cPTSD vs BPD: Learn The 5 Key Differences to Unlock the Right Treatment Plan For You


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What is cPTSD? Understanding cPTSD and its difference from BPD

Just like many others, you may not realize that there’s a big difference between the two.

In this blog post, we will take a look at the main differences between the two disorders.

cPTSD results from chronic or long-term exposure to trauma, while BPD is a personality disorder. cPTSD can develop from any prolonged traumatic experience, such as childhood abuse, neglect, domestic violence, or being in a war zone.

When you have BPD, you may often have difficulty regulating your emotions and impulses. As a result, you are likely to have unstable moods, poor relationships, and a low self-image. You may be prone to behavior called “splitting,” meaning you may view people and things in extreme all or nothing terms. This affects your personal relationships in unhealthy ways.

What is Complex PTSD, and What Are the Symptoms?

A variety of events and situations might cause complex post-traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD) in a person. The most common reason is childhood trauma. If you suffer from cPTSD, you will often have feelings of inadequacy or feel that you are undeserving of love due to traumatic experiences as a child that shaped your identity. 

The term “Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (C-PTSD) originated from the understanding of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), which initially focused on the psychological effects of war trauma. Over time, it became clear that not all traumatic experiences fit the PTSD criteria, especially for those who endured prolonged or repeated trauma, such as childhood abuse. C-PTSD emerged to describe a distinct set of symptoms associated with chronic trauma. While it’s recognized by clinicians, it’s not yet universally included in diagnostic manuals like the DSM-5, though it is in the ICD-11.

If you have BPD, you may have intense internal feelings that may cause you to act erratically. BPD may also cause you to feel extreme fear of abandonment, which may cause you to act out with maladaptive behaviors.

Here are some Complex PTSD symptoms to look out for:

  • Re-experiencing the traumatic event(s) in some way, such as through flashbacks or nightmares
  • Avoiding anything that might remind you of the traumatic event(s), including people, places, things, or activities
  • Having intense unwanted feelings about yourself and/or others
  • Feeling constantly on edge or “jumpy”
  • Having trouble sleeping or concentrating

How is cPTSD Different from BPD?

There are several key differences between cPTSD vs BPD.

  • cPTSD is caused by exposure to chronic, long-term trauma, while BPD can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors
  • BPD symptoms may come and go and cPTSD persists over time
  • Both disorders include feelings of intense shame and guilt, yet they are caused by different reasons
    • With cPTSD, your internalized shame results in irrational guilt and anxiety
    • With BPD, you may feel inherently flawed and undesirable, which makes you very fearful of abandonment and sensitive to perceived criticism
  • cPTSD leads to avoidance behaviors, while BPD often leads to reckless behavior
complex ptsd symptoms
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What Are the Causes of cPTSD vs BPD?

The causes of cPTSD vs BPD are very distinct from each other. As mentioned above, cPTSD can be caused by various events such as:

  • Frequently witnessing violence or abuse
  • Domestic assault and/or abuse
  • Maltreatment or abandonment during childhood
  • Ongoing domestic violence or abuse

BPD can be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example, some experts say up to 50% of people with BPD may also have a close relative with the disorder. Others believe that traumatic life experiences, such as neglect or abuse during childhood, can trigger BPD development.

Simply put, post-traumatic stress disorder is more frequently induced by environmental stressors, whereas BPD has a genetic component.

BPD often develops during the teenage years or early adulthood. While cPTSD usually occurs when a person experiences prolonged trauma over an extended period of time. cPTSD can occur at any age but tends to occur in adulthood.

cPTSD is more common than BPD, yet it is difficult to say how many people are affected because cPTSD is often misdiagnosed as BPD.

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What are online treatment options for cPTSD vs BPD?

cPTSD and BPD both require different types of treatment. cPTSD is often treated with psychotherapy, which can include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of talk therapy that helps you understand the thoughts and feelings that underlie your behavior. It aims to help reduce your unhealthy thought patterns and behaviors by encouraging positive thinking habits.
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy that helps you cope with traumatic memories. It involves making repeated eye movements while thinking about the traumatic event. cPTSD can be effectively treated with EMDR.

BPD is often treated with a combination of medication and psychotherapy, which may include:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy that combines cognitive-behavioral techniques with concepts from Zen Buddhism.
  • Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) is a type of psychotherapy that helps you understand how you think and feel about yourself and others.
  • Transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP) focuses on the relationship between your  therapist and patient to help you get better. It’s a type of psychoanalysis that concentrates on your unconscious mind and how it affects your behavior.

What is the Prognosis for People with cPTSD or BPD?

The prognosis for cPTSD vs BPD varies from person to person. Some people may experience a full progress with treatment, while others may continue to struggle with symptoms.

cPTSD is more chronic than BPD and often requires long-term treatment. cPTSD can be disabling if left untreated, so seeking help is vital for managing your condition.

Help is available, and with a proper understanding of both disorders to receive the right diagnosis, an individualized treatment plan can help create the roadmap for your healing journey.


cPTSD has often been misdiagnosed as BPD. cPTSD and BPD have some symptoms in common, but cPTSD is more complex than BPD. If you are experiencing symptoms of cPTSD, it is important to seek out help from a qualified therapist at Makin Wellness.

Our compassionate team can help answer any questions about cPTSD and BPD. Contact our care team today to get started.

At Makin Wellness, we serve Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Florida. To learn more about how we can help you, start your healing journey today.

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Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Tora

    Thank you for writing this. I work with client’s who have C-PTSD who have been misdiagnosed with BPD and it’s great to see an article outlining the differences as many professionals within the field still need more training with this.
    Great article.

  2. Darren

    Thank you for such a great read. I have been diagnosed with CPTSD and I relate so much to the traits. However I do show some of the differences you mentioned towards BPD, so there is a possibility to do have both. Again thank you.

    1. Kyshta

      Yes you can have both simultaneously I do ,try EMDR it’s incredible

  3. Kyshta

    Hi I’m sorry but you got this very wrong ,cptsd can coexist with BPD and both be the result of the same trauma simultaneously,I suffered extreme repetitive child abuse 7 days a week from birth to young adulthood,I have flashbacks , everything makes me jumpy I’m caught in fight flight but I also have BPD with feelings of emptiness etc ,what came First the chicken or the egg , EMDR is the key to healing and FYI people have been suffering emotional dysregulation fro. The beggining of time with war etc , meditation and sharing help as well as giving back the person there Pride , you’re welcome

    1. Jeni

      I think I have both too. I’ve been referred to, yet weary, of EDMR – thank you for your feedback 🙏🏻💜✌🏻

      1. Makinwellness

        You are so welcome, Jeni. Therapy is so individual, so I am glad you found this article useful. I hope you find the right type of therapy that helps you best!

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