Bipolar Disorder vs Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

bipolar disorder vs borderline personality disorder

Bipolar Disorder vs Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are often confused with one another due to an overlapping of symptoms. However, there are distinct differences between the two conditions, which is why they are diagnosed and treated in different manners.

Bipolar disorder causes individuals to experience changes in mood, energy levels, and the ability to function throughout the day. People with this condition experience manic states characterized by increased energy, heightened moods (anger, happiness, or excitement), and impulsive behaviors. In addition to mania, people with bipolar disorder experience depressive episodes, which cause them to struggle with decreased energy, low mood, and a loss of interest in pleasurable activities.[1]

With bipolar disorder, people experience manic and depressive episodes that last from a few weeks to several months. These episodes are not triggered by specific events. While people with borderline personality disorder also experience drastic mood changes, this occurs from moment to moment and is triggered by certain conflicts or interactions with other people.[2]

If you or a loved one experiences drastic mood changes and emotional instability, you might be wondering if you suffer from bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder (BPD). Being aware of the differences between these two conditions can help you determine your next steps.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a mental illness that causes unusual shifts in a person’s mood, energy, activity levels, and concentration.”[3]

There are three different types of bipolar disorder: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic disorder.

Cyclothymic disorder is diagnosed when an individual displays the symptoms of bipolar disorder without fully meeting the criteria for the condition. Bipolar I disorder is characterized by manic episodes lasting at least 7 days, and symptoms of depressive episodes that last at least 2 weeks. Lastly, bipolar II disorder is similar to bipolar I, however, the manic episodes are less severe and referred to as “hypomania.”

The common symptoms of mania and hypomania include:[3]

  • Feeling very high, elated, irritable, or touchy
  • Feeling more active than usual
  • Having a decreased need for sleep
  • Talking fast about a lot of different things
  • Racing thoughts
  • Being able to get a lot of things done without feeling tired
  • Having an excessive appetite for food, drinking, sex, or other pleasurable activities
  • Feeling uncharacteristically important or powerful
  • Engaging in impulsive behaviors

The typical symptoms of a depressive episode include:[3]

  • Feeling sad, down, or anxious
  • Feeling slowed down or restless
  • Having trouble falling asleep, waking up too early, or sleeping too much
  • Talking very slowly or being forgetful
  • Having trouble concentrating or making decisions
  • Being unable to complete simple tasks
  • Having a lack of interest in almost all activities
  • Feeling hopeless or worthless
  • Engaging in self-harm or experiencing suicidal thoughts

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

People with borderline personality disorder have a hard time regulating their own emotions, feel their emotions at an extreme intensity, and tend to have chaotic or unstable relationships with others. If you have borderline personality disorder (BPD), you may view things in black-and-white extremes which can cause you to change your interests and values quickly, leading to impulsive and reckless behavior.

The common symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:[2]

  • Efforts to avoid real or perceived abandonment
  • A pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones
  • A distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
  • Self-harming behavior
  • Recurring thoughts of suicidal behaviors or threats
  • Intense and highly variable moods, with episodes lasting from a few hours to a few days
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness or emotional numbness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
  • Feelings of dissociation

It is important to note that while people with bipolar also experience extreme mood changes, the mood shifts associated with BPD occur as a response to triggers. Also, both disorders are associated with impulsive behavior, however, if impulsivity is connected to elevated mood, this indicates that an individual is suffering from a bipolar disorder rather than borderline personality disorder.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

While some studies suggest that borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder can co-occur, they are separate conditions with varying causes.[4]

When it comes to bipolar disorder, the following factors may play a role in the development of this condition:

  • Genetics
  • Trauma and stress
  • Differences in brain structure and chemistry

Individuals with a borderline personality disorder may develop the condition due to:

  • Abuse and trauma
  • Differences in areas of the brain related to emotional control
  • Genetics

While bipolar disorder and BPD have similar causes, it is important to note that borderline personality disorder has a heavy link to childhood abuse and trauma. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Many people with borderline personality disorder report experiencing traumatic life events, such as abuse, abandonment, or hardship during childhood. Others may have been exposed to unstable, invalidating relationships or conflicts.”[2]

When it comes to bipolar disorder, childhood trauma can trigger a person’s bipolar disorder but it cannot cause it. Typically, bipolar disorder is a genetic condition that begins to affect people after they experience social, emotional, physical, or environmental triggers.

Get Help for Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Today

While there are many similarities between bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, these conditions are extremely different. If you suspect that you have one of these disorders, attending a professional mental health treatment program can help you determine what condition you are suffering from and provide you with the appropriate treatment.

Bipolar disorder is often treated with a combination of therapy and medication, while BPD is mainly resolved through behavioral therapy, trauma recovery, and learning emotional regulation skills.

To learn more about how we can help you recover from BPD, bipolar disorder, or both, contact Florida Recovery Group today.