top of page

3 Reasons Why Someone With Borderline Gives You The Silent Treatment

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Someone suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) may start giving you the silent treatment. Manipulation, difficulty controlling and regulating emotions, and the consequences of fear of abandonment are the most common causes of this behavior.

When you are in a position where you could not get someone to talk to you or even acknowledge you after an argument, you have experienced silent treatment. You may have even given it to someone else at one point or another. Due to BPD symptoms such as splitting, fear of abandonment, and difficulty managing and regulating emotions, people with BPD are more likely to engage in this behavior.

The silent treatment may be used in any relationship, including parents and children, friends, and coworkers. This behavior can happen frequently for someone with BPD and for extended periods.

It is situational and also is dependent on the individual. Dealing with someone who gives you the silent treatment is really challenging. The majority of people perceive silent treatment as a passive-aggressive type of punishment.

1. Manipulative and abusive behavior

The silent treatment is commonly used by people with BPD as a manipulative and controlling strategy. They want to have complete control over everything, even others. They may be abusive/manipulative because they are upset over something you did, causing them to express hatred and a desire to hurt you. They tell you to leave and then expect you to apologize, plead, or agree to their demands later on. This is a form of emotional abuse. It comes from a place of punishment rather than a need to unwind or regroup. Which is the worst form of silent treatment that someone with BPD can give you.

2. Overwhelmed by emotion

The silent treatment can be a response to a situation in which one individual is angry, upset, or too overwhelmed by their emotions. As a result, they feel forced to turn inwards. Since reacting in that emotional state doesn't end well, they try to ride out the emotional storm inside before allowing themselves to respond to the outside. In many cases, the silence breaks when the heat of the moment passes.

3. Fear of abandonment

It is well known that someone with BPD suffers from fear of abandonment. People who have BPD need constant reassurance that they are loved and needed. When this is not the case, they often push others away to not be abandoned. Sounds contradicting, but they want to be in control of the situation and get rid of insecurity.

One word, one frown, or one bad look in someone’s eyes can trigger someone with BPD to go into overdrive. Wondering what they did wrong and how long it will be before they are abandoned. Manipulative behavior is often the result of fear of abandonment.

What to do when you get the silent treatment from someone with BPD?

Normally, you give space to a partner that goes silent on you until they eventually reach out. Someone with BPD will oftentimes not take any actions to make things better. Since you are the enemy from their perspective the only possibility is that you have to make a move. But be careful how you act since we teach people how to treat us. If we go along with the emotion, the person with BPD knows exactly what effect it has on you. If this behavior has no effect on you, people with BPD are less likely to do it again.

Talk about the other person's emotions. This reassures them that their feelings are relevant and genuine, and it opens the door to a conversation. Avoid falling into a defensive or problem-solving mentality. Keep your focus on the current moment and listen with empathy.

You should not apologize for your partner's usage of the silent treatment because silence is how they choose to respond. However, if you have said or done something which has hurt the other person's feelings, you may need to apologize.

It's helpful to understand the reasons behind the behavior, so you know where to go from there. The problem is that you won't know unless they tell you.

Attempt to avoid worsening the issue or provoking the silent individual to talk. This might lead to more conflict. If the individual reacts in a threatening or abusive manner, it might be best to leave the situation until they have calmed down. Seek help from a mental health professional if needed.


bottom of page