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Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Bipolar Disorder: FAQ

The symptoms of mental health conditions can often overlap. This overlap can make it challenging to differentiate diagnoses and, as a result, get the proper treatment. For example, the differences and similarities between borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder are often confused.

Both of these mental illnesses require treatment, but there’s a lot to learn about what sets them apart from each other before one can truly recover from either condition. That’s why today, we will be looking at everything you need to know about borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder: the similarities, the differences, and the outlook for someone who has either one of these conditions.

What Are Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder?

To get a deeper understanding of borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder, we must define each condition. Of course, these are inherently similar because they are both mental illnesses, which greatly impact the way that somebody feels, thinks, and acts. But there are key differences when looking at borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder.

Borderline Personality Disorder

First, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder that directly influences somebody’s ability to regulate their emotions. People who have BPD often struggle with impulsivity as well as having a positive self-image. Personality disorders also make it difficult for people to form healthy relationships with others because of emotional dysregulation.

Furthermore, many people who have BPD also have other co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This is another reason why BPD is often confused for bipolar disorder, as it frequently occurs alongside other conditions as well.

Bipolar Disorder

On the other hand, bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. There are three distinct types of bipolar disorder: type 1, which is characterized by periods of depression that are mixed with instances of mania; type 2, which mimics type 1 in many ways but often presents with more of the major depressive symptoms and less intense manic periods; and cyclothymic bipolar disorder, in which the waves of depression and mania are more acute or temporary.

One consistency across the board when considering borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder involves the diagnosis process. Both disorders require the patient to get an evaluation by a mental health professional to receive a diagnosis.

Usually in the evaluation, the patient will describe any family history of mental illness in addition to past and current symptoms they might be experiencing. With this in mind, the mental health professional will be able to distinguish if the symptoms are more representative of BPD, bipolar disorder, or another mental health condition.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Bipolar Disorder

As with any mental health condition, symptoms vary depending on the person. But there are common characteristics that people with either of these conditions frequently exhibit. By deepening one’s understanding of these symptoms, they can better differentiate between borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder.

What Are the Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?

When it comes to borderline personality disorder, the main symptoms include:

  • Difficulty managing emotions
  • Self-harm or suicidal behaviors
  • Low self-esteem
  • Trouble maintaining healthy relationships
  • Periods of depression
  • Intense fear of abandonment

What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

The symptoms for bipolar disorder can look similar to the above, but there are some distinctions between borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder as well. For instance, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are typically split by periods of depression and periods of mania. In a period of depression, somebody with bipolar disorder might experience:

However, during manic episodes with bipolar disorder, the symptoms would include:

  • Erratic sleep patterns
  • Taking risks
  • Rapid speech
  • Grand ideas

What Symptoms Do They Share?

One of the main overlapping symptoms of BPD and bipolar disorder to note would be mood swings. As the name suggests, mood swings can indicate a sudden and drastic shift in moods. This isn’t just feeling happy one moment and sad the next. Rather, mood swings for BPD and bipolar disorder are usually more severe and long-lasting. They can result in extreme lows and extreme highs—especially in manic episodes with bipolar disorder.

Another symptom that often makes the confusion of borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder more prominent is impulsiveness. Being impulsive means that you might act or make decisions without taking the time to think about the consequences.

When people have untreated borderline personality disorder or bipolar disorder, impulsiveness can even be dangerous. Acting impulsively can lead to you or others getting hurt. This can include self-destructive behaviors, such as drinking or using drugs.

This is why getting treatment for either BPD or bipolar disorder is extremely important. The symptoms of untreated mental health disorders can start to stack on top of each other, making it impossible for you to function. But with the right type of treatment, you can start to feel happier and more like yourself once again.

How Does Treatment Differ?

Luckily, getting help for either of these conditions is possible with professional treatment. Some experts note that the right intensive behavioral therapies are often the most crucial aspect of treating borderline personality disorder, vs. bipolar disorder treatment, which experts believe depends more on having the right medications.

That said, treatment for borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder can also look similar, depending on the symptoms that need to be treated first. For example, if somebody with either of these conditions is currently unsafe and needs urgent assistance, crisis care would be the best means of treatment. With crisis care intervention, the goal is to reach a point of stability and safety first and foremost before moving forward with other treatment plans.

If crisis care is not needed, an adult mental health program can help for both BPD and bipolar disorder. In this type of treatment, there are many different ways to approach recovery, such as:

  • Medication evaluation and management
  • Group therapy
  • One-on-one counseling
  • Family sessions
  • Recreational therapy
  • Art therapy

Alternatively, when it comes to co-occurring conditions, such as a substance abuse disorder, having dual diagnosis treatment is essential in working toward full recovery. A dual diagnosis program might offer all of the above services in addition to:

It’s important that wherever you do end up getting treatment, the plan for recovery is individualized to your specific needs. This means that the team of mental health experts will take into consideration your diagnosis, symptoms, and overall recovery goals. From there, you will be able to get the help you need—whether it’s for bipolar disorder, BPD, both, or a combination of co-occurring conditions.

Where Can You Get Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder?

Not all mental health facilities offer treatment for varying mental health conditions. However, at Port St. Lucie Hospital, we are prepared to assist you in recovering from a wide range of mental illnesses. We believe that you shouldn’t have to struggle through the symptoms alone. This is why we offer all of the services listed above and so many more.

For more information on borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder as well as where you can get help today, reach out to us at (772) 238-7734. Not ready to talk? You can submit a confidential contact form instead. No matter where you are on the path toward recovery, we are here to help.

This post was last modified on October 17, 2023 9:32 am


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