Why Do Borderlines Give The Silent Treatment?

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Everyone needs quiet time now and again, but there are times where someone may be purposefully giving you the silent treatment. Someone who is not mentally ill may have reasons that are comprehensible, but one diagnosed with Borderline may be harder to read. It may anger you as you try to understand what they are so upset about, and it could seem entirely illogical, but to that individual, it makes all the sense in the world.

Someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder will get very emotionally involved in a situation and take things to heart. A miniature comment with no true significance can destroy them. If you are an individual who is not entirely emotionally connected, understanding the heavy relation to emotion may be a complication, and cause you to be cold-hearted towards your loved one who is struggling. In response to the overwhelming emotions and the distance they sense from you, they may give you a harsh silent treatment as a defense mechanism.

They believe that their providence of the silent treatment will get a message across to you, and possibly encourage you to apologize and make things right again. It could also be for much needed space.


What is causing the silent treatment?

Anger & Hurt. A diagnosed BPD individual will sense emotions much more harshly than someone who does not struggle with a mental illness, and in an attempt to cope with the emotions, they may hush up. It may be a way to blame you, and make you reliable for their feelings, which is not your responsibility. It could be a tactic to get you to come to them, as they may feel that they always come to you. And though it may seem unkind on their part, they desperately want communication with you, and in an emotional state, have put a barrier and want to stick to it to the very end.

Mistrust. This is a strong topic with the diagnosed individuals. Mistrust comes along when you have toyed with their emotions, lied, are avoiding them, getting angry when they open up, etc. The may feel that they have been cheated, or that they made a mistake by bringing you into their life. Their silent treatment could be their time to reflect on the situation and come up with a final decision, or get you to come to them with an apology and an offer to be more trustworthy.

Testing. This isn’t something Borderlines like to admit, but we are the leader of many games and tests. We may be evaluating your behaviour to our rejection of communication. Are you okay with it? Are you going to show up at our door with roses and fancy dinner reservation? Are you going to get frantic like we do? We evaluate our observations and take note of your reactions like you’re a lab rat. In the future, we may use it against you as well.


Stress & Dissociation. Dissociation is not overly talked about, yet is something that is quite common in a Borderline diagnosis. In situations of stress or high tension, possibly with discomfort, we may dissociate and no longer be mentally present. We may not be in control of our reactions, nor realize what we are doing. Our mind is so overwhelmed with constant thoughts, and we lose track of ourselves.

Abandonment Perception. Abandonment is a hot topic amongst those with BPD and one of the core reasons an individual would get diagnosed initially. It is written in the disorder that we are terrified of abandonment and may abandon ship when we think we are about to be abandoned.  Someone diagnosed with Borderline will feel loneliness very intensely, and large distances between the ones they love will leave them with a sensation of loneliness and loss, and possibly abandonment. They may blame the other individual involved irrationally and assume they no longer care. It could very well be perceived as the silent treatment, when in reality, it is us abandoning you first. We want control over that situation and so we take it. We take it and disappear without a word, leaving you stunned in our mess.

Defense. It is quite simple. Being silent when we are constantly taking initiative is taking control back. Constantly communicating with someone and being turned down creates vulnerability, and ceasing that behaviour gives us the impression of self control and power.

In the end, we all want to feel like we matter. Whether we’re testing you, are being defensive or want you to come to us, our silent treatment is valid to us, and we need it to be understood by you.


How can I better the situation?

Sometimes, you can’t. If it’s been a long period of time, some of us will move on, some of us won’t. I would suggest putting effort, asking them how they feel and offer to change what is bothering them, ensuring that your relationship is important to you. Stress that they matter to you, and try to be present in their life as much as you, especially when they need it.

Refer to S.K. Bosak’s post about how a Borderline feels receiving the silent treatment.


Why is my BPD Partner Manipulating Me?

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One day, you are their favourite, their everything and their addiction, the next, you are the scum of the Earth. Is it your fault?

Someone diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder will consistently struggle with relationships throughout their lives, especially the romantic ones. Dependency becomes hardcore with them, as they lean on you for everything, expecting you to complete them, never truly giving you enough space. They understand the faults of their ways, but it is not a behaviour they can seem to crack.


Distance from you can be perceived as a form of abandonment, and your expression for this need of space is hell to them. It is you clarifying that you do not want them around, and even if that period of time is a half hour, for someone in the extremes of this disorder, that can be perceived as abandonment and the end of the relationship.

The anxiety will run wild as they wonder if they are even worth it. The only person they felt they loved no longer strives to be by them, and they are alone in this world for that period of time. That loneliness transfers into their brain as dissatisfaction, unhappiness and anger.

Their minds are telling them that you are the perpetrator of this pain; you are the cause. You are the one who is tearing this relationship apart. Your needs are too much to ask for and they will not be afraid to show you.


In response, you will receive hatred, attitude and manipulation. It is vengeance from the borderline who needs gratification for their pain. When the relationship starts to go haywire, you will be hung on the cross as the worst partner ever. They will go from loving to hate filled, and you will be their victim.

In seconds, you will be on the opposite side of their spectrum.

But, the misunderstanding is that they mean to do this to you, but they don’t. An individual with BPD has episodes and the disorder can entirely control them when they sense fear. We are not being rational, though it is not entirely in our control.

We preserve our relationships with all of our hearts, and we try to make them work, consistently blaming ourselves. When you push us away in that fashion, we blame ourselves subconsciously, and pin it onto you. We accuse you of not listening, not understanding, etc. but it is the true portrayal of self-hatred and lack of control. Your actions lead us to a spiral with our Borderline, and every time abandonment is perceived, it is a repeated crisis.


So, what do you do? 

They’re mistreating you and seek out to cause you pain. Do you choose to leave them?

If you are truly unhappy and don’t see a future with this person, you are entirely allowed to choose to leave. For those who have seen happiness with us and can see a future with the healthy versions of ourselves, work on it with us. Be straight forward about how you feel in a calm environment, and offer alternatives to compromise for both parties. Reassure us of your love and your desire to be by our side. Offer your effort into the compromises and try to understand the constant inner torment we are subjected to on a daily basis.

A relationship with an individual diagnosed with BPD is passionate, and sometimes that passion is channeled in the wrong ways. But, all in all, though we may claim to hate you, we indefinitely do love you, and that is why you are the one exposed to our ups and downs.




My Loved One Is Parasuicidal (Parasuicide and BPD)

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There are times when our lives get out of order and our decently stable environment unravels. We may have an intense life occurrence or we reminiscence on some horrible experiences, but either way, we are left trying to make sense of it and to cope with the chaos around us. A mentally healthy individual may have minimal difficulty, but for those with the Borderline Personality Disorder diagnosis, this can be hell.

In times of fear of lack of control, parasuicidal behaviours could be exercised by one in major turmoil. Parasuicidal being defined by the act of self harm or suicide attempt with no end goal of killing oneself. The individual participating in these may not care if they die in the process, but they do not exactly wish to harm themselves to that extremity.

A good portion of those with a borderline personality disorder diagnosis may take this to the ultimate extreme, losing entire control of their behaviour, or choosing to let their emotions take over. The intensity in which they feel natural emotions can bring to the brim of what they believe they are capable of enduring. The idealistics of someone with this diagnosis, especially those with a strong form of it, may be using this unhealthy coping mechanism because of the following:

Lack of control. A lack of control to one struggling with this diagnosis may lead them to practicing parasuicidal behaviours, sometimes just self harm which can have no relation to parasuicide, to gain what they feel is missing. The behaviour may give them a sense of satisfaction or gratification, giving them the feeling of power. For that moment, they have all the control in the world. Whatever they do, they made that decision and they can be responsible for the intensity of their actions. The concept of making a decision, living it through and seeing the consequences can feed that fear of lacking control. They may lead themselves to fear if they hurt themselves passed what they had originally intended, or be upset with themselves if they didn’t attain their “goal”, and in this fright, they may seek control by scaring those around them.

Negative Life Events. An upsetting life event is natural, unpredictable and out of the hands of the “victim”. A relative being diagnosed with cancer or a suicide close to us isn’t our responsibility, though one may blame themselves, and to justify this, they may practice violent acts towards their bodies. Their goal may be to numb the pain or bring forth the pain on themselves, and at times, to gain sympathy from those around them.

Reminiscing. Reminiscing on past traumatic events leads the individual into a dramatic thought process. They will ponder on experiences, evaluate what they could’ve done better, where they went wrong and may sugar coat or diminish an individual party entirely based on their thoughts. This may lead them to reevaluate their decisions around that individual and seek some type of truth, even if they’ve already found it. They will want immediate responses and will create a castle of terror for themselves. This could even bring them to reinvite abusive partners into their lives, further harming themselves, and they will do everything in their power to make it work to not be alone and to align their perception of events and their hopes of that individual.

Triggering comments. “This will show them!” Sound/seem familiar? That’s because a triggering comment can hurt them, throw them into an intense emotion, and they may seek vengeance and revenge. Sometimes, they take the remark too personally and create a whole new world of horror. Maybe if they self harm or take dozens of pills, the “culprit” may be held liable for their actions. They use this to blame and target that individual and cause them the same, if not more pain for their actions. It’s almost like having the last word. If practiced around family, members may feel like they are walking on eggshells, trying to avoid offending them so they don’t end up self harming or landing themselves in the hospital.

Loneliness and Boredom. Boredom is like a traumatic event for people with borderline. Suddenly, things are stable or relaxed, their hands aren’t busy, things and thoughts aren’t racing and they may consider themselves lazy. In response, to get things going, they convince themselves that a parasuicidal act may be the answer to these feelings. They may even mistake boredom and loneliness for sadness and react as if it were true. Loneliness is perceived as abandonment and they shake things up to make people “come back.” They must keep busy, attend recovery groups and try to avoid these behaviours, knowing they won’t benefit them in any way.

Scare loved ones. This concept is mainly to be in control. By doing such violent things to themselves, they may feel they have control over you and your emotions. They can predict how you’ll react and they want to tell you because your fear could mean love and care in their eyes. It’s almost a test. How far can they push it? And if they don’t get the reaction they want, they make themselves worse. They will freak out and feel invalidated; making accusations that their loved ones just don’t care about them. That fear they can implant is such a strong form of power and they will abuse it until it runs out.

“They’ll love me when…” The main borderline trait is a fear of abandonment; seeking love is the result of that. They have noticed that when they are in a specific state, “everybody comes back.” They will take their already deteriorated and ill state and bring it to the extreme. If they are suffering from an eating disorder, that may be dropping 10 more pounds really quick. It could be a suicide attempt, believing that death will bring them love, or even just being hospitalized. The impulse thought tricks them into believing a total lie. They want the world to stop because things are too chaotic. They can’t possibly understand how “everyone” is so okay with the world, that they can cope with all these unbelievable experiences and come out okay. “They’ll love me when…” is a self-fulfilling prophecy that is very complicated to escape. Once it’s implanted, even through a good period, they may turn to that. It gives them a sense of validation and dominance when they notice that it “worked”. Suddenly, they are sick enough for treatment and they will have the support of family members that had been distant for a period.

Though being parasuicidal often leads someone to seek love and attention, it shouldn’t be seen in a negative way. That individual is trying to gain control of themselves and cope with their turmoil. At times, they lose complete control and may even feel a disconnect from their speech. They  will speak from the heart and try to feel less alone, as the chaos isolates them. They ultimately seek someone to love them and reassure them everything will be okay. Participating in this with your loved one may not be the healthiest thing you can do for them, as you could be feeding a rollercoaster that will persistently worsen.

It is not their fault, most of the time. Even when they forcefully try to worsen themselves, it still isn’t their fault. They must take responsibility for their actions and understand they were taught or demonstrated this behaviour and that control will come if they work on it and break it.

What to do now? As for advice, do not join them in the chaos. That is the worst thing that you can do for them. Be objective. Teach them they can handle being alone and that stability is not the enemy. Be there to support them, but do not be their dance partner. Remind them that things will be okay. Remind them that you will not abandon them, that you love them and that they need help. Encourage them to go to group sessions and get themselves out there. It cannot be stressed enough that they should be using the The Out-Of-Control (DBT-CBT Workbook) and need to complete it.

There is hope and they will gain control. They need to work at it. Recovery is possible.

On a personal note, I am guilty of all of these, and even in my recovery, I still participate in these. The outbursts are a lot further in between and I’m learning to keep some things to myself in order not to use someone’s fear as my control. I am learning that healthy relationships just don’t work that way.

Not everyone with borderline personality disorder or with a mental illness will display these actions as every mental illness affects people in different ways. And not fitting into these categories doesn’t diminish your mental illness in any way.