When we talk about borderline personality disorder (BPD), we usually think of nine classic symptoms, including symptoms like: intense fears of abandonment, uncontrollable rage and “splitting.” While many folks with BPD express these symptoms outwardly in sometimes painful ways, the reality is not everyone with BPD “acts out” — some “act in.”
The perception of borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one who “acts out.” That’s the “classical” definition, but like every disorder, the condition manifests itself in different ways… So what does being the “quiet” borderline mean? “Quiet” BPD is acting in, rather than acting out, but internalizing all the emotions they feel.
BPD doesn’t always “look” like BPD — but everyone’s experience with BPD is valid just the same. Because of this, we turned to our community to shed light on what “quiet” BPD can really look like. Below you can read some things people do because they have “quiet” BPD.
If you’re struggling with “quiet” BPD, you’re not alone. We have a community of folks living with BPD who would love to connect with you. If you’re struggling, we encourage you to post a Thought or Question about it on the site to get support from other people in our community who get it.
Here’s what our community shared with us:
- “Overthinking everything, constant battles within your mind. Feeling out of place and lonely because no one understands what you’re going through. I also feel empty and like there’s a void in my stomach. I’m sensitive and feel everything very deeply.” — Monica L.
- “Completely withdrawing. If I’m dealing with too much in my mind, I’ll turn off basically. I’ll stop talking, stop interacting. I am unable to communicate or sustain eye contact.” — Cameron H.
- “Questioning other people’s intentions. I overthink way too much and I often assume the worst ‘just to be prepared’ in case something bad happens. It’s very draining because it makes me more insecure, especially in my relationships with other people.” — Kairi Z.
- “People-pleasing. Thinking if I make any mistake then you’re going to leave me. Having a war in my head if I did the right thing no matter what it is. Getting mad at myself and not the person who did me wrong.” — Vanessa C.
- “My lack of any strong interests or hobbies. I have no problem doing what everybody else wants — it’s my struggle with sense of self, but by myself… I struggle really to commit to an activity or a hobby or interest. I’ll do something maybe three or four times or for a couple of weeks and I’ll just forget about it. I have bowling shoes, I have a pool stick, I have kickball equipment, I have soccer equipment, I have every art supply you could ever possibly imagine, I have a bunch of matching movies, I have series on top of series of books… I get interested and then I get bored.” — Lauren A.
- “Sleep a lot or just lie in bed.” — Sonam C.
- “Because I don’t want to ‘bother’ people or upset them with my difficulties, I tend to isolate and experience torment alone. I’ll convince people I’m OK and can manage, when in reality, I’m a crumpled mess as soon as I can close myself away… Even my closest people don’t know the extent of what I experience as I internalize and hide my grief. This leads to people underestimating how seriously my condition affects me.” — Kate G.
- “When you think of BPD ‘acting out,’ it’s usually some outrageous or violent reaction. But for me it’s different. I still act out, but mine is just getting an attitude with my boyfriend and picking a fight when he’s late getting off work. Or having to go to the bathroom a lot, not to use it, but to hide from everyone. People don’t see these things as BPD because they look ‘normal’ but even my ‘little bit of attitude’ is like the rage exploding out of me and it’s hard to shake.” — Jessica R.
- “Mind reading. I’m always positive I know what other people think of me, and it’s usually negative, like, they hate me, or, since I’m fat I shouldn’t be eating those fries, or they’re just pretending to like me because they have to.” — Katy W.
- “Avoiding talking about how I’m feeling (especially if I’m feeling hurt or upset) because I don’t trust my own emotions and don’t want my feeling being ignored because ‘It’s just your BPD talking, you’re not actually upset/hurt/angry/depressed/suicidal/etc.’” — Rebekah B.
- “Hurting the people I love.” — Isabelle A.
- “For me I’m not just a ‘quiet borderline,’ I am what is considered ‘high-functioning.’ It’s bad enough that I’ve had psychologists tell me I don’t ‘present’ like someone with BPD. But the internal emotional roller coaster speeds on, the overwhelming emptiness closes in, in a room full of people I still feel alone. I call myself the master of the facade, as I am very good at hiding behind a convincing fake smile. Nobody knows the hell I go through because I am so good at hiding it from everyone.” — Amy S.
- “Trying to stop myself from crying if I get embarrassed.” — Becca A.
- “Needing constant validation from everyone that they want me around, then isolating myself when I don’t feel I have that validation. Then that leads to self-loathing and telling myself I annoy everyone by doing this so I end up isolating more.” — Rachel A.
- “Harm myself. I don’t do self-mutilation, but I do harm myself in many various ways that are ‘socially acceptable.’ I lack sleep all the time, I eat junk and overeat or don’t eat enough, I don’t shower often enough (it doesn’t show)… those kinds of things.” — Dede H.
- “Lashing out at myself in moments of anger instead of taking things out on other people.” — Jessica W.
- “Going over and over things bad I have done starting from childhood to now.” — Marie H.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources.
If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741741.