Having Quiet BPD means you ‘act in’, rather than act out. You may not have stereotypical BPD symptoms such as frequent anger outbursts, but you suffer in silence.
You may appear calm and high functioning, and instead of ‘exploding’, you implode and collapse from within. Your arms and legs may be covered with scars, but you hide them. Your heart is close to breaking, but you never want to burden anyone around you.
While there is now more awareness about BPD, most people don’t know that BPD manifests itself in different forms.
Psychologist Theodore Million identified four types of borderline personality disorders –
1. discouraged or the ‘quiet’ borderline,
2. impulsive borderline
3. petulant borderline, and
4. self-destructive borderline.
Perhaps the word ‘subtype’ is misleading. It is not that there are four ‘different groups of people’. Instead, these categories describe different ways of coping with an incredibly painful condition— some people fight, some people flight, some people dissociate. It is a matter of spectrum, rather than categorization. No one has either completely ‘classic’ or ‘quiet’ BPD, or should be labeled as such. As we discuss ‘quiet borderline’, please be mindful that it is a survival strategy, not a definition of your personality.
What Is Quiet BPD?
The stereotypical image of BPD is one that involves ‘dramatic behaviors’— anger outbursts, big arguments with partners. These characteristics describe someone who ‘acts out’.
Having Quiet BPD, however, means you ‘act in’. You feel and struggle with all the same things— The fears of abandonment, mood swings, extreme anxiety, impulsiveness, and black and white thinking (splitting); but instead of ‘exploding’, you implode. You may not have frequent anger outbursts, but you internalize your painful emotions and struggles. The aggression or irritation is directed towards yourself.
When you are triggered, rarely do you lash out at others, but you go into isolation and engage in self-injurious behaviors. Your arms may be covered with scars from self-harming, but you hide them.
You may feel that your emotions are wrong, you are ‘too much’ for others, your existence itself is a burden, or you don’t deserve a place in the world. You would rather be in pain than to affect other people, so you hold everything in.
People with Quiet BPD tend to have an avoidant attachment style; many have co-morbid Avoidant Personality Disorder traits. Instead of other reactions’ fight’, ‘flight’, or ‘fawn’, you’ freeze’ in the face of trauma and pain.
Quiet BPD is more dangerous than the classic form of the disease because it’s tough to fathom the emotional distress inside you. When you have emotional needs, you tend to numb out or dissociate. Instead of seeking help, you withdraw from those who care for you. Even if they try, you are not allowing them to help you.
Do You Have ‘Quiet’ BPD?
Do you experience an intense emotional roller coaster ride often?
When you are upset, is all the shame, hate, or anger directed towards yourself?
Do you often find yourself thinking, “I must have said or done something wrong,” or “I must have been at fault”?
Do you stay awake at night with paranoia because someone you care for did not return a mobile text?
Do you distance yourself from friends or colleagues without having first tried to speak to them about what’s upsetting you?
Do you find yourself thinking that your very existence is a burden on others?
Do you live in denial of the anger you feel?
Do you spiral into crushing depression or tend to isolate yourself at the slightest mistakes you make in your interactions with people?
Are there incidences where you have cried for days, stayed in bed, and remain unmotivated towards a life without anyone knowing?
Here are eight specific symptoms that characterize Quiet BPD:
Do you –
Blame yourself even if it is not your fault?
Feel that your friends and partners can do a lot better than you?
Feel that your presence is annoying to others?
Physically punish yourself when you feel that you didn’t do your best or were at fault?
Always criticise yourself for your behaviour and even your thoughts?
Most individuals suffering from Quiet BPD blame themselves for everything wrong. You tend to shoulder too many responsibilities for conflicts or arguments in a relationship. Even when you were abused, you may blame yourself rather than directing your anger towards the ones who have hurt you.