also have some very good people going with me so they will make it fun.

I have been bullied most of my life- I am kind of used to it- I guess I am just having a time of extreme irritation. I wish I would have told them off- I wish so many things were different.

We are being separated for the most part so that’s good and the person organizing knows whats up. I just feel this sense of injustice. I’ll be alright- I find there are jerks of one flavor or another everywhere. I did learn a lot from the P experience….namely personality disorders exist and are dangerous. I just steered away from a potential friend b/c I recognized the signs right away.

I am angry because rotten people are mucking my life up. And I don’t feel believed. It’s that– ironically it’s me and the disordered who know the truth.


Is the “trip” WORTH IT?

It sounds to me that you would like to make this trip but at the same time I think the “price” you will have to pay for it may make it a HIGHER PRICED TRIP than you really want to pay.

It is, I think, sort of like taking a “loan” from someone who wants to control you, it will COST you more in the end than doing without the loan will.

I would think about it before I went because if you are starting to fret about it now, think how you will feel when you are WITH them.

Let me put it like this. Before all the chaos went down, my mother (not knowing my financial status) kept offering to give me money if I needed it. I didn’t need it, but IF I HAD DESPERATELY NEEDED IT, I would NOT have taken it, I would have rather lived in a tent and eaten out of McDonald’s dumpster because it would have been easier and nicer than taking money from someone who wants CONTROL.

Everything we do or have in this world COSTS something. Time, energy, money, etc. So look at the “cost vs. benefit” ratio. The cost to going on this trip is to be around these people, is the trip worth it? If so, go, if not, don’t. Either way, be satisfied with ourself that you made the DECISION that was best.

I made the decision LONG ago not to ever take a “favor” from my mother. Therefore she had no “dependent hold” on me. In the Scots-Irish community in rural Arkansas where I grew up, there is sort of a “social rule” that you don’t TAKE favors from anyone you don’t fully trust…you may GIVE favors, but not TAKE except from a close blood relative or CLOSE friend.

This is so that you are not “obligated” to someone, or as we would say “beholden” to them. If someone does you a favor and you can’t avoid it, you must either offer to pay them, or repay them in some way so that you are “even” and not in their debt. I can’t even remember when I became AWARE of this custom, but when some people from “up north” moved here and we became friends, I had to literally TEACH them this custom so that they could “fit into” the community. My husband, coming from rural Kentucky originally, already knew this custom and had no problem when he moved here.

Back when I was married to a man whose father was a P, they used to do us all kinds of favors, and then make us pay by letting them CONTROL us. I realized back then that I did not want FAVORS from anyone and that those “gifts” were actually “business deals” on control.

So I learned to calculate the cost of anything by what I had to PAY FOR IT. Sometimes it was in money/time, like “those shoes cost X amount of $, and I have to work 10 hours (time) to earn that much money. Are they worth 10 hours of my time?

Or, if I interact with jane for the afternoon, I know she will go into her “drama” act and ask for my opinion and when I give it to her honestly she will get mad at me. Do I really want to invest 4 hours today with being around her?

Look at your trip’s “worth” vs “cost” in terms of emotional turmoil and make your decision. Simple: cost” vs. “benefit”


I still don’t see it as “more complicated”–it boils down to Will you enjoy it enough to have to be around these people? Even just causally (I assume they are going on the trip)?

It sounds like they still have some power just by their presence to upset you by what they have done in the past. I definitely can understand that part. Just ask yourself, will being around them at ALL spoil your trip?

I can’t even imagine going on the “trip of a lifetime” even if it was FREE with my X-DIL along on the same trip, even if I didn’t have to eat dinner with her, just having her there would ruin it for me. Not after she tried to kill my son.

I would just suggest that you think clearly about how you really feel about being in their presence and pray about it and then make your decision. We can’t see the future, unfortunately, and if they are that toxic they might possibly try to “get’ya” on the trip with a “whispering” campaign.

Good luck. and VENT AWAY!

This essay is so interesting to me in light of the various behaviors and attitudes of the multitude of psychopathic mentalities around me—especially with my enabling mother, who has been during all this crisis, displaying “psychopath-by-proxy” behaviors, in defending the psychopathic grandson from me (his mother).

Looking back over my mother’s life, and her behaviors, probable motivations, etc. and her enabling behaviors for the Ps in the family, most of which commenced when her enabling mother died, and she assumed that “role” (which was almost a 180 degree switch from her previous personality of “not taking any crap” off the Ps).

I also realize that there is probably some “abandonment” issues involved with my mother’s motivation for her enabling, her feeling (not thinking, FEELING) that because I had started to set limits on her demands for my time, that I had “abandoned” her and she was frantic to find another source of “support” and turned to the Ps by luring them with money, and projecting the “greed” upon me instead, which of course they (the Ps) fostered as it met their own goals for money from my mother. Isolated her from me, reassured her that they would “take care of her” in her declining years and health. Of course, saddling themselves with an increasingly decrepit old woman as 24/7 companions and caregivers was not their long term goal.

So many of the Professional-crook Ps seem to prey on the insecurities of the elderly, the lonely, with malice-a-fore-thougth, even hooking the elderly into their own victimization and fighting like cats-and-dogs the very people who would “protect them” from the Ps themselves.

The one thing about people who suffer from Borderline personality disorder is that they at times show real and honest empathy (emotions) toward the ones they love, for a BPD wants relationships, needs them as we all do. But people, who suffer as a sociopath can only mimic these same emotions (empathy) via acting, displaying love, concern for love ones. BPD shows (sometimes very dramatically) their love and affections for their desired target. Again, other personality disorder like a Narcissistic Personality Disorder (i.e. sociopath) can only act the part. We feel that something is missing, when they display their affection to others. Also I have found that treating (psychotherapy) a person with BPD is possible because they want to change and at times will accept responsibility for their actions. Not so with people who suffer from other kinds of PD again like an NPD. Yes, I agree that BPD sufferers will show and had showed sociopath traits, but are short lived unlike the sociopath themselves. I too had a very hard time understanding (pin pointing) what kind of personality disorder my ex had. Until I learned about clusters i.e. A, B, C. that in fact PD’s do in fact share traits as in dependent personality disorder, anti-social personality disorders and obsession/compulsive personality disorder, etc. Which is why we need to research this as much as we can. Example would be Dr. Hare work as in his Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) and the Hare Psychopathy Checklist: Screening Version (PCL:SV). Confusing people who suffer from BPD with a person who is a sociopath will not assist those in helping them (psychiatrist) to understand their mental/emotional illness with those who suffer from continuities sociopath traits. More research must be done to help those that want the help then those that don’t and feel no need to change. As the old saying goes, “you can take a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it”.

Hi…I have been struggling to understand my ex’s behaviors- I think this will help me move on…James talks about BPDs actually showing real and honest empathy. Sometimes I think this was the case with my ex. But how do we know that they were in fact honest and real? I do think that when I would no longer tolerate his behavior and he felt I was going to abandon him, he abandoned me (even after tearfully asking for forgiveness and acknowledging he needed counseling). He then turned to his enabling Narcissist father because he knew HE would never abandon him…But my ex’s lack of empathy when he told us all to leave, his newborn included, seems sociopathic…Part of me feels that he has suffered on a certain level and others have observed him say he doesn’t seem ‘well’…

What I do know, however, is that whatever it is, why he discarded us, was terribly wrong…a sin…

I wonder if there is a difference in socio or psychopaths and a person with BPD as far as any internal suffering goes. Part of me thinks that perhaps a person with BPD suffers internally because of their behavior where I don’t think the sociopath or psychopath does. Not sure….

Very good article. However, the person I refer to as a sociopath has actually been diagnosed as a BPD. Twice. Of course, she says both psychologists were completely wrong and didn’t know her at all.

Here’s the problem I have with the article.

The whole premise of a BPD is that they do, in fact, present with sociopathic symptoms when experiencing a perceived sense of abandonment. That’s how they can react with such inconsolable rage, lack of empathy, and suicidal gestures for attention.

So I think the definition of BPD has always included behaviours linked with sociopathy. However– what makes a BPD in general? What do they act like in calm times? Can they feel and respond with empathy? Do they engage in risky behaviours?

That’s my issue, because my abuser is, in my humble opinion, a sociopath. I don’t believe she’d kill anybody in cold blood, but I wouldn’t put it past her either. She would have to be angry, so maybe that makes her a BPD after all. All that aside, she’s a complete b!tch when she wants to be, and a completely syrupy, fake fraud when she wants to be. Is that a BPD? Sounds more S to me, and this is NOT in a period of dissociative anger.

I guess what I’m saying is I need more decisive answers.

Kerisee and Maniatissa,

It really doesn’t matter if it is Borderline/Psychopathic (or any other) PERSONALITY DISORDER—the point is PERSONALITY DISORDER. NONE of them can be “fixed” or “cured” and there is no pilll to help it, so which clinical niche they fit into doesn’t really make a “tinker’s dam” of difference.

They are ALL violent at times, they are all manipulative, they are all incapable of a good relationship, and they are all TOXIC.

As a former mental health professional I think I sort of spent too much time obscessing about which diagnosis, etc. and it doesn’t matter. Even people who are neither BPD or PPD can be TOXIC and do we want ANYONE in our life who is toxic? Nope.

My mother is an ENABLER, a TOXIC ENABLER and there is a pattern there. She is hard core, no changing her behaivor or her attitude. It is her life style. My non-P son C sort of controls her with “black mail” of telling her that if she continues to send money and support to my P-son (thus giving him ammunition to shot at us) that he will NC her entirely forever. Since he is the ONLY close relative she has that is speaking ot her at ALL, this kind of (we think) keeps her behavior in check. (We hope) Sure, this is manipulation on our parts, but at the same time, we KNOW for a fact that my P-son will use every advantage to find a way to GET REVENGE on us, he has already tried to have us killed. So we feel that morally, we have a reason to do this. Maybe a therapist would say we are rationalizing it (the manipulation) but it was our decision and we made it and are ok with it.

My mother has behaved as a “psychopath by proxy” in her protection of my P-son’s murderous behavior. It almost got us killed. I am NC with her and son C and son D have limited contact with her.

But the basic thing is that the BEHAVIOR IS TOXIC. So what the “word for it is” is NOT IMPORTANT. It is just important to distance yourself to the utmost if you can possibly do so.

Whoa. This is just what I needed to read.

Starting oh, about 2 years ago, I realized that my sister wasn’t, hmm… quite ‘right’?

I read quite a bit, and decided she was Borderline. Well, Pandora’s Box was open, and I couldn’t shut it. I had always assumed that she forgot things, or she was distracted, or she didn’t really mean to say that… OMG once I started speaking up and saying, things like ‘hey, that hurt my feelings (more calmly than I felt). She did things, said things, that weren’t like BPD. It was like she was a sociopath.

Even as recently as yesterday I posted something about how my sister was a Narcissist. I knew it didn’t fit quite right, but it was as close as I could get. Because she acts like she is BPD most of the time, but when she’s backed into a corner, she’s S. I just hadn’t thought about it that way before.

If I had a one wish (and I couldn’t bring anyone back from the dead), I want the sister I thought I had back. I know I never REALLY had her to begin with, but we are so close in age (what in heck were my parents thinking?) that I know where she comes from.

Anyway, thanks for the article. It makes so much sense to me now.


Dear Cedrus,

Any of the “cluster B’s” are TOXIC to one extent or another—emotionally, financially, physically or any/all of the above.

The ONLY solution to survive most of these is NC.


I was NC (not perfectly, but pretty close) for about 1-1/2 years because I needed a cease fire to figure out which way was up. I was grieving and reading and talking to a therapist, and keeping a low profile about it with the rest of my family. (That wasn’t hard. I live far away and I was told explicitly by every one of them that knew that they didn’t want to get in the middle. I learned what that meant later: they had zero interest in my side.)

Anyway, after a brief but gut wrenching break in NC last fall, I am now permanently NC with all of them. I can’t trust one word that any one of them says. And I have no interest in finding out any more of the slander that is being spread about me. I would want to defend myself, and there is no point. No one cares, and that is the heart of what hurts the most. No one, not even my own mother (why would she, she’s S herself), wanted to know my side. They never even asked. And my sister, she is finally the golden child, and I am written out of my mother’s will. Why? no one even bothered to make up an excuse.

(Technically, I am not NC with my mother, she is NC with me. She disowned me, then I went NC with everyone else. It was quite the drama.)

Reality hurts, but it’s the only way to fly!

I was always tempted to play his manipulation game, and I think I did so better than he expected. But he would always go further than I and not only could I never win but he dragged me down to his level and I did things I’d never imagine myself doing. The only way to win was to leave and never look back. Lucky for him there’s no shortage of vulnerable, insecure women in the world. Maybe it’s egotistical of me but I hope he angrily remembers me as a woman who was too sane to sleep with him.

My mom was diagnosed as BPD but if so she’s a very mild case. I think she’s just bipolar and self-absorbed.

Penelope, Many people who are bi-polar are also psychopaths or other personality disorder…the two disorders together I think makes it much worse.

Cedrus, It is tough to cut ties with your family of origin, but sometiems it is the ONLY option. Not just with the Ps themselves, but all of their dupes and enablers as well. I call my egg donor “psychopath by proxy” as she does the work for my P-son since he is in prison (for murder) and she enables him even though she knows and has seen proof that he tried to have me killed…but now she “doesn’t believe” it. All cloaked of course in “Christianity” and LIES–both his and hers.

Until I realized that I COULD go NC with her (I can’t believe I never even considered it on a permanent basis) I couldn’t heal because I always got sucked back into the drama. Now that I am NC with her (even though we live on the same farm, just a half mile apart) I am making progress and my stress level has dropped to almost nothing. My reserves of strength and SANITY are returning and I’m enjoying life, doing things again, and having FUN! A year and a half ago, I didn’t think I would ever smile again.

True, but in her case she just didn’t want realize that being a wife/mother would be difficult/hard work/not always fun and wanted the family to take care of her instead of the other way around. And she inappropriately medicated for years. Thanks to Zyprexa and the fact that she’s not stressed by not having kids/teens in the house she is far more stable than she ever was in my memories.


“True, but in her case she just didn’t want realize that being a wife/mother would be difficult/hard work/not always fun and wanted the family to take care of her instead of the other way around.”

That is a classic form of control — the overwhelmed, infantalized parent looking to the child to parent the parent.

“If YOu Had Controlling Parents” by Dan Neuharth. Can’t say enough good things about this book.

thanks for the support. I can relate to not seeing options that seem so blatantly obvious now. For me, it was another aspect of my denial of the truth. Technically though, I suppose it was ‘repression’ not ‘denial’, because it wasn’t conscious. I didn’t know things, and then decide I was mistaken. I was clueless, on the surface, even though my subconscious knew.

I’m glad you can smile again!


The “Border” in “Borderline” is that which seperater sane from insane. Thus, a Borderline personality is very poorly integrated, having developed few defense mechanisms. Under stress, their defense mechanisms are very easily compromised compared with normal people. Psychotic, often violent and irrational behavior emerges when the Borderline literally DISINTEGRATES, and swings over that border into psychosis. It aso points to their characteristic impulse control problems, vulnerability to addictions, and tendency to self mutilation (cutting). It is why they are so black-and-white in their thinking.
ALL personality disorders are BUILT ON TOP OF a Borderline structure. So yes, you get NPD and Borderline people. A pure Borderline is someone less sophisticated than a Narcissist, or an AntiSocial, because they have not gone on to add a pathological adjustment ON TOP OF their Borderline adjustment. They may well behave in an AntiSocial way at times, but I dont see them as capable of the cunning needed to be calculating abuser. They are inherently too unstabe.

Steve, I would say that it goes the other way around. All PDs will act in a Borderline fashion under extreme stress. A Borderline will simply have a psychotic break, which may or may not get nasty.

It was good to read this again. I just read it as if it’s new and then I see I commented on this a year ago!

So, a BPD can slip into Sociopathy? Is that what this means? I always said “sociopathic tendancies” but now I see in the essay that I am not using the word correctly.

Bad Man had no real remorse or empathy that I could see. Does that mean he is in fact a Sociopath? He sure did display ALL of the Borderline behaviors.

He was bad… just bad.


Steve is suggesting that a BPD could slip into Sociopathy. Freud would disagree.
Freud’s view of human nature was rather dark. At our Psychotic Core, we are all greedy, lazy, envious and violent. “Socialisation” teaches us to mask these tendencies via adopting a range of defenses, like denial, projection, idealisation, etc. So, we form a layer over the core of the essentially psychotic onion. In normal people, many layers are formed, thick layers of manners and morals and rationality, so we can pusue our needs without killing everyone else in the process.
If the socialisation is poor, however, we learn dysfunctional ways of coping. These could be anti-social, narcissistic, histionic, dependent, schizoid, etc. Over-reliance on certain defense mechanisms results in poor adjustment, eg the Narcissist over relies on projection, to the point where they are not able to accept, or benefit from criticsm. The layers of their onion are thin and poorly formed.
When you subject any personality to stress for long enough, things start to disintergrate. Thus, a normal person may over rely on inappropriate defenses.
A borderline has only a wafer thin layer around their psychotic core, and will thus cross back over the border into psychosis. A Narcissist will revert to Borderline behaviour under stress. A normal person, not having a narcissistic layer, will also eventually show Borderline behavious befor becoming psychotic – but wouldnt become a narcissist first. A Borderline, theoretically, would be showing progress if they became narcissistic !!! Wierd, hey ?

Alohatraveler: A powerful moment in my therapy was when my therapist casually mentioned that she thought perhaps her x-husband whom she had divorced was a narcissist. I said “You THINK he was a narcissist? Doesn’t it drive you nuts? Don’t you feel compelled, especially with your expertise, to figure that out? ” She said “no, those are just labels that matter to insurance companies” I still pursued “But don’t you want to know why he treated you the way he did?” She said simply said “No”. When I looked amazed, she said maybe we could talk about that some time, and got us back to the issue at hand.

What I figured out is that this commitment to “understanding” is part of what let us get hooked in the first place. Once a boyfriend a LONNNNGGG time ago used to reply to a lot of things I said with “Keep thinking Smith”…(except my last name is not smith). He was a wise man who realized part of my problems I brought on by thinking too much, too deeply, when I should have just said “This is bad for me. That’s all I need to know.”

I think it is human nature to want to understand our world. I totally get what you are saying, though, as it is academic. Abuse is abuse, and it feels horrible, regardless of the cause.
Ive spent countless hours trying to nail down what drove my N, but at the end of it all, if he were given a clean bill of mental health, Id still know that he did some really damaging things to me, and that he was bad news. And thathe deserves to rot in hell…

justabout healed said:
‘He was a wise man who realized part of my problems I brought on by thinking too much, too deeply, when I should have just said “This is bad for me. That’s all I need to know.”’

I don’t believe my problem is thinking deeply, it’s my timing: I used to think, then act in a DANGEROUS SITUATION, rather than acting then thinking.

When my gut told me to RUN!, I would sit down and think, HMM, WHY? …

No wonder my psyche is a bloody ragged mess. I’ve spent most of my life sitting on a railroad track, then thinking about why I got hit by a train. I should have moved on, then worried about how not to get leveled ever again.

It looks like a really stupid way to behave. And it is, as an adult. But as I child, I would be (figuratively) hit harder by that train if I tried to save myself. So I learned that the most dangerous thing to do was to protect myself. That’s a whopper of a lesson to teach a kid, and to try to unlearn as an adult.

But I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water and call thinking about a problem a bad thing to do. It’s just not the right thing to do 1st, in an immediately dangerous situation.



You wrote “part of my problems I brought on by thinking too much, too deeply, when I should have just said “This is bad for me. That’s all I need to know.”

Yes…. that has always been my part of the problem in the healing after the experience…After three years of reading about personality disorders both here and in books, talking with others, I still have no concrete answer, and I never will.

I know in part through research, that our brains are wired to understand, to make sense of things, so it makes perfect sense to me that part of the whole sociopathic/personality disorder trauma, if in fact, what is wrong with them?

The obsession with our abuser is two fold, reliving the trauma trying to see why we made the choices we did in allowing it to continue, and then making correction in ourselves to ensure we never make those mistakes again, but also just what was it all about?.. In my case, I can see traits and behaviors that fit in many categories. Was she borderline with sociopathic tendencies?.. was she simply sociopathic, was she a compulsive liar, was she a narcissist that also could be a sociopath?….. I see all in her, and then I see not all in a certain fit category totally fits her…….

So… I’ll never really know and at this point, it really doesn’t matter.. the truth is like so many here come to discover.. is that whatever was their issue, their disorder, their disease, they were not good for us, nor would they ever be good for anyone…… and it actually gives me peace to know that nuggut of real truth.. a truth without labels or diagnoses.. a truth I can go on with and let go of the insistence of knowing what God only knows the answer to.

All I can say is, that after 40 years with a BPD mother, I can tell you that ABSOLUTELY there are times when her behvior is sociopathic. The worst part, other than the non-sensical rages, is her patholigical lying. All her friends have left her and most of our family have little to nothing to do with her because of the way she lies about them behind their back. I am practically the only one who will still have dealings with her, and believe me, our relationship (if you want to call it that) is on a very very thin thread. When I am gone, she’ll have no one, making her self-prophecy that she would end up along, come true. She’s always the martyr. Now she is trying to poison my 15 year old son, and pretty soon now, he’ll have nothing to do with her either. If I hadn’t moved out of her house at 18 and struck out on my own, she would have made me just as crazy as she is. They are like a huge black hole and they suck all the life and happiness out of you. My brother and I have come to the conclusion that eventually, we will probably have to have her committed.

Disgusted Daughter:

“My brother and I have come to the conclusion that eventually, we will probably have to have her committed.”

Please let me know if you figure out a way to speed up this process.

I also am dealing with someone who I would like to have committed.

Chop Chop!!! No time to waste!!!

Dear Disgusted daughter,

Welcome to LoveFraud, sorry you have had to endure a lifetime of dealing with a mother like this….most of us here have had at leeast one relationship with a personality disordered person (and whether it is Psychopath, BPD or whatever the name is) they are all TOXIC.

Many of us have dealt with several family members who are personality disordered or massively dysfunctional at the very least. I am an only child and I am NO CONTACT with my own “egg donor”–I no longer consider her a “mother” as I think that title must be EARNED! My egg donor has allied herself with my psychopathic son who tried to kill me, and was allied with my Psychopathic X-DIL who tried to kill her husband, my other son! However, since my X-DIL stole $24,000 from my egg donor as well as tried to kill her husband, when she went to jail my egg donor decided she wasn’t so “nice” after all.

My egg donor actually isn’t personality disordered herself, but is a TOXIC enabler, enabling the psychopaths in our family (several) to not have the consequences of their actions. She is even willing to severely punish me and my “good” son for not participating in enabling my psychopathic son who right now, sits in prison for MURDER he committed in 1991. She is doing everything she can to get him out on parole, and we are doing everything we can to KEEP HIM IN PRISON, since even from his prison cell, he tried to have me killed, and probably my egg donor as well (though she denies this, we have proof) for an inheritence. “If it is yours, they think they deserve it” (quoting Sabrina on this blog).

As long as your mother, unfortunately, knows which day of the week it is, who the president is, etc, even though her judgment and actions are “crazy” and “mean,” will not be “committable” —- it is a shame, too, that they aren’t as they are very damaging. My egg donor is not working with ANY good judgment or sound thinking, but it is not possible to commit her, so I have no choice but to remain no contact for my own sanity. Good luck to you! And, again, welcome to LF.

I find this whole concept of transient Sociopathy to be very unsettling.

There’s little way of knowing what will send a Histrionic, Borderline or Narcissist into a state which will cause him/her to behave like a Sociopath. In my associations with cluster B personalities, the one thing that has struck me about instances of their awful behavior has been the shocking unexpectedness of their lunacy. After a few years of observing their adult behavior, one could readily discern that they were badly behaved, but never be certain when, why or how they would act out. Oh sure, in retrospect you might conclude that s/he was jealous, drunk/stoned, angry or whatever, but there was no PREDICTING what would set them off.

Contrast that with people who’ve done really hard, unpleasant things because it was expected of them. These people are absolutely reliable. I can predict with a great degree of certainty what they will do in any given circumstance.

About half the men I know have killed people in combat, in some cases more than a few people. As far back as records exist, men in our family have served in the military. There are no records existing of any of these military men behaving as sociopaths, unless you hold their combat records against them. They have been exceptional fathers, husbands and contributing members of society. (The one con-artist, gambler, ne’er-do-well in the family never served.)

Anyway, I know when these “ruthless” veterans will strike again. One of them had a pistol drawn on him by a criminal attempting to flee the scene of a murder. (Entire incident captured by security camera) He shot the criminal dead within a split second, and privately states with conviction that he feels no remorse. Some might state that this predictable violence makes these men horribly flawed. I disagree. I find it a lot easier to sleep at night, knowing these men never sleep quite as soundly as the rest of us.

When we say that a histrionic, narcissist or borderline ONLY SOMETIMES acts like a sociopath, I find that to be cold comfort. With them, I never know when they’re in sociopath mode or “good little nut-job” mode, and I never know what’s going to serve as the tipping point that sets them off. It may be comforting for a mental health professional to know that these people are only sometimes sociopathic, but knowing this only serves to make me MORE wary.

Hostility as a response to stress is the way of the histrionic/borderline/narcissist, who may become a “temporary sociopath” at the drop of a hat. Since “stress happens”, and histrionics, borderlines and narcissists seem to get stressed out over just about everything life throws their way, I don’t see that they’re much safer to be around than 24/7 sociopaths.

Contrast that one more time with a so-called “violent” person who exercises self-control:

A martial artist suffered an infection which necessitated minor surgery. The mortified tissue had to be removed, while the healthy tissue needed to be saved. The outcome would be better if no anesthesia was used. The martial artist stated that she was willing to undergo the procedure without anesthesia if no restraints were used, and she did not have to watch him cut. Since the emergency room staff knew she was capable of considerable mayhem, three stout orderlies surrounded her while the physician worked. She didn’t twitch once, and thanked the attending nurses and physician several times during and after the procedure. She did not like the procedure, and although she remained courteous, her blood pressure stayed dangerously high for a good half hour after they were done.

The staff commented afterwards that they fully expected the martial artist to hurt someone at some stage of treatment.

This fear of people capable of violence is common, and shows how poorly both sociopathy and sanity are understood. People who are trained to apply violence do not become hostile simply because they are under a bit of stress. They think things through. As a culture, we often wring our hands over the danger we imagine people capable of violence pose, without understanding that “capable of” is not the same as “predisposed to”.

Give me a predictably violent person over an unstable cluster B any day. Regardless of training, physical strength, age or gender, cluster Bs are predisposed to harm others.

Dear Elizabeth,

TOWANDA!!!! AND RIGHT ON! A very well phrased and thoguht out post! I itotally agree.

GoodGrief: Hi. Please scroll up about 5 posts and read something southernman429 wrote 2 months ago. I’ve gone through what you are going through… and when I saw his post I thought “it sounds like us”.

This article defines my mother. She is a BPD, but during her dissociative rages and subsequent fugue states, I would easily define her behavior as sociopathic–cold, manipulative, homicidal, and hell-bent on emotionally, psychologically, or physically annihilating the perceived threat or victimizer. When she would emerge, she would behave as if she had done nothing out of the ordinary while I would be in the throes of PTSD. I haven’t actually seen her in almost 2 years. I have done 4 years of intense psychotherapy (my father actually *is* a sociopath–killing kittens for fun and everything!), and hearing her voice practically triggers a panic attack. I have no desire to have a relationship with her. What surprises me is that 2 years can pass with no contact, and she will call out of the blue to request a visit. It blows my mind. In her mind, I am merely an extension of her. I do not exist as a separate entity or person with a will and mind of my own. I only exist to meet her needs. So, she is shocked when I tell her that there is no context for a visit when we don’t even have a relationship characterized by regular telephone conversation. In her mind, she thinks, “I want to visit. It meets my needs. I am entitled to that. She is keeping me from getting what I want.” And, the seething and rage begin because I say NO. From that perspective, the Borderline and Sociopath are the same–they both only do what meets their needs and their needs alone. It doesn’t really matter what the goal is, does it? If the sociopath does it to win, and the BP does it for connection or to avoid abandonment, they are still only engaging in this highly harmful and emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually exsanguinous “relationship” to meet their own needs at the expense the other person’s. Is it possible to have a truly healthy relationship with a person who views others through that filter (i.e. You only exist to meet my needs)? No. It is not. In the end, sociopath or BP, you will end up completely obliterated because they are vampiric. Just say NO, and walk away. If you can’t, then go get help now so that you can.

Dear Jaoconnor,

Welcome to LF! Great points in your post above….and thanks for bringing up this article again. I read it as if it was a new article and enjoyed rereading the comments as well.

Is there a way you can block her from contacting you at all? I am also NC with my egg donor as well…I’m actually not sure of what her diagnosis is but she is TOXIC for sure.

Thanks for your post. Good points! God bless.

This article really scares me. I never read it before. When my spath left he screamed at me that I was a textbook case of borderline personality disorder. Sometimes I get afraid that he is right.

I always thought though that I was just so emotionally traumatized by being in a relationship with a married man that it made my emotions all over the place, like when he was f*****g with me and my mind all the time. I’m just really freaked out right now.


If you think that you have aspects of BPD google it and find out about what in yourself leads you to believe that. People who have been abused sometimes have aspects of BPD in their dysfunctional lives due to the abuse. But like with PPD there are “levels” of BPD…and even if there are aspects of BPD in your personality it is not the same as being a PPD, unlike with PPD there are things that can help you change your attitudes and behavior. Therapy is one of them. Knowledge is another one. Remember, Knowledge=power.

I see some “black and white thinking” in some of your posts, but that is NOT A CRIME. LOL So quit “freaking out” and start thinking in shades of GRAY. I tended to be into “black and white” thinking when I was younger, it’s a thing you can unlearn and it will make your life much easier and better.


I completely agree it’s “freaking out” material.

The thing is, when you look at all the other relationships you have, I bet you’ll see that they were normal, and you behaved normal. It was your relationship with your spath that made you act wacky, think wacky. Right?

That’s why you’re here.

Me too.

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