Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC
You may have heard of borderline personality disorder, often referred to simply as BPD. If so, you likely know that borderline personality disorder or BPD is characterized by unstable interpersonal relationships, including friendships and romantic relationships, as well as an unstable sense of self or unstable self-image and unstable patterns in mood or mood swings. As a result of these symptoms, people living with BPD may exhibit a range of behaviors and behavioral patterns, such as emotional outbursts, rage, displays of intense sadness, and impulsive or destructive behavior. Typically, these things are observed externally, but in quiet borderline personality disorder or BPD, symptoms can be harder to recognize as extreme emotions and reactions may be directed inward rather than externally. Some experts in the mental health field consider quiet BPD to be a subset of the disorder. So, you might wonder, how do you know if you have quiet borderline personality disorder or BPD? In this article, we’ll cover the potential signs of quiet BPD and how the display of symptoms in this type of BPD tend to differ from other more classic or stereotypical depictions of BPD symptoms.
Quiet BPD Vs. BPD: What Are The Differences?
Quiet borderline personality disorder is still diagnosed as a borderline personality disorder. Some experts identify four different subtypes of borderline personality disorder or BPD. These types include quiet borderline personality disorder (which is also called “discouraged borderline”), impulsive borderline personality disorder, self-destructive borderline personality disorder, and petulant borderline personality disorder. The diagnostic criteria for BPD are relevant regardless, but these different types of BPD explain the different ways that borderline personality disorder can manifest for an individual. The key difference between quiet BPD and a classic manifestation of BPD is that symptoms in those with quiet BPD are internal or internalized, where they’re typically external. Often, quiet BPD is described as a type of BPD where an individual acts in rather than acting out. While some mistakenly refer to quiet BPD as “high functioning BPD,” Quiet borderline personality disorder or discouraged borderline personality disorder is no less serious than a classic display of BPD.
You might wonder what this looks like. A person with quiet BPD experiences all of the strong emotions that anyone else with BPD does. They just express it differently. For example, someone with quiet BPD will still have severe mood swings, and during those mood swings, they might withdraw from others, or experience feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness. Instead of directing extreme painful emotions outward, they will experience a high level of inner turmoil and will direct outbursts inward. They might feel a profound sense of guilt, blame anything bad that has happened to them on themselves, and might experience alexithymia (difficulty recognizing or describing one’s emotions). People with BPD are statistically at a higher risk for substance use, which might be used to cope with or suppress emotions.
How Does Quiet BPD Impact Someone’s Life?
Withdrawal from others, extreme sensitivity to rejection, a disturbed or unstable sense of self, and mood swings are all things that can impact people’s friendships, romantic relationships, and in the workplace or other endeavors, like college or university. Quiet borderline personality disorder impacts a person's life in a variety of different areas, but there are three notable areas where many symptoms of quiet BPD might show up. These three areas include interpersonal relationships, mood and emotion, and one’s sense of self.
A key characteristic of BPD is the way that it impacts interpersonal relationships. Someone with quiet BPD may withdraw or leave relationships due to the fear of rejection, and they may be very sensitive to small perceived cues in relationships. Someone with BPD might take things personally when they aren’t meant to be taken personally. For example, if someone’s partner has a bad day at work and talks a little bit less that night, someone with BPD may take that as a personal sign that the relationship isn’t going well. There’s a profound fear of abandonment, and whether someone expresses that through avoiding relationships or trying to find a way to ensure that someone doesn’t leave, it is bound to impact someone’s relationships.
Mood and emotion
With BPD, a person’s moods are unstable and sometimes volatile. Someone might experience very intense ups and downs, and often, these ups and downs will relate to a person’s interpersonal relationships. For example, if someone feels loved, they may feel euphoric, where if anything is perceived as “off” in a relationship, they might become very depressed. Since these moods are internalized in a person with quiet BPD, the people around them may or may not understand the full extent of the emotions that someone is experiencing and how they’re being impacted by these feelings. This is an area where what’s usually directed outward with BPD may be directed inward; anger might be taken out on one’s self, for example.
Sense of self
One feature of BPD is a disturbed or unstable sense of self. Someone with quiet borderline personality disorder might engage in people-pleasing to the extent that their sense of self is unstable, often due to the extreme sensitivity to rejection. An individual might experience serious self-loathing or self-hatred, which is part of where BPD can connect with comorbid or co-occurring diagnoses. Someone might lie, go to great lengths to be liked, or seek reassurance excessively.
Diagnostic Criteria For Borderline Personality Disorder
To be diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder, someone must experience five or more potential markers listed in the DSM-5. These markers include:
- Frantic efforts to avoid imagined or genuine abandonment
- Personal patterns of intense, unstable interpersonal relationships where the individual alternates between extremes of idealization and devaluation (this is referred to as “splitting”)
- A notable and persistent unstable sense of self or self-image (this is referred to as identity disturbance)
- Tendencies toward impulsivity in two or more areas that are potentially dangerous to the self or self-damaging. Examples of this are unsafe sexual activity, substance use, driving carelessly, or impulsive, reckless spending.
- Persistent, chronic feelings of emptiness
- Emotional instability, explained in the DSM-V by saying, “Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days).”
- Intense and inappropriate anger or trouble controlling one’s anger, which might manifest in the loss of one’s temper, physical violence, or constant anger.
- Severe dissociative symptoms that impact one’s life, or transient, stress-related paranoid ideation
BPD is recognized as a Cluster B personality disorder in the DSM. Personality disorders are grouped within three clusters (Cluster A, Cluster B, and Cluster C). Cluster B personality disorders include borderline personality disorder, antisocial personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.
BPD vs. Bipolar Disorder
Due to the fact that the abbreviation for BPD and bipolar disorder or BP is so similar, people often confuse the two, but they are not the same condition. That said, they do share certain characteristics, such as mood swings, so someone with BPD might be diagnosed mistakenly with bipolar disorder, or vice versa. Additionally, someone can be diagnosed with both borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is not the only mental health condition that can sometimes be confused with BPD. Symptoms of complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) might also be mistaken for borderline personality disorder or vice versa. This is why it is vital to see a licensed medical or mental health professional for a proper diagnosis.
Facts And Statistics On BPD
Borderline personality disorder or BPD is not something to be ashamed of. Here are some facts and statistics to know about borderline personality disorder or BPD that can help you to understand the disorder and its prevalence:
- 6% of the general population is said to have borderline personality disorder or BPD.
- 20% of people in the psychiatric inpatient population are said to have borderline personality disorder or BPD.
- Borderline personality disorder can impact people of all genders, though the media tends to show depictions of the disorder in women the most.
Risk factors for the development of BPD include trauma or abuse, the diagnosis of other mental health conditions, and a family history of BPD or other mental health conditions.
How Is Quiet BPD treated?
The first-line treatment for borderline personality disorder is a form of cognitive-behavioral therapy or CBT called dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT. Dialectical behavioral therapy or DBT has been shown to be effective for symptom management and reduction in those with borderline personality disorder. If you believe that you may have borderline personality disorder, know that there is hope. It is so important to reach out for help if you notice the signs of this disorder impacting your life. It is possible to live a full life with BPD, and support is available. For all guidance regarding treatment, please consult a medical or mental health professional.
Take The Borderline Personality Disorder Test Screening
After reading the symptoms of quiet borderline personality disorder, you might wonder, “could I have BPD?” If you’re searching the web for a “high functioning personality disorder test” or “high functioning borderline personality disorder test,” this test may benefit you, though again, no presentation of BPD is any less serious. Although it is never to be used as a replacement for a diagnosis, the Mind Diagnostics borderline personality disorder screening test can help you gain some insight into your symptoms, and it might just be the first step to reaching out for help. It’s free and confidential, and you’ll be able to access your results via email directly after taking the test.
Click here to take the mind diagnostics borderline personality disorder screening test.