Borderline and Psychopathy: a Comparison

jamesMy good friend, James Renard, thinks I’m more of a Borderline than a Psychopath. All the online personality tests I have taken show me very low in Borderline traits. But, as James points out, self-administered tests can be skewed by the self-image of the testee. Is it true he sees something I don’t see?

borderlinebrBPD and Psychopathy have some striking similarities as well as vast divergences. Both involve a lack of firm identity. Psychopaths’ identity is fluid, flexible to enable us to become the person we need to be in each instance of our lives. “Why Does the psychopath wear a mask in the first place? Because he has little or no identity? True, that gives him the freedom to be whomever or whatever he wants to be.” Borderlines also experience this lack of clear definition. “Borderlines lack a constant, core sense of identity…” Of the two, only the Borderline is bothered by this, wants to “find hirself.”

abyssBoth have been described as involving an abyss. Borderlines find this terrifying. Blogger, Lucky Otter, a Borderline herself, wrote “sometimes they (psychopaths) can be caught when their mask is momentarily down (usually when they’ve been called out–or caught), and it’s here when we see the emptiness and evil inside them.” As a baby, I remember feeling as if there were an abyss inside threatening to swallow me up. I experienced that feeling only one time since then, on my first acid trip. I also remember not having a clear idea of what I looked like. What I saw in the mirror, seemed only an outline of a person. This void within and lack of clear identity could fit either personality.

As with the abyss, Borderline and Psychopaths live a lot of their lives in present time. However, only the Borderline stresses over it.

menageSexual promiscuity and an omnivorous sexuality is another trait shared by both personalities. Psychopaths are notorious for hyper sexuality and many conquests. I, myself, have noticed how many Psychopaths are bisexual as well as kinky. The same thing is true of many Borderlines. I Hate You — don’t leave me describes the bed and bar hopping protagonist of Looking For Mr. Goodbar “Some writers have noted an increased incidence of homosexuality, bisexuality and sexual perversion among borderline personalities.”


But there are differences too, of course. Unlike Psychopaths, Borderlines tend to have low self-esteem while we are grandiose. Sure there’s some low self-esteem hidden away. In “Do Psychopaths Suffer,” James admits to “even the inferiority complex, though I hide it from even myself most of the time.” Personally, if I have to have low self-esteem, I prefer the kind that’s camouflaged by grandiosity.

One of the biggest differences is emotionality. Borderlines are hyper emotional. Psychopaths the opposite. Here is where I score more points on the Borderline and lose some on the Psychopathic side of the dyad. I am more emotional and, therefore, more vulnerable than my friend jiminyJames. Yet another difference, perhaps more important, is the one dealing with conscience. In this area, I am as psychopathic as James. I once mentioned to Lucky Otter that some shrinks are hypothesizing that women diagnosed with Borderline Disorder are really Psychopaths. Psychopathy, they muse, manifests as Borderline in women. To me, it was just an interesting bit of information but, to Lucky Otter, it was a heinous insult. As a diagnosed Borderline, she was adamant in her insistence that noconscienceshe had a conscience. From what I know about Borderline Disorder, she is probably right. Borderlines seem just as guilt-ridden (perhaps more so) as anyone. Of course, conscience is one of those things that cannot be objectively measured which is why it isn’t listed as a characteristic of ASPD. The APA wants to purge it’s concepts from anything subjective. They want to be scientific, after all. But, in separating Psychopathy from ASPD, they actually liberated Psychopathy from the world of personality disorders. Robert Hare, himself, has said Psychopaths “are not disordered. They have no deficit.” So Psychopathy is not properly part of Cluster B. (However, it makes a backdoor appearance in the stepchild of personality disorders, “NOS,” or “Not Otherwise Specified.”)

All my life, I’ve had a pattern of reinventing myself every few years. Am I still doing so? I had a personality appraisal by certified shrinks. They gave me two diagnoses (for the price of one). My life as a whole? ASPD. My present-day life? NOS. I don’t find this satisfactory. I want to be measured on the PCL-R. I’m on the spectrum but where? And I want an MRI too. Both are out of reach.


11 thoughts on “Borderline and Psychopathy: a Comparison

  1. Interesting blog post, Fran.

    To get the PCL-R, you need to get out there and befriend somebody with the authority to administer one. Or the absolute quickest way would be to go and slaughter 10 people and then hand yourself in to the police. I’ll even testify against you if that would help 🙂

    “However, it makes a backdoor appearance in the stepchild of personality disorders, “NOS,” or “Not Otherwise Specified.”” You may say that, it doesn’t make it true. Psychopathy and NOS are not the same thing. All NOS means is that they have a set of symptoms not covered by another personality disorder. There are also NOS diagnoses for eating disorders, mood disorders and developmental disorders. It seems more like an admission of “we don’t know what the hell we’re talking about” than an actual diagnosis. The only person to ever diagnose you as a psychopath was a childhood friend, right?

    Where do your quotations come from?

    “I also remember not having a clear idea of what I looked like.” That’s my story, not yours.

    I wonder if anyone could ever really say they don’t have a conscience when they don’t know what having one feels like, or how that is different from what it is like to not have one. How do you know you don’t have a conscience? Why do I think I don’t have one?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. LOL! Well, I did write to Robert Hare but he didn’t write back. (: Thanks for your kind offer to testify against me.

    I listed the personality disorders Wikipedia listed for NOS. I think eating disorderd and mood disorders have their own place on the DSM. Like I said, I don’t find this diagnosis very satisfactory. My quotations come from “I Hate You – Don’t Leave Me” for Borderline. The two quotations on Psychopaths came from Lucky Otter and “Psychopaths and Love.” I know it’s an anti-psy page, actually both of these sources are. But I was impressed that “Psychopaths and Love” included the insight which was in that quote.

    What did you mean by saying “That’s my story, not yours” after my statement that I didn’t have a clear idea of what I looked like? Don’t believe me? If you had that experience too, it bolsters my case.

    I could ask you where you were diagnosed but I won’t for two reasons: 1. I know you haven’t been diagnosed and 2. I believe you are a psychopath. You are probably higher on the spectrum than I am since I’m more emotional than you. But we are both in the same boat as far as never having been diagnosed.

    Finally, how do I know I don’t have a conscience? No guilt feelings. And I have not lived such an angelic life that I wouldn’t feel guilt if I were so constituted.


    1. I meant that it is something I told you about me and that you at the time said did not reflect your experiences as you have always taken pride in your appearance, but now it seems to have become a treasured memory from your childhood. You can use it if you want, it’s a good story.

      You have missed the point about the diagnosis issue, I’m not trying to use your lack of a diagnosis as a stick to beat you with,. If I ere that would be extremely foolish as I have none against my name either! It’s not a criticism, just pointing out that the NOS does not count as a back door diagnosis.

      Guilt and conscience are not the same thing at all. People can feel guilty without a crisis of conscience and guilt is not the sole motivation for conscience. Though they are obviously intertwined to an extent.


  3. I don’t know why I ever said that. But what I said in my blog was true. If I contradicted that statement, I can understand you not believing me. But you made that remark about lack of diagnosis before I mentioned the NOS. Look it up. But I do agree that NOS is a piece of weak assed bullshit. I argued with them about it. But when does a shrink ever back down from a “professional” opinion. They kept telling me they didn’t want to inflict a “label” on me. I mentioned the whole thing as this is the only “professional” diagnosis I have. For what it’s worth. And you asked how long ago it was made, implying that it would have less clout if it was made long ago (which it wasn’t).

    If conscience and guilt are not the same thing, what is conscience? Here is one I got from Google, “an inner feeling or voice viewed as acting as a guide to the rightness or wrongness of one’s behavior.
    ‘he had a guilty conscience about his desires’
    synonyms: sense of right and wrong, moral sense, inner voice; morals, standards, values, principles, ethics, beliefs; compunction, scruples, qualms
    ‘her conscience would not allow her to remain silent’

    Here’s another one:

    “motivation deriving logically from ethical or moral principles that govern a person’s thoughts and actions
    moral sense, scruples, sense of right and wrong
    (psychoanalysis) that part of the unconscious mind that acts as a conscience
    small voice, voice of conscience, wee small voice
    an inner voice that judges your behavior
    sense of duty, sense of shame
    a motivating awareness of ethical responsibility
    Type of:
    ethical motive, ethics, morality, morals
    motivation based on ideas of right and wrong”

    So they say a conscience guides behavior. It also can cause guilt or shame.

    What do you think it is?


  4. Not so much “less clout” as “be less accurate to your current situation”.

    If conscience is just a guide, then I’ve got one of those (and I wager you do too). It’s just that ours knows how to have fun.


  5. I don’t think conscience is “just a guide.” It’s also an enforcer, causing guilt and shame in people who go against it. In IPsychopath, Sam Vaknin talks about a time he did an experiment on a classmate to see if he could make him a “machine” by fucking with his head. His experiment succeeded but it also had the effect of pushing his subject into a psychotic state. He did recover but he lost a year out of his life. Asked if he thought it was “wrong,” Sam said that of course it was wrong because that is what “wrong” means in the dictionary. However, he didn’t feel that it was wrong. Likewise, I can say that things I have done were wrong, immoral. But I don’t feel what most people say they feel when they know they’ve done “wrong.” That’s what I mean by lack of conscience.


  6. This is a really interesting and enjoyable post. I had never considered the comparison before, I definitely feel that people with these supposedly different diagnosis would be able to share similar experiences. I sometimes question whether I really care about the impact I have on other people, whether I have a conscience. It sometimes feels like I feel bad when I cause people pain, not necessarily because they feel pain, but because I might lose them as a result. I think some of the ideals in my head link well to psychopathy, as i strive to always be rational and try not to express emotion as it makes me uncomfortable, maybe its a response to the intense emotions borderlines experience that drives me to sometimes appear uncaring and without a conscience.


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