Out of all the mood disorders, Bipolar Disorder is the most similar to Borderline Personality Disorder. For this reason, it is common to confuse one with the other.
The Many Shades of Mood Swings
People with Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder both suffer from mood swings. This characteristic can make it hard for even doctors to differentiate between the two. However, after a thorough psychiatric investigation and perhaps a trial of medication, BPD can be distinguished from Bipolar Disorder.
There are three types of Bipolar Disorder:
- Bipolar I is the most severe. People with this version of the disorder tend to have very high highs and very low lows. They may go on crazy shopping sprees one day, driving themselves into tremendous debt, then the next day threaten to kill themselves because of severe depression. Untreated, it would be very difficult to lead a normal life if you have this version of Bipolar Disorder.
- Bipolar II is less severe, but still difficult to live with. People with Bipolar II generally spend more time in the depression zone than in the mania zone. Suicidal thoughts are not really as much of an issue as just a generally low mood. Also, the mania in this form is called hypomania because it is less acute.
- Cyclothymia is the least severe version of Bipolar Disorder. In this type, you might experience highs and lows more frequently, but these mood swings are not usually so debilitating that you cannot function.
On the other hand, there are no set categories of Borderline Personality Disorder. Outside of the general diagnostic criteria, every case is different and comes with its own set of challenges. Some people with BPD may have wild mood swings; some may have no mood swings at all. Some people with BPD might seem like a candidate for a Bipolar Disorder diagnosis, and others will be far from it.
It’s all in the Reaction
People with Borderline Personality Disorder generally have mood swings that have an identifiable cause. For instance, someone with BPD may sink into a suicidal depression after a negative phone conversation with a family member.
People with Bipolar Disorder can be reactive as well but, more often than not, their mood swings have no clear cause. They may wake up in the morning and decide to take out a huge loan to start a business and work through the night coming up with a business plan. The next day, for no reason at all, they may abandon their plan and stay in bed.
Treatment for BPD and Bipolar Disorder
Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder is similar in that both psychiatric disorders are typically treated through a combination of therapy and medication. However, the specific types of therapies and medications used vary for each psychiatric disorder, and depend on your individual symptoms. For example, Borderline Personality Disorder is best treated through Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), while Bipolar Disorder may be better treated using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT).
Whether you are suffering from both Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder or just one of the disorders, it is important to find treatment for psychiatric disorders that will help you manage your mood swings and feel more balanced.