While quiet borderline personality disorder (BPD) is not a recognized subtype of this condition, more research is pinpointing to the idea that some people with BPD are simply more quiet than others.
BPD is defined by ongoing patterns of mood changes, self-image, and behavioral complexes. ¹ These symptoms will lead to impulsive actions that cause problems in day-to-day life, such as in relationships.
Throughout this article, we’re going to take a deeper look at quiet BPD and its associated symptoms. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Quiet Borderline Personality Disorder Defined
Since the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health) doesn’t recognize quiet BPD, its not as clearly defined as other conditions.
As mentioned, BPD involves continuous patters of mood swings, difficulties with self-image, and behavioral complications. In turn, these will result in BPD episodes – intense experiences of anger, anxiety, and depression which can last for a few hours.
With traditional BPD, these episodes will appear outwardly, such as through angry outbursts or obvious self-destructive tendencies. When it comes to quiet BPD, these emotional episodes will be internalized (such as an inward anger).
Since these feelings can become so internalized, many go undiagnosed (or misdiagnosed) or their illness is referred to as “high-functioning” BPD.
While people with quiet BPD appear to cope with their illness, they’re actually struggling just as much as those whose BPD symptoms appear outwardly.
Quiet Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms
Quiet BPD is more difficult to identify than typical BPD since the signs aren’t as obvious. For this reason, it can help to be aware of the signs and symptoms in someone struggling with a borderline personality disorder. These include:
- Becoming obsessive with a specific person
- Distorted, racing thoughts
- Fear of rejection or being alone
- Feeling hopeless
- Hostile or angry with others
- Idealizing then devaluing other people
- Mood swings
- Numb or empty feelings
- Passive aggressiveness
- Poor self image (or changing self image)
- Problematic people pleasing
- Self harm
- Self isolation or avoiding people
- Unable to pick up social cues
- Uncontrollable internalized emotions (i.e. shame, guilt)
- Unhealthy boundaries
Again, not all these emotions will be outwardly present in a person struggling with quiet BPD. For example, instead of showing rage in an outward manner, a person with quiet BPD may place that rage inward and take part in self-destructive behavior.
Furthermore, people with BPD are likely to become moody or withdrawn – especially during an episode. For this reason, if you have a loved one who you believe struggles with BPD, it can help to reach out and check in on them.
What Causes Quiet BPD?
The causes of BPD remain unclear among researchers. For this reason, there just isn’t enough research to completely understand what causes quiet BPD. Still, some potential causes research has found include:
- Genetics – If you have a family history of others with BPD, you’re more likely to struggle with the condition. ²
- Other Illnesses – If you struggle with another mental health condition (such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, an eating disorder, depression, or a substance abuse disorder), you’re more likely to develop BPD.
- Trauma – Those who have been through abandonment, abuse, neglect or other types of trauma during childhood are more likely to develop BPD. ³
There is no specific cause that characterizes quiet BPD vs. typical BPD. Normally, this is due to personality complexes as well as how your temperament is influenced.
10 Hidden Signs of Quiet Borderline Personality Disorder
Since it may be difficult to pick up on symptoms of this condition, you’ll likely want to keep an eye out for the hidden signs of quiet BPD:
People with BPD naturally feel emotions stronger than others – whether positive or negative. One of the most common negative emotions they feel is guilt.
Even when there is no connection to the person with BPD, they may engage in self-blame almost automatically. For this reason, it’s important to reassure people with quiet BPD when something is not of their fault.
2.) Beating Themselves Up
With self-blame often comes negative self-talk. In other words, a person with quiet BPD may think negatively of themselves and “beat themselves up” for every minor action they’ve participated in.
This characteristic of BPD is best left to a therapist as they can find the trigger of these intrusive thoughts and develop coping mechanisms to overcome them.
3.) Retreating Mentally
If a BPD episode is triggered, someone with this condition normally reacts outwardly. However, people with quiet BPD are more likely to retreat inwardly.
This can be one of the most difficult signs to pick up as there are no clear indications of what’s going on in someone’s head. However, such inward thinking may result in anxiety and depression – and those conditions present more obvious signs.
4.) Always People Pleasing
Since most people with BPD have a history of trauma, it’s common for them to react to this trauma by people-pleasing (or “fawning”).
BPD can cause someone to become attached to another person and they’ll spend a large chunk of time trying to ensure this person likes them. If this person gets even a little mad at them, it can feel extremely disheartening. ⁴
In order to avoid such circumstances, a person with quiet BPD will likely do anything in their power to ensure the other person is being pleased.
5.) Difficulty with Emotional Intimacy
Along with people-pleasing, a common trait with quiet BPD is the fear of abandonment. While some people may react to this trait by being “clingy,” others will retreat from relationships entirely. This is in order to ensure the other person doesn’t have the opportunity to.
Naturally, this can lead to self isolation and without support from loved ones. If a person with quiet BPD is undergoing therapy, it’s likely their therapist is going over this issue. However, if they aren’t they may be left alone in their struggles which could lead to depression and in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts.
6.) Suicidal Ideation or Self-Harm
When it comes to people with quiet BPD, there’s always the risk they’ll engage in self-harm or develop suicidal thoughts. This is usually caused by inward anger and blaming everything on themselves – acts of self-harm (such as cutting) can be a way to release these emotions.
Since suicide remains a risk among people with quiet BPD, it’s important to understand the warning signs: ⁵
- Discussing the desire to die or kill oneself
- Extreme mood swings
- Feelings of hopelessness, being trapped, or being a burden
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
- Seeking out ways to kill oneself
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Withdrawing from social activities
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
If you or someone you love is at risk of suicide, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. In extreme cases, call 911 or go to your nearest emergency room. In other case, you can reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.
7.) Internal Rage
One of the most common symptoms of BPD is uncontrollable anger. As mentioned, people with quiet BPD are likely to internalize this emotion rather than outwardly projecting it.
In some cases, this emotion can be so intense that the anger is difficult to control. Leaving people to feel “trembly” or with a racing mind.
In other circumstances, the internal rage can build up to a point where it is eventually released outwardly. This can lead to impulsive thinking and behaviors that could make someone’s life much more difficult than it was previously. ⁶
Since people with quiet BPD have likely lived through a traumatic event, it’s also common for them to develop dissociation.
Simply put, dissociation is when a person disconnects from their current circumstances, identity, memories, and thoughts. In turn, this can result in rapid mood swings, trouble remembering details, panic attacks, and impulsive behaviors. ⁷
It’s common for people with BPD to deliberately interfere with their own goals or personal growth (self-sabotage) – most notably, through self-harm tendencies.
This partly feeds in from the self-blame or guilt aspects of BPD. Most people under these circumstances don’t believe they have the right to grow or reach life goals.
10.) Shutting Down
Since people with quiet BPD internalize emotions, they may eventually “shut down” as a result from the pain. While this may appear in ways such as self isolation, it could also display itself as someone simply not wanting to talk. Shutting down is very much a quiet BPD meltdown.
Quiet Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment
Since quiet BPD can’t be diagnosed, there are no standard treatments for this form of the condition. Furthermore, the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to approve any medication for the treatment of BPD.
With that said, most people find relief from BPD through various psychotherapies:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) – A form of talk therapy that identifies thought and behavior patterns and helps you develop coping mechanisms to overcome those patterns. ⁸
- Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) – Developed specifically for BPD, this therapy teaches mindfulness in the management of emotions and stress. ⁹
- Schema Therapy – A combination of varying therapeutic approaches with an emphasis with relationships (i.e. may be used for quiet BPD and romantic relationships). ¹⁰
Even though there are no FDA-approved medication for BPD, you may receive a prescription if you struggle with another mental illness. Furthermore, you may find relief from vitamins and supplements for BPD.
While it’s impossible to diagnose quiet BPD, there’s no denying its existence. The internalization of emotions can be a major setback for those struggling with the condition, and many times it goes unnoticed.
If you believe someone you love is struggling, we recommend learning how to help someone with BPD. While this can be very challenging, people with BPD need a support system – especially those with quiet BPD. And your support may be all someone needs in order to overcome their illness.
Still have questions concerning quiet borderline personality disorder?
We invite you to ask them in the comments section below. If you have any further knowledge to share – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to heave from you.
¹ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Borderline Personality Disorder
² Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews: Genetics of borderline personality disorder
³ BMC Psychiatry: Borderline personality disorder and childhood trauma
⁴ HHS Public Access: Prospective Associations Among Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms, Interpersonal Problems, and Aggressive Behaviors
⁵ National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Warning Signs of Suicide
⁶ HHS Public Access: Dynamic changes in anger, externalizing and internalizing problems
⁷ European Journal of Psychotraumatology: Trauma-related dissociation and altered states of consciousness
⁸ HHS Public Access: The Effectiveness of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Personality Disorders
⁹ Psychiatry (MMC): Dialectical Behavior Therapy
¹⁰ PLOS ONE: Schema therapy for borderline personality disorder