Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can often be confusing to differentiate for those who aren’t experts. Both BPD and Bipolar Disorder can cause marked mood changes and impulsive behavior, cause upheaval and strife in interpersonal relationships and both can be difficult to treat.
Complicating matters is that, in some people, the two disorders co-occur. In fact, 67 percent of those diagnosed with a personality disorder will also be found to have a mood, anxiety, or other type of disorder. That being said, a meaningful link between Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder is far from being clearly established.
BPD vs. Bipolar Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by emotional dysregulation that often manifests as rage. When someone quickly goes from calm to angry, it’s easy to see how some might perceive this as being “bipolar” and swinging from one extreme mood to another. However, BPD mood swings are generally more short-lived than those of a person diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, who can often remain in a manic or depressive state for months at a time.
People with Bipolar Disorder are less prone to demonstrate rage than they are to experience feelings of grandiosity and invincibility while manic, and severe debilitating depression when they are not. Those with Bipolar Disorder can also experience long periods that are symptom-free, during which time their lives are little affected by their disorder.
People with Bipolar Disorder do not experience the same unstable sense of self that those with Borderline Personality Disorder do. Those diagnosed with BPD do not generally enjoy long periods of relatively “normal” thoughts, feelings, and perceptions, but suffer with emotional instability on a daily basis.
People with BPD often endure depression as well, further blurring the symptomatic lines between the two disorders. Depression in people with BPD may be an understandable result of failed relationships or futile efforts to hold steady work or other difficulties in life that are the result of BPD-related problems. Bipolar Disorder, on the other hand, causes lengthy bouts of depression that may not be linked to any external factors at all.
Another similarity between BPD and Bipolar Disorder is that they both may have high rates of substance abuse. Substance abuse is often the result of failed attempts to self medicate. However, for that reason it is prevalent among many people who suffer from mood and/or personality disorders. The symptom of substance abuse can be indicative of several different disorders, and is an unreliable indicator on its own of any specific disorder.
Finally, much can be learned about BPD and Bipolar Disorder and their differences simply by looking at how each disorder is classified in psychiatric terms. Borderline Personality Disorder is considered an emotional regulation disorder and Bipolar Disorder is considered a mood disorder. You may ask what the major difference is between an emotion and a mood since they both have to do with feelings. Emotions generally do not last as long as moods, and may be expressed more readily, whereas a mood may persist for prolonged periods and can be less obvious if unexpressed.
Treatment for BPD and Bipolar Disorder
If you or someone you love suffers with symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder or Bipolar Disorder or both, there are many treatment options available. Treatments for BPD and Bipolar Disorder often involve a combination of medications and some form Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Symptoms of both disorders can be drastically reduced and effectively managed through dedication to the therapeutic process.