Quiet borderline personality disorder: signs, symptoms and support

The signs and symptoms of quiet borderline personality disorder, how to help someone who is struggling and the support available at Priory Group

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What is quiet borderline personality disorder?

There are four recognised types of borderline personality disorder, one of which is quiet borderline personality disorder. It is also referred to as discouraged or high functioning borderline personality disorder. Borderline personality disorder is just 1 of the 10 recognised types of personality disorders.

With other forms of borderline personality disorder, a person will typically experience very intense negative emotions, such as anger, shame, sadness and guilt, which they outwardly display. For someone with quiet borderline personality disorder, while they still experience these intense emotions, they tend to do so internally. This can cause them to lash out at themselves.

When someone has quiet borderline personality disorder, it can be something that other people do not necessarily notice. As the person internalises their emotional pain, it can also make it more difficult for them to access the diagnosis and treatment that they need.

Signs and symptoms of quiet borderline personality disorder

Some of the common signs and symptoms of quiet borderline personality disorder include:

Suffering internally with extreme emotional pain

  • Experiencing extreme mood swings that last between a few hours and a few days, which the person keeps to themselves
  • Feeling as though things affect them more than they do other people
  • Trying to suppress or deny anger
  • Feeling that it is always best to show a calm and happy exterior, despite struggling with inner turmoil

Blaming themselves

  • Blaming or criticising themselves for things that go wrong, other people’s emotions or any conflicts that they have with other people
  • Analysing and scrutinising everything that they do
  • Believing that they deserve to be alone
  • Believing that they are annoying or a burden on other people, so keeping how they feel to themselves

Withdrawing and isolating themselves from others

  • Isolating themselves when they feel angry or upset
  • Withdrawing from people or cutting people off who have made them angry or upset
  • Feeling as though they don’t have any real and true connections with others
  • Feeling empty, numb and as though they are detached from the world
  • Fearing new relationships as they believe they will just end up getting hurt
  • Telling themselves that they are independent and that they don’t need other people

Living with quiet borderline personality disorder can be exhausting and incredibly debilitating. It can stop a person from being able to enjoy their everyday life, as they struggle to cope with the intense thoughts and emotions that they experience.

How to help someone with quiet borderline personality disorder

If you are concerned that someone close to you has quiet borderline personality disorder, or if someone you know has recently been diagnosed with the condition, there are things that you can do to help.

Be understanding, empathetic and supportive

It can be difficult to know exactly what someone with quiet borderline personality disorder is going through as they will often keep a lot of it to themselves.

Remember, they will be living with a lot of inner pain and turmoil. Let them know that you understand and acknowledge that they are dealing with very real and very strong emotions, and that you are here for them.

Try to find out any triggers and ask what you can do to support them in these times. Be honest about the support that you can provide and be consistent in its delivery.

You may want to encourage the idea of accessing professional support if they haven’t done so already. Remind them that it is something that people with borderline personality disorder do benefit from - treatment is available and can help them to feel better.

Keep lines of communication open

When someone has borderline personality disorder, they can misconstrue a lack of recognition as a lack of appreciation. They may react excessively to a small or perceived slight. They can also struggle to read body language and nonverbal parts of a conversation.

Try to make your communication as clear as possible. Keep sentences short, simple and direct, especially when you’re talking about sensitive issues or topics that are triggers.

Also, keep lines of communication open by putting a weekly activity in the diary or sending them regular texts asking how they are. This will help to show the person that they do have people surrounding them who care.

Be consistent and someone they can trust

Someone with quiet borderline personality disorder may pull away from you at times, often due to a fear that you will abandon them or that they will get hurt. If they do, remember that it is a symptom and a response to deep emotional pain, so don’t punish them or cut all ties.

Call or visit after a conflict to show that they are not abandoned. Demonstrate understanding and show that you haven’t given up on them. It can also help to remind them of their good qualities that make you want to continue the relationship.

Take suicidal thoughts and threats seriously

Sadly, self-harm and suicide are a risk amongst people with borderline personality disorder. Take any mention of self-harm and/or suicide incredibly seriously and seek immediate support from their crisis team, or the emergency services if needed.

For further information, our blog on managing borderline personality disorder in relationships contains plenty of additional advice and information.

Getting support for borderline personality disorder

If you are struggling with quiet borderline personality disorder yourself, we understand that the idea of reaching out and asking for help may make you feel incredibly uncomfortable.

But, it is an important step that can help you to start living a life that isn’t so difficult and isolative.

Getting a diagnosis

Our blog on the borderline personality disorder diagnosis process covers the initial steps that you can take in order to start accessing support and treatment.

A diagnosis for quiet borderline personality disorder will help you to get a better understanding of how and why you experience certain thoughts and emotions. It will also then help you to find the right treatment that will help you to start feeling better.

Accessing treatment

Treatment for personality disorders can vary from person to person depending on their individual symptoms and needs. Most people struggling with borderline personality disorder will likely undergo psychotherapy, which is the most recommended form of treatment.

Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT), Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Mentalisation-based therapy (MBT) are the types of therapy that are commonly used.

These therapies provide you with a safe space to work through any pain that you feel. They can help you to learn ways to assess and manage difficult thoughts and emotions, so that they no longer cause inner torment, fracture relationships and prevent you from living life to the fullest.

Working with a consultant psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist can also help you to begin recognising the importance of expressing emotion, the beauty that exists in imperfection, and the fact that you deserve care and kindness, both from yourself and from others.

Page clinically reviewed by Dr Liam Parsonage (BA, MBBS, MRCPsych, PGCert) Consultant Psychiatrist at Priory Hospital North London

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