What’s the Difference Between Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder?

Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD) have some symptoms in common but are two mental illnesses that require different treatment approaches. …

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Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD) have some symptoms in common but are two mental illnesses that require different treatment approaches. It can be challenging to diagnose mental health conditions because there are no biological tests that can distinguish one from another. Both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are mental illnesses that involve mood swings and impulsive behavior but there are some distinguishing characteristics of each. Read on to learn more.

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Characteristics of Bipolar Disorder

Formerly known as manic depression, bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder are both characterized by wide swings in mood and energy levels. Periods of extremely high energy, euphoria, and feelings of grandiosity are some of the symptoms of mania, while extreme sadness, low energy, and hopelessness indicate depressive episodes.

During a manic phase, an individual may engage in risky, impulsive, and destructive behavior. Thoughts may become fast-paced and the need for sleep is greatly reduced. During depressive episodes, a person with bipolar disorder feels extremely tired, sad, and hopeless. Many individuals with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed with clinical depression.

Characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) resembles bipolar disorder when it comes to impulsive behavior and mood swings. Even though individuals with BPD typically cycle through their emotions more quickly than individuals with bipolar disorder, people with BPD can experience bpd mania symptoms as well as depressive episodes.

However, borderline personality disorder does have marked differences from bipolar disorder because it’s characterized by patterns of unstable relationships. Those with borderline personality disorder are sensitive and struggle with emotional regulation. Often, they turn to destructive coping mechanisms, like self-harm and substance abuse. It’s common for those struggling with borderline personality disorder to also struggle with substance abuse and addiction, which is known as a dual diagnosis.

Additionally, an individual with borderline personality disorder is often tortured by an intense fear of abandonment, leading to unstable relationships or staying in relationships that aren’t healthy. They may experience intense emotional reactions to upsetting or disappointing life events. Additionally, they are typically very self-critical and may engage in self-harming behavior.

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Mood Disorders Versus Personality Disorders

The key difference between bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder is that bipolar disorder is a mood disorder while borderline personality disorder is a personality disorder. Mood disorders are a category of disorders distinguished by serious changes in mood. Depression falls in this category along with bipolar disorder.

Personality disorders are characterized by ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are different from social expectations, causing problems in functioning or distress. Individuals with personality disorders have difficulty perceiving and relating to other people and situations. However, people with borderline personality disorder may experience bpd mania symptoms as well as depressive episodes.

Diagnosing Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder

Both conditions can be difficult to diagnose so misdiagnosis isn’t uncommon. Both require medical and psychological exams to rule out other possible issues. To diagnose bipolar disorder, apart from a thorough interview and evaluation, an individual may be asked to keep a daily record of their mood, energy level, and sleep patterns.

Diagnosing borderline personality disorder isn’t based on a particular sign or symptom. There may be a psychological evaluation that includes completing questionnaires. This disorder is diagnosed after a comprehensive clinical interview with the individual as well as previous providers and possibly interviews with family and friends.

Can You Have Bipolar and BPD Together?

If you’ve ever wondered, “can you have bipolar and BPD together?” The answer is yes. According to a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study, borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder can co-occur as they share many common characteristics. Approximately 20% of individuals with bipolar II disorder and 10% of individuals with bipolar I disorder have co-occurring BPD. Individuals with both disorders have a higher likelihood of hospitalization, longer treatment duration, and a worse response to treatment. Additionally, individuals with co-occurring borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder are at a higher risk for suicidal behavior.

Treating Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder

The approach to treatment is usually different for these two disorders. Bipolar disorder treatment includes medication like mood stabilizers or antipsychotics. Medication is usually combined with psychotherapy.

Borderline personality disorder is primarily treated with psychotherapy along with medications that can be used to treat some of the symptoms, like anxiety and depression, that typically accompany BPD. Medications are also used to reduce impulsivity or cravings for substances.  

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has been shown to be an effective treatment for borderline personality disorder, combining both individual therapy and group therapy. The primary goals of dialectical behavior therapy include helping people regulate their emotions, have more successful interpersonal relationships, increase their distress tolerance, and be more mindful of their thoughts, feelings, and environment.

Another therapy used to treat borderline personality disorder is transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP), which helps people manage the urge to harm themselves. Mentalization-based therapy (MBT) is a form of evidence-based therapy that’s also used to treat borderline personality disorder.

If you may have borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder, it’s vital to reach out to trained clinicians to receive the proper diagnosis and appropriate mental health treatment. At Clearview, we offer several treatment programs and have experience with and expertise in treating borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. Our treatment programs include our Dual Diagnosis Treatment Center, our Women’s Treatment Center, and our outpatient treatment centers.

If you’re struggling and need help, we’re here for you. Call us today at 877.313.8271 or fill out our contact form

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