Updated: Jul 28
For a very long time I've had difficulty trying to understand the difference. Infact I never considered looking at narcissism as part of a personality disorder. Part of the reason for it's confusion for me is 1. Borderline personality disorder is hard to understand in general. There really is no "one size fits all" definition. 2. Narccisism- this word gets thrown around a lot by the average person. 3. You very rarely hear someone speak the words "emotional immaturity" as it tends to go straight to narcissism.
So let’s break down some basics in understanding personality disorders that fall under this criteria:
Cluster B personality disorders
"Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by dramatic, overly emotional or unpredictable thinking or behavior. They include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder."- Mayoclinic
Narcissistic personality disorder
Belief that you're special and more important than others
Fantasies about power, success and attractiveness
Failure to recognize others' needs and feelings
Exaggeration of achievements or talents
Expectation of constant praise and admiration
Unreasonable expectations of favors and advantages, often taking advantage of others
Envy of others or belief that others envy you
Borderline personality disorder
Impulsive and risky behavior, such as having unsafe sex, gambling or binge eating
Unstable or fragile self-image
Unstable and intense relationships
Up and down moods, often as a reaction to interpersonal stress
Suicidal behavior or threats of self-injury
Intense fear of being alone or abandoned
Ongoing feelings of emptiness
Frequent, intense displays of anger
Stress-related paranoia that comes and goes
Narcissism is part of the cluster B section of personality disorders (so is BPD) in the DSM manual which means it falls into the category of erratic and dramatic reactions. Emotional immaturity can mimic signs of narcissism and BPD. The reason I've spent a lot of time thinking about this is because a narcissist is not likely to change and they do not typically seek counseling but someone who is emotionally immature or has borderline personality disorder may/can. And I have found that communication with another person who fits one of these descriptions can be very strongly affected.
BPD includes seeking approval from others, black and white thinking (someone is all good or all bad), attention seeking and risk taking behavior. If they receive criticism from another person, they really struggle to see and understand their own identity from that perspective without internalizing it. If someone expresses that their feelings are hurt then this means they are a bad person (it goes back to the black and white thinking). They don't have an understanding that one can hurt a person's feelings without becoming a bad person in result. There are other mental health conditions that can also cause a person to feel this way (such as trauma).
Signs of Emotional Immaturity
Demanding attention/needing to be the center of attention
Have difficulty owning up to mistakes made
An emotionally immature person is able to grow and learn. Narcissism stunts emotional growth. Borderline personality can look like a mix of the two except they do feel empathy and vulnerability. However, their feelings and emotions seem to mirror another person's when on the same wavelength and when it doesn't, they appear void of emotion. Their biggest fear is abandonment. A narcissist doesn't worry about being abandoned (at least not on a conscious level as they are also very very insecure people underneath it all) because they will mostly likely discard you before you have a chance to do so. And if you do, please understand that they may try to retaliate with smear campaigns, contacting your family or close friends, showing up at your home or job.
One interesting thing I learned is that a narcissist usually is not as impulsive like an emotionally immature person is or someone with BPD. But they do have fits of rage when exposed for any wrong doing they may inflict on others. Their behaviors/actions are malicious in intent and manipulation is the only way to get what they want. They don't feel bad for this either. It’s been discussed/compared that a narcissist can relate to a sociopath in this sense. They cannot feel exposed for hurting another, they reject and invalidate your feelings, but they are also doing this internally. They truly believe they cannot be at fault. They aren't capable of acknowledging emotions of others and they also don't know how to regulate their own. An emotionally immature person may also struggle with seeing another person's point of view but are capable of feeling shame and guilt for their actions.
In the end, the most important thing to remember is even if someone is emotionally immature it can take awhile in coaching sessions or therapy to grow and learn new patterns of communication and behaviors. We all have inner work to do. Even with the support of family and friends, It's best to seek help from a life coach or counselor who can guide individuals to work through this process.
What are your thoughts on this topic? What have you experienced in your connection to others? Maybe you work with someone who is like this or you know a friend who can act this way? It can be anyone we know.