Okay, I have read this question and 2 answers and I don't believe these are the same questions. It's not about legal status or the moral appropriateness of punishment by society. And it's not about the neural basis of volition (and how that can get messed up, physically), I don't think.

It's more like why isn't some personality disorder (like narcissistic or borderline) simply considered a character flaw? Like: that narcissist is arrogant and conceited and brags because he wants to be and likes it. Or: that borderline is demanding and manipulative and hateful because she wants to be and it serves her. So that is the first question.

The second question is how to relate with these troubled persons? When does one hold the other personally accountable for their decisions and actions and when does one go into treatment mode as a caregiver would a patient or a dependent loved one? Caregiver is flawed human being with their own issues and not professional in any field related to psychology or mental health.

But, outside the domain of the law and criminal responsibility, how should a regular "civilian" or "layperson" relate to persons (immediate family, extended family, coworker, friend or acquaintance) with NPD or BPD? When should a person treat the NPD or BPD as a selfish asshole (with moral judgement and sometimes disdain) and when as a sick or weak person that is perhaps just very needy (and/or difficult)?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to Psychology.SE. The answer to your first question (why isn't some personality disorder simply considered a character flaw) to me is the same as psychology.stackexchange.com/q/8191 which you linked i your question, as personality traits can be character flaws. I also feel the second question is also covered by the same question. Although the second answer was framed around law, it can be applied outside of the field of law. What have you read on the subject other than the previous question? Is there anything you don't quite understand? $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 7:29
  • $\begingroup$ well, i am not sure if i want to get more specific. this is not an Ann Landers advice column and if i were to get more specific the question would end up like a "Help me, Ann" question. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 10:47
  • $\begingroup$ how 'bout this, @ChrisRogers, if someone you love is NPD (and is selfish and conceited and brags all the time and thinks only of himself), do you oppose him because of the negative behavior or do you enable him with tolerance that you would extend to someone suffering illness (and are a difficulty for all involved)? similar question for BPD. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 10:50
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    $\begingroup$ @robertbristow-johnson "What should I do" is not really a question that can be answered scientifically from the perspectives of psychology and neuroscience, it depends on you personally and your values. People often go to therapy to find answers to those sorts of questions, but a (good) therapist will also not tell you what you should do, they will only help you see what your choices are. For the types of questions you have, you could read about approaches to "setting boundaries" as a middle ground. $\endgroup$
    – Bryan Krause
    Commented Oct 12, 2018 at 15:18

2 Answers 2


A personality flaw can be a trait or behaviour that is conscious and the person usually has control over it, whereas a personality disorder is a long enduring pattern of defensive behavior that lies outside of the persons control, because they are not are not aware of it. A person with Borderline Personality Disorder will use splitting and projection to discharge bad feelings within themselves by seeing others as bad, uncaring or mean. While other times they will cling to relationships when the project the are good and loving. A personality disorder consists of a long enduring pattern of behaviour, whereby the person has a distorted image of themselves and others, causing interpersonal difficutlites, which they have no conscious awareness about. A flaw means you can do something about it and it is less self-debilitating.





There is a clear definition of what a personality disorder is. The Wikipedia article on Personality Disorders lists the criteria given in the DSM-5 and ICD-10. Take a look: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_disorder

If you don't understand those definitions, please edit your question accordingly.


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