I’ve decided to start the New Year off with a series of Blogs that address the different types of Borderline Personality Disorder. Seeing, as this is the first in the series, I thought I’d begin with a type of BPD that is a polar opposite from what we have come to know as the stereotypical display of Borderline. This blog will discuss the traits and characteristics known as the Quiet Borderline. Until a couple of years ago, I was completely unaware that there existed different categories of BPD. As I researched further, I was intrigued to not only find there are different categories; it is a complete fallacy and disservice to lump all of us who live with BPD into one main category.
Using the word “Quiet” in describing Borderline Personality Disorder seems completely uncharacteristic in accordance with how we typically depict BPD. We can also say it is the least dangerous or least selfish type of Borderline. This statement alone flies in the face of everything most clinicians and even those who live a life with BPD would imagine.
Those who have Quiet BPD are more apt to internalize their feelings as a way of protecting those around them from the amped up emotions that we know as BPD. This is also an attempt to keep the few friends they have and to display better in society. The Quiet BPD tends to keep everyone at an emotional distance so as not to distress themselves, which leaves them seeming distant, aloof and antisocial. If a typical BPD symptom does slip out on occasion, it would alarm those who thought they knew the Quiet BPD.
Those with Quiet BPD have a propensity to feel the pain of the condition of BPD much more intensely by forcing themselves to be detached as another protection mechanism. They also use detachment as a way for those who care about them so that their loved ones will not have to witness the awful reality of the terrifying and strong emotions those with BPD go through on a regular basis. The Quiet Borderline tends to be more rational than regular BPD sufferers are. Consequently, what is usually considered a very effective treatment for those who live with BPD, such as Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT), is much less effective for Quiet BPD because they are already more capable at self-managing and coping with their symptoms and emotions.
There are characteristics for people who live the life of a Quiet BPD. I am going to touch briefly on them here as a way of depicting the difference between what we know as a regular person with BPD versus the Quiet version. It is also entirely possible that you could be living the life of a Quiet BPD and not even realize it or have not been properly diagnosed. For that reason alone, I feel it is extremely important to list some of the symptoms of having this type of BPD.
Borderline Personality Disorder as we know has nine classic symptoms. Some of these symptoms include intense fear of abandonment, uncontrollable rage episodes and splitting from black to white brain. Most Borderlines experience these symptoms and act outwardly in very painful ways. The perception of BPD is typically one of a person who acts out, tends to have very intense issues going on at all times and there is usually a wide circle of drama involved, including family and friends. The “Quiet” BPD conversely acts in rather than acting out. They internalize the intense emotions they feel. I have come to learn, BPD does not always come standardized. It doesn't always “look” like typical BPD, however the experience I was living with this disorder is valid just the same.
Let's take a quick look at the symptoms a “Quiet” BPD experiences:
- Overthinking everything is probably the most prevalent experience of The Quiet BPD. They are constantly battling thoughts in their mind and tend to feel out of place, alone and misunderstood. They feel a tremendous void or emptiness, are very sensitive and empathic.
- Unlike the BPD picture that is typically painted, The Quiet BPD withdraws. If they feel they are in overload and bombarded with thoughts, they will tend to stop interacting, they may dissociate and be unable to communicate or maintain eye contact.
- They find themselves constantly questioning other people's intentions. They can overthink to the point of assuming the worst just to be prepared in case something bad or terrible happens. This tends to make them present as very anxious or insecure.
- Unlike the BPD description we are used to, the quiet BPD is a people pleaser. They're convinced they will suffer abandonment if they make a mistake. Instead of getting mad at those around them, they judge themselves fiercely and take out their insecurities and war with themselves about how bad a person they are.
- Quiet BPD's tend to have a lack of strong interest or any hobbies. They find it a tremendous struggle to commit to an activity and will do something because others want them to do it. Quiet BPD's often start and stop projects or interests such as a sport or playing a musical instrument. They will initially commit, and then drop and move on to the next thing. They tend to get bored very easily.
- Quiet BPD's tend to sleep a lot, isolate or just lie in bed.
- They do not wish to bother or upset people, so they will isolate and experience their torment alone. They are very good at convincing people they are fine and they can manage, when in reality they are internalizing tremendous pain. Even those closest to them do not understand how their symptoms truly affect them on a daily basis.
- Often when you think of a person with BPD, you imagine them acting out in some outrageous way. With quiet BPD, they are more on the down low. They may have an attitude or pick a fight, and then they will go isolate in another room and completely shut down communication.
- Quiet BPD's tend to have a feeling that other people think negatively of them. They believe others hate them and they are certain in their mind that they know what other people think about them. The quiet BPD will feel constantly judged by others for every move they make.
- It is very hard for a Quiet BPD to have conducive therapy sessions, since they tend to avoid talking about what they're truly feeling, as they do not trust their own emotions. They tend to feel it is their symptoms that are responsible for making them feel the way they do. Therefore, they avoid talking about how they actually feel and dodge issues.
- Quiet Borderlines often present as high functioning. For this reason, it may be hard to get to an actual diagnosis, as they are so good at faking their persona and holding things in.
- They tend to cry at the drop of a pin, especially if they are embarrassed. This is due to the fact that they do not know how to present their feelings externally.
- There is a constant need for validation from everyone in the circle of The Quiet BPD. When the validation is not present it leads to self-loathing and the quiet BPD will tell themselves that they annoy everyone and no one likes them, so this causes them to isolate even more.
- Different from the self-harming such as cutting or burning themselves with cigarettes, that we know in BPD circles, the Quiet BPD will act out in a way that is socially acceptable. When they want to self-harm they will sleep too much or too little, eat junk food, over eat or not eat at all. They may shower on a very limited basis and not have good grooming. They also have a tendency to lash out at themselves in moments of anger with very detrimental self-talk and self-pity, instead of taking things out on other people around them.
- Quiet Borderlines tend to have a constant movie playing in their mind of everything bad that they have done since childhood. They replay bad or traumatic experiences repeatedly all day long.
- There will be times that the Quiet Borderline will feel suicidal ideation or want to self-harm and act upon it. After an intense social interaction they may especially be triggered and get very mad at themselves mad at themselves for showing their emotions. Instead of dealing with the problem or discussing it with the person, they release a wave of intense emotion in their head. They go quickly to a place of hating themselves and ultimately end up with thoughts of suicide. When in this state of mind, the Quiet Borderline may opt to self harm as the regular Borderline does with cutting or inflicting intense pain upon themselves physically.
- The biggest indicator of being a Quiet Borderline is shutting down. This is the auto response of they use along with retreating, shutting down and internalizing. They simply find it too difficult to talk or express their feelings out loud to others. Again, this is what makes therapy or trying to treat someone who has Quiet BPD very difficult.
As I educated myself to write this blog, I found that many of the symptoms of The Quiet BPD I have. I never realized how intertwined my symptoms were with this type of Borderline. It is my personal observation that the older I have become, the more I exhibit the traits of a Quiet Borderline. I believe much of this stems from the fact that I am very self-aware after over 20 years of therapy of what my symptoms are capable of doing to those around me. For that reason alone, I have resorted to internalizing my thoughts and feelings to the extent that I would rather bring harm to myself than someone else. I experienced much self-reflection in writing this Blog. Another observation was that if I am overtired, stressed out or hungry I tend to act out with my BPD. If not, then I revert backwards into the Quiet BPD.
I tell you in all honesty, Borderline Personality Disorder is an enigma out of all of the psychiatric disorders. The more I learn I find the less I know. It is a constant, ever-changing landscape of battling symptoms internally and externally. The good news is, we are living in a time where more information is available than ever before as to what makes the person with BPD tick.
As always, I am with you on the Journey, Alice