cPTSD vs BPD: Top 5 Things You Need To Know


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Do you know the differences between Complex PTSD (cPTSD) and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

Many people don’t realize there’s a big difference between the two.

In this blog post, we will take a look at the top 5 things you need to know about the differences between cPTSD vs BPD.

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.

People with BPD are likely to have unstable moods, poor relationships, and a low self-image. As a result, people with BPD often have difficulty regulating their emotions and impulses.

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. But it mostly comes from childhood trauma. cPTSD is different than BPD in that cPTSD causes difficult emotions connected to the person and their situation.

cPTSD is rooted in a person’s environment, while BPD is rooted internally with oneself. With cPTSD, your experiences are disconnected from your identity, so you frequently feel like there’s something wrong with you.

For example, I’m not good enough or don’t deserve love because of what happened to me when I was a child.

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 negative 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
  • cPTSD symptoms tend to persist over time, while BPD symptoms may come and go
  • cPTSD involves intense fear, shame, and guilt, while BPD often includes feelings of emptiness and boredom
  • cPTSD leads to avoidance behaviors, while BPD often leads to reckless behavior
  • cPTSD can be characterized by emotional flashbacks, while dissociative episodes can describe BPD

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

On the other hand, 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 is more commonly caused by genetics.

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, but it is difficult to say how many people are affected because cPTSD is often misdiagnosed as BPD.

complex ptsd symptoms
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What are the 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 people reduce negative thought patterns and behaviors by encouraging positive thinking habits.
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is a therapy that helps you deal with traumatic memories. It involves making repeated eye movements while thinking about the traumatic event. EMDR has been shown to be effective in treating cPTSD.

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 originally developed to treat borderline personality disorder (BPD). It 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 the therapist and patient to help them get better. It’s a type of psychoanalysis that concentrates on the unconscious mind and how it affects 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 recovery 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.

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.

Makin Wellness Counselors can help answer any questions about cPTSD and BPD. Start the process of moving forward with Pennsylvania online therapy. At Makin Wellness, we serve the Greater Pittsburgh, PA area, the Philidelphia, PA region, and the entire state of Pennsylvania. To learn more about how we can help you, start your healing journey now.

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

Sara Makin MSEd, LPC, NCC

All articles are written in conjunction with the Makin Wellness Research Team.

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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