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Petulant borderline personality disorder (BPD): Signs, causes, treatment options, and more

Petulant borderline personality disorder (BPD): Signs, causes, treatment options, and more

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a complex and multifaceted mental health condition known for its diverse symptoms. While it affects individuals differently, a subset of BPD patients exhibit distinctive behavior patterns characteristic of what is commonly referred to as “petulant BPD.” 

This variant presents a unique challenge for both clinicians and individuals living with the condition. Petulant BPD is marked by a particular set of behaviors and emotional responses that distinguish it from other BPD subtypes, and from other personality disorders, as well.

It often manifests as intense mood swings, impulsivity, and a profound fear of abandonment, among other symptoms. Understanding petulant BPD is vital not only for mental health professionals seeking to provide effective treatment but also for individuals and their loved ones striving to cope with its challenges. 

We aim to demystify this aspect of borderline personality disorder—keep reading below for insights into how to navigate the complexities of petulant BPD with empathy and resilience.

What Is Petulant Borderline Personality Disorder?

As expressed above, petulant borderline personality disorder is a cultural terminology that describes someone who has borderline personality disorder and demonstrates significant and extremes in mood swings and behavioral outbursts. Petulant borderline personality disorder is not a disorder that is recognized by the DSM-5

Borderline personality disorder is, however, recognized by the DSM-5, and does not list any specific subtypes or specifiers. Often, these people can be described as “explosive” and often have a core internal belief that they are not “worthy” of love and have a fear that they will experience chronic lifelong abandonment, thus influencing the perceived volatility of their emotions. 

What Are Examples of Petulant Behavior?

Petulant when used to describe this subtype of BPD, can include the following examples of petulant behavior:

  • Lashing out at others and being aggressive with no seeming precipitating cause
  • Over-responses to stimuli that include crying, yelling, or other socially inappropriate behaviors
  • Going to extremes to avoid situations, persons, peoples that they feel rejected by. This can appear as manipulation
  • Difficulty with authority; having “authority problems” and issues with compliance to higher management
  • Erratic behavior such as oversharing information with others

Other classic petulant BPD symptoms include: 

  • Restlessness and impatience: Individuals with BPD, including the petulant subtype, often have an intense fear of abandonment. They may be hypersensitive to real or perceived threats of rejection or abandonment. This fear can lead to restlessness and impatience as they constantly seek reassurance and validation from others. They may become anxious and agitated when they feel uncertain about the stability of their relationships.
  • Emotional dysregulation: BPD is marked by emotional instability. People with the petulant subtype may struggle to manage their emotions effectively, leading to intense and quickly shifting feelings of anger, frustration, and resentment. They may feel slighted by others’ actions or words, even if the perceived offense is minor, and these emotions can build up over time.
  • Negative self-image: Individuals with BPD often struggle with a poor self-image and feelings of worthlessness. In the petulant subtype, this negative self-perception can contribute to a general sense of pessimism. They may believe that they are inherently flawed or that others will inevitably disappoint them, leading to a cynical outlook on life and relationships.
  • Emotional hypersensitivity: Petulant individuals with BPD may be highly emotionally sensitive and react strongly to perceived slights or disappointments. Their expectations of others may be unrealistic, and they may quickly become disillusioned when these expectations are not met. This can lead to a pattern of feeling easily slighted or let down in relationships.
  • Impulsive reactions: People with petulant BPD may react impulsively and dramatically to perceived slights or disappointments. They might engage in impulsive behaviors like self-harm or substance abuse as a way to cope with their intense emotions, leading to further problems in their relationships and reinforcing their sense of disillusionment.

Given that there are over 250 ways to meet criteria for BPD, no two cases look exactly the same. Precision in diagnosis and the application of tailored treatments emerge as indispensable compass points, guiding individuals grappling with petulant BPD toward an enriched sense of well-being and an elevated quality of life.

What Is Petulant Behavior in Adults?

Petulant behaviors in adults can look very similar to petulant behaviors in children, and includes the symptoms listed above. Petulant behavior in adults often comes out the most in interpersonal relationships and situations (work, personal life, hobbies, etc.) that cause the individual to perceive abandonment or rejection in unique and emotionally painful ways. 

The difficult part is that the perceived rejection is not always “real”, although the emotions felt by the person with petulant BPD most certainly are.

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What Causes Petulant Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder, as a disorder, is characterized by instability in moods and an internalized fear of abandonment and can include self-harm and other self-destructive behaviors. While there’s currently no singular cause recognized for borderline personality disorder, we know that the following have a significant likelihood to influence presentation of the disorder: 

  • Trauma
  • Family history
  • Biological factors
  • Environmental factors

As stated previously, it’s important to note that not everyone with BPD, even those with the petulant subtype, will display these specific symptoms in the same way or to the same degree.

What Is a Petulant Personality?

In general, someone who has a petulant personality is characterized by the following characteristics: 

  • Chronic irritability
  • Aggressive behaviors 
  • Unstable moods 
  • Unpredictable behaviors 
  • Defensiveness 
  • Arrogant words and actions that offend others

Individuals with petulant personalities typically have a low sense of self-esteem and perceive themselves as “unworthy” or lacking intrinsic human value. Someone with a petulant personality might come across as “difficult” or “moody” and can experience a wide variety of moods and emotional ranges daily and sometimes even hourly. 

What Parenting Styles Cause BPD?

While there’s not solidified research regarding how parenting styles influence development and presentation of BPD, there is some research into the negative effects of authoritarian and permissive parenting styles. Authoritarian parenting style is often referred to as “dictator parenting” and involves very rigid rules and boundaries and is often critical and unforgiving. 

Authoritarian parenting can cause low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy and rejection in children. Permissive parenting styles are characterized by being “hands off” and have too loose boundaries and structures. Permissive parenting styles can cause a child to feel unwanted, unimportant, and unloved.

How Do You Deal with Petulant BPD?

One of the best ways to deal with borderline personality disorder is to seek professional counseling and supportive services. Dialectical behavior therapy is a very helpful tool that allows people to reduce petulant BPD behaviors by allowing them to gain insight into their behaviors and to take personal accountability for their actions. 

One of the best ways that DBT is able to help those with petulant BPD is to allow them to build their resiliency and distress tolerance levels so that they remain in control when experiencing unwanted stimuli. 

Ultimately, it’s through understanding and compassion that we can offer support to those navigating the labyrinth of petulant BPD. To those facing this challenge, please know that there is hope and help available. 

Seek the guidance of compassionate therapists and psychiatric professionals if you’re struggling to manage petulant BPD symptoms. With the right treatment and support, the path ahead can become a road to resilience.

  • Clinical writer
  • Editorial writer
  • Medical reviewer
  • 3 sources
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Alexandra “Alex” Cromer is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) who has 4 years of experience partnering with adults, families, adolescents, and couples seeking help with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, and trauma-related disorders.

Kate Hanselman, PMHNP in New Haven, CT
Kate Hanselman, PMHNP-BCBoard-Certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner
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Kate Hanselman is a board-certified Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP-BC). She specializes in family conflict, transgender issues, grief, sexual orientation issues, trauma, PTSD, anxiety, behavioral issues, and women’s issues.

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Jason CrosbyMental Health Writer

Jason Crosby is a Senior Copywriter at Thriveworks. He received his BA in English Writing from Montana State University with a minor in English Literature. Previously, Jason was a freelance writer for publications based in Seattle, WA, and Austin, TX.

We only use authoritative, trusted, and current sources in our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about our efforts to deliver factual, trustworthy information.

  • Sleuwaegen, E. Et al. (2017, April 1). Subtypes in borderline patients based on reactive and regulative temperament. Just a moment…

  • Smits, M. L. Et al. (2017, July 3). Subtypes of borderline personality disorder patients: A cluster-analytic approach. PubMed Central (PMC).

  • Sanvictores, T., & Mendez, M. D. (2022, September 18). Types of parenting styles and effects on children – StatPearls – NCBI bookshelf. National Center for Biotechnology Information.

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