To understand “quiet” Borderline Personality Disorder, it is helpful to understand the general diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). BPD is a disorder marked by intense emotional reactivity. Individuals with BPD are typically manipulative and explosive in their relationship. They experience a tension between desiring connection with others and wanting to push them away. People with BPD usually have very combative relationships and many relationship failures. Most people who have been in a relationship with someone with BPD eventually hit a breaking point where they feel like they need to cut themselves off from that person. Individuals with BPD are often suicidal and have a tendency towards self-harm. Those tendencies usually come from a place of low self-esteem and in some cases, even self-hatred.
Spotting “quiet” BPD can be extremely difficult because it is not as outward as regular BPD. The symptoms mentioned for BPD are easier to see because the individual shows them outwardly. You will see them acting out more, having more overt erratic mood swings, and displaying more destructive patterns of before. They also might be more communicative about feelings of low self-esteem and low self-worth. With “quiet” BPD, individuals keep their intense emotions hidden. They tend to deal with everything internally where it is not as noticeable. It is important to understand normal BPD because it can help you notice the more subtle signs of “quiet” BPD. Here are some signs to look for when trying to spot “quiet” BPD:
Struggling to maintain relationships. People with “quiet” BPD often have a history of failed relationships, including friendships. They might talk about how they have trouble keeping relationships. Some of those relationships might have been ended by the other person. However, people with BPD sometimes end relationships because they have a deep fear of being left. These fears make it difficult to maintain relationships.
Having unhealthy boundaries. Individuals tend to fall on extremes when it comes to having boundaries with others. At times, they almost seem to obsess over certain people. They may want to spend time with them as much as possible. It can also look more subtle like being overly concerned by what that person thinks. On the other end, individuals can isolate and avoid, completely shutting others out because it feels safer and easier. They struggle to set healthy boundaries with a good balance.
Experiencing low self-esteem. Often these individuals have low self-esteem. People with “quiet” BPD may be able to hide these feelings a little better. It is important to notice the language they use when talking about themselves. They are likely going to speak about themselves more negatively or negate certain accomplishments.
Displaying self-harm tendencies and suicidal ideation. The self-harm might be easier for them to hide, so it might not be noticeable unless you ask them. They might make off-handed comments like, “I didn’t want to wake up today” or “I was so upset I just wanted to slam my head into the wall.” These statements can be said lightly in a way that makes them seem less serious. However, the undertones of anger and sadness could indicate some self-esteem issues. Oftentimes, people with BPD take out their anger and sadness on themselves.
Knowing the signs of general BPD can help in identifying “quiet” BPD. They are not going to show symptoms in the same way. However, by knowing the general indicators, it can give you some ideas for what kind of questions to ask, what certain phrases to notice, and what signs to look for.
Michelle Overman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist working as a counselor for students, faculty, and staff at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. She works with athletes, bridging the gap between athletics and mental health at ACU. She is becoming a Certified Mental Performance Consultant in sports psychology. Michelle ran her own private practice in Austin, Texas where she worked with a diverse population, including couples and families. Michelle earned a Master’s in Marriage & Family Therapy and has been working in the field for 6 years.