Updated: Mar 2, 2020
This question is an example of a logical fallacy. It assumes that the symptoms of a disorder - in other words, the ways in which it is visible to others on the outside - is what is relevant, rather than the cause underlying it.
This isn’t necessarily the fault of the person asking the question. I personally place the fault at the feet of the incompetence of the professional community as a group, who come up with terms like “Quiet Borderline" in the first place. By doing so, either intentionally or unintentionally (it doesn’t matter which, they are still in an elevated, trusted position where these sorts of things are inexcusable) they promote at least three false concepts in the minds of those who believe them, in just this one area alone:
1. The way Borderline Personality Disorder behaves is more relevant than what causes it. (It’s not.)
2. Because it behaves differently for different people in subtle ways, there must be different ‘types’ and severities of Borderline Personality Disorder. (There isn’t.)
3. Your disorder is an inherent part of you, because you’re not a person with a disorder. No, according to them, you are a "Quiet Borderline," as if the professional community has stumbled upon a new race of human being, and this is the classification you fall into. Good luck being motivated to try to ‘fix’ what you now perceive yourself to simply be!
Here is the bottom line: Borderline Personality Disorder, and indeed no emotional disorder, is defined by its symptoms - that is, the way it behaves; whatever ways, subtle or not, that it might manifest. Instead, Borderline Personality Disorder is defined by its cause.
The cause of Borderline Personality Disorder is the same cause for everybody.
You say, well how can that be? Some people are loud and obnoxious with it and others seem to blend right into society (until they get into certain circumstances where their inaccurate underlying perceptions clash with life in ways that was never an issue before).
People are individuals. People’s circumstances are unique. Some people are in more stable life situations, and others are in less stable life situations. Your ideals of class and appropriate behaviors may not be the same ideals I was raised with. Folks from a hillbilly family (such as myself) are not going to worry about presenting the same front to the world as the person with Borderline Personality Disorder who comes from a family on Martha’s Vineyard.
Just yesterday, I spoke to a gentleman from the UK who engages in cutting behavior. Guess what I never did while I had Borderline Personality Disorder? That’s right. I never cut myself (on purpose), not even once. The thought to cut myself never even occurred to me, ever.
But what is this cutting behavior? It’s self-abuse. And where does it originate? It originates from a person not liking himself or herself - not just dislike, but deep loathing, really. Because he or she perceives himself or herself as inherently devoid of worth. Notice that I’m not saying the person simply feels like they’ve done something worthless, or that they’re having a worthless day. No, subconsciously or unconsciously, the perspective they live with regarding their own inherent nature as a person is that they naturally lack any worth at all on their own. Any sense of worth they might get to enjoy has to come from external sources: A new hat. A compliment. An accomplishment. But all the while, who are they stuck with day in and day out?
It’s like being assigned a tiny, little, windowless office at work that barely has enough room for two desks. And who do you get as your office partner? The most irritating, obnoxious person in the entire company. Imagine now, being stuck in this small, windowless office, with the one person who you are more repulsed by than any other person, and you have to spend every day of your life trapped in this small space with him or her.
Well, this is what is happening with anybody who has Borderline Personality Disorder. They are stuck with themselves, and they deeply loathe themselves. They are ashamed and annoyed with themselves. But instead of being able to clock out at 5:00pm and go home to get away, they are stuck with this incredibly-irritating and disappointing person for every minute of every day for forever.
The more irritating and disappointing the person is, the more painful this is for the person with the disorder. Because what they deeply crave beneath all of this is to be likable, lovable, and of value. The shithead loser they share the office with won’t let them forget who they’re stuck with.
This is where cutting comes in. It is born of hate and loathing and disappointment with oneself. (As people, we have no trouble mistreating things we perceive as worthless. On the other hand, how do we treat things we genuinely like? If we genuinely like a person or thing, we treat it very well, don’t we.)
Additionally, this cutting self-abuse serves a second purpose. The attention and concern it might generate is then an external form of validation. Remember, the person can’t generate any sense of inner validation for himself or herself, because he or she perceives himself or herself as being inherently without any natural value. Any sense of value he or she gets to enjoy at all has to come from external sources. The concern of others is an external source of validation.
Back to the fact that I never once cut myself while I was living with Borderline Personality Disorder. Does this mean that my Borderline Personality Disorder was somehow different than the Borderline Personality Disorder of somebody who does cut himself or herself? No. Remember, the way the disorder manifests is not what is relevant.
What is the only thing that is relevant? The underlying cause.
Now think about the underlying cause of the cutting behavior. Did I live with that same cause? Of course I did. Every single person who lives with Borderline Personality Disorder lives with the underlying perception that they do not have inherent worth; every single person with the disorder dislikes himself or herself deep down. Every single person with the disorder relies on external forms of validation in order to be able to enjoy any sense of self-worth at all. (Ever wonder why so many people with Borderline Personality Disorder are artists? Now you know. The external attention, praise, and admiration from artistic accomplishments is something that can be regularly fed, like tossing timber into a steam locomotive. Unfortunately, there’s not enough external validation in the universe to ever fill the inner emptiness that comes from being raised to believe that you don’t possess inherent worth. As soon as you stop feeding the locomotive, the train stops.)
If cutting is simply a form of self-abuse that comes from the belief that one is worthless, what are other forms of self abuse that come from the exact same cause?
How about self-neglect?
Yes, self-neglect is a form of self-abuse, and it comes from the same cause. We don’t neglect things we genuinely care about or like. So simply failing to shower regularly can be in the exact same category as cutting, originating from the exact same cause. It is mistreatment born from the perspective that one doesn't deserve, or merit, being properly cared for.
Failing to go to the dentist. Punching, or slapping yourself, getting a black eye and then having a hundred people ask you what happened. Failing to go to the doctor. Not combing your hair. Overeating. Failing to be concerned about what you eat. Drinking too much alcohol, too often. Smoking cigarettes. Not getting your tires replaced on your car even though they are worn down to the wires. Only brushing your teeth once a week. Not allowing yourself to get enough quality sleep. Working too much and never allowing yourself any time for recreation or relaxation. Never washing your hands. Having sex with questionable partners. Getting into relationships with those who we know aren’t good for us. Arriving late to work all the time. Putting ourselves in dangerous situations, such as drinking alcohol and choosing to drive.
All of these things (and I’m sure that if you sit and think about it, you could come up with a million more) are examples of either self-abuse or self-neglect (which is also just self-abuse) that can have the exact same cause fueling them as the cutting behavior.
Borderline Personality Disorder is not defined by its symptoms, it is defined by its cause.
What this means is that there is no such thing as ‘different types’ or intensities of Borderline Personality Disorder. There is no such thing as a ‘spectrum’. All people who have Borderline Personality Disorder have it equally.
There is no such thing as believing you’re just a ‘little bit’ devoid of inherent worth. People either live with the underlying certainty that their feelings are never good or bad, right or wrong; that feelings always matter, and that as a human-being they have inherent worth - which means nothing external has to supply them that worth, they were simply born with it - or, people do not live with these accurate, healthy beliefs. There is no ‘scale of severity’ in real life separating those who have Borderline Personality Disorder. This is imaginary bullshit contrived by people who do not know what they are talking about.
Differences in severity are external measurements, dependent on some of the types of things I’ve mentioned throughout this article: Stability in one’s life circumstances. Stress. Ideals of what is proper or acceptable. Class. Religious beliefs. Culture. Individuality. Unique personality types. They are not accurate representations of what is going on inside of people.