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Written by:Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

Published On: June 22, 2022

Medically reviewed by: Reshawna Chapple, PhD, LCSW

Reviewed On: June 22, 2022

Updated On: July 5, 2023


Petulant borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a subset of borderline personality disorder that’s marked by dramatic mood swings, passive-aggressive behavior, irritability, low self-esteem, and defiance. It’s one of 4 types of BPD defined by Theodore Millon, a 20th-century American psychologist well-known for his research on personality disorders. Like the other 3 types of BPD, petulant BPD shares the hallmark symptom of unstable relationships.

The 4 distinct types of BPD that Millon coined include:

  • Petulant BPD
  • Impulsive BPD
  • Discouraged BPD
  • Self-destructive BPD

Learn everything you need to know about petulant borderline personality disorder below, as we dive into what this mental health condition is and how you can live with it.

What is Petulant Borderline Personality Disorder?

Petulant BPD is a chronic mental health condition. Petulant BPD symptoms primarily consist of mood swings, defiance, irritability, and passive-aggressive behavior. People with petulant BPD often exhibit explosive, intense anger and periods of intense shame and worthlessness. They tend to feel let down and disappointed by others in their life, and they have a near-constant feeling of being harshly mistreated.

Petulant BPD results in extreme negativity and incredible difficulty in controlling anger. An intense fear of abandonment is common, as is impulsivity. Petulant BPD usually starts to manifest during the late teen years or early 20s, and it can last throughout life — although treatment can be highly effective in managing BPD symptoms.

As with other types of BPD, there’s no cure for petulant BPD. You should know, though, that if you have petulant BPD, you can manage to have a better quality of life.

“BPD is a chronic personality disorder which has symptoms such as emotional instability, low self-esteem and self-image, and interpersonal conflict. Petulant BPD describes people with BPD who are anxious, bitter, easily irritated, and with low frustration tolerance.”

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), MA, MSc Bisma Anwar

Petulant BPD vs. other types of BPD

People with petulant BPD, compared to other types of the disorder, often have more anger issues and can be extremely bitter and negative towards relationships with others.

Although almost all types of BPD cause people to struggle with relationships and emotions, those with petulant BPD can be more hostile and cynical in their relationships. Petulant BPD can also cause feelings of shame and worthlessness that may not be as commonly found with other types of BPD.

One striking difference between petulant BPD and other forms of the condition is that people with petulant BPD can be very manipulative. They can also be unpredictable and have an intense need to be in control at all times.

Signs and Symptoms of Petulant BPD

While everyone with BPD is unique, there are several signs and symptoms that help therapists identify and diagnose petulant BPD. Common behaviors of someone with petulant BPD include stubbornness, irritability, defiance, impatience, passive-aggressiveness, intense emotions, and mood swings.

Other symptoms that are typical in this subtype of BPD can include:

  • Emotional outbursts: People with petulant BPD commonly experience explosively angry emotional outbursts that are aimed at others. They’re also easily disappointed and frequently impatient. One theory is that this behavior stems from not having their needs met by a caregiver when they were young.
  • Passive-aggressive behavior: Passive-aggressiveness is another hallmark of petulant BPD. This type of behavior is demonstrated when a person uses indirect methods of expressing anger and conflict in a relationship.
  • Jealousy: Because people with petulant BPD fear abandonment, they can be extremely jealous. They might see a potential rival if their friend, spouse, or romantic partner’s attention is ever on someone else. They can also become jealous of others’ success or accomplishments.
  • Being demanding: Petulant BPD might cause someone to have high — often unrealistic and unhealthy — expectations of those around them. They can become unreasonably angry and demanding when these expectations aren’t met.
  • Feelings of paranoia: It’s not uncommon for people with petulant BPD to believe that others are “out to get them.” They might have a tendency to force those close to them to “prove” their trustworthiness, which can often damage relationships.

What Causes Petulant BPD?

The exact cause of petulant BPD (or any type of BPD) is unknown. However, experts think that what causes borderline personality disorder might stem from a combination of genetic and environmental factors and/or a change in brain function.

Some risk factors appear to make it more likely that someone will develop BPD. For example, having a family history of mental illness, experiencing trauma or abuse in childhood, being abandoned as a child or teen, or having a disrupted family life might all increase the chance of someone developing petulant BPD in their life.

“People with petulant BPD have often developed insecure attachment styles with early caregivers. They have not experienced validation and support from their parents and/or caregivers, which has led to instability in their adult relationships.”

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), MA, MSc Bisma Anwar

Treating Petulant BPD

If you or a loved one has a petulant BPD diagnosis or is experiencing the classic symptoms of explosive and intense anger, moodiness, and passive-aggressive behavior, seeking treatment is imperative.

Though there’s no cure, treatment for petulant BPD can help you have a better quality of life and teach you how to nurture your relationships in a healthier way. It can also help lessen the negative impact that your condition is likely having on your life.

Most people with petulant BPD will generally respond well to a combination of psychotherapy and BPD medication. In extreme cases, such as when someone’s experiencing self-harming behavior or suicidal thoughts, hospitalization may be necessary until the person is stabilized. In most cases, outpatient care is sufficient.

  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy, or talk therapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy, is typically used to treat all types of BPD. This BPD therapy seeks to identify the root cause of the disorder and teach skills to on how to help someone with BPD better cope with symptoms and build stronger, lasting relationships. Psychotherapy for BPD may be done on a one-on-one basis or as group therapy.
  • Medication: While there’s no FDA-approved medication for BPD, there are several medications used to treat borderline personality disorder symptoms of all types of BPD, including anxiety, mood swings, and depression. Classes of medications used include antipsychotics, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications.
  • Holistic/natural treatments: In addition to psychotherapy and medication, several natural remedies have shown promising results in helping some people manage the symptoms of BPD. These include vitamin C supplements, magnesium, and foods with omega-3 fatty acids.

“Petulant BPD treatment includes a combination of therapy and/or medication management. Therapy can help someone learn how to manage their symptoms and learn healthy ways of coping.”

Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC), MA, MSc Bisma Anwar

You don’t have to just accept your symptoms and continue to struggle with BPD. Treatment can help you manage your condition and learn new skills so you can cope and find happiness in your relationships.

The first step is finding someone to work with. You can find a therapist by talking with your primary care physician or seeking a mental health professional either through in-person or online therapy.

See References

Bisma Anwar, MA, MSc, LMHC

Bisma Anwar is the Team Lead for the Talkspace Council of Mental Health Experts. A major focus in her work has been anxiety management and helping her clients develop healthy coping skills, reduce stress and prevent burnout. She serves on the board of a non-profit organization based in NYC called The Heal Collective which promotes advocacy and awareness of mental health issues in BIPOC communities.

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