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Difference Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder

Borderline personality vs bipolar disorder: These two disorders are often confused. They both have symptoms of impulsiveness and mood swings. But they are different disorders and have other treatments. The borderline personality disorder (BPD) causes are not yet clear, but research suggests that genetics, brain structure and function, and environmental, cultural, and social factors play a role, or may increase the risk of developing a borderline personality disorder.

Bipolar Disorder

Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder causes swings in mood, energy, and function throughout the day.

Bipolar disorder is defined by alternating periods of depression and mania that can last from days to months. Unlike borderline personality disorder, the mood swings of bipolar disorder are not triggered by interpersonal conflicts, which last for days to weeks or months rather than minutes to hours, and episodes are, by definition, accompanied by changes in sleep, energy, speech, and thinking.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

During times of mania, symptoms might include:

  • An excessively happy or angry, irritated mood
  • More physical and mental energy and activity than normal
  • Racing thoughts and ideas
  • Talking more and faster
  • Making big plans
  • Risk-taking
  • Impulsiveness (substance abuse, sex, spending, etc.)
  • Less sleep, but no feeling of being tired
  • Poor judgment

During periods of depression, symptoms might include:

  • Drop-in energy
  • Lasting sadness
  • Less activity and energy
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Problems concentrating and making decisions
  • Worry and anxiety
  • No interest in favorite activities
  • Feelings of guilt and hopelessness; suicidal thoughts
  • Change in appetite or sleep patterns

Treatment: Most people with bipolar disorder need lifelong treatment to keep their condition managed. This usually includes medicine — usually mood stabilizers, and sometimes also antipsychotics or antidepressants. Therapy can also help people with bipolar disorder understand it and develop skills to handle it.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

The exact cause of the bipolar disorder is unknown, but several factors may be involved, such as:

  • Biological Differences: People with bipolar disorder appear to have physical changes in their brains. The significance of these changes is still uncertain but may eventually help pinpoint causes.
  • Genetics: Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a first-degree relative, such as a sibling or parent, with the condition. Researchers are trying to find genes that may be involved in causing bipolar disorder.

Risk Factors of Bipolar Disorder

Factors that may increase the risk of developing bipolar disorder or act as a trigger for the first episode include:

  • Having a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, with bipolar disorder
  • Periods of high stress, such as the death of a loved one or other traumatic event
  • Drug or alcohol abuse

Complications From Bipolar Disorder

Left untreated, bipolar disorder can result in serious problems that affect every area of your life, such as:

  • Issues related to drug and alcohol use
  • Suicide or suicide attempts
  • Legal or financial problems
  • Damaged relationships
  • Poor work or school performance

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder involves a longstanding pattern of abrupt, moment-to-moment swings — in moods, relationships, self-image, and behavior (in contrast to distinct episodes of mania or depression in people with bipolar disorder) that are usually triggered by conflicts in interactions with other people. People with borderline personality disorder can experience overly emotional responses to upsetting life events and often try to hurt themselves. They usually have chaotic relationships with people.

A borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feels about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life.
A borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that impacts the way you think and feels about yourself and others, causing problems functioning in everyday life.

People with borderline personality disorder are more likely to have other mental health problems, too. They are also more likely to have had some trauma as a child than people with bipolar disorder, although trauma in itself does not cause borderline personality disorder. They often also can have problems with addictions, eating disorders, body image, and anxiety.

Symptoms: A person with borderline personality disorder has trouble controlling their thoughts and managing their feelings and often has impulsive and reckless behavior. Here are the condition’s main symptoms:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid feeling abandoned
  • History of unstable, intense relationships
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Poor self-image
  • Impulsiveness (spending, sex, substance abuse, etc.)
  • Paranoia
  • Self-harm (e.g., cutting) or suicidal behavior
  • Mood swings involving anger and depression, usually in response to stressful events or relationships
  • Tendency to view people and situations as either “all good” or “all bad”
  • Problems managing anger and unpleasant emotions

Treatment: Long-term treatment is usually necessary for people with a borderline personality disorder. Treatment mainly involves specific forms of psychotherapy, such as dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) or transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP) aimed at helping people manage impulses (such as suicidal urges or tendencies to self-harm when they feel upset), feelings of distress or anger, and emotional oversensitivity to interactions with other people. Medications are also sometimes used to help with these symptoms, although they are not always effective and not considered the main focus of treatment in borderline personality disorder. Sometimes, short hospital stays are also needed to manage times of crisis that involve threats to safety and well-being.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Panic Attack Treatment may be warranted for frequent, unexpected panic.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness. It usually begins in your late teens or early 20s.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a severe mental illness. It usually begins in your late teens or early 20s. More women have it than men. There’s no known cause, but it’s believed to be a combination of how your brain is built and the things you experience in life. For example, you may be prone to have it based on genes passed down through your family. But then, something might happen that can trigger it, such as being abused or neglected.

When you have BPD, you have a hard time controlling your emotions. This can cause you to:

  • Take unnecessary risks
  • Have intense mood swings
  • Have bouts of anger, depression, or anxiety

You may find it difficult to:

  • Manage daily tasks at home
  • Perform at work
  • Maintain relationships

This can lead to things like divorce, separation from family and friends, and severe financial issues. BPD isn’t an isolated issue. If you have it, you are more likely to have other mental health challenges. You may experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and thoughts of suicide. Many cope by turning to drugs and alcohol, which can create more problems. Though there’s no apparent cure, the intensity of BPD may lessen with age and treatment.

Borderline Personality Disorder BPD Causes

Healthcare providers believe borderline personality disorder (BPD) results from a combination of genes and environmental factors. Causes of BPD include:

  • Abuse and Trauma: People who have been sexually, emotionally, or physically abused have a higher risk of BPD. Neglect, mistreatment, or separation from a parent also raises the risk.
  • Genetics: Borderline personality disorder runs in families. If you have a family history of BPD, you’re more likely to develop the condition.
  • Differences in the Brain: In people with BPD, the parts of the brain that control emotion and behavior don’t communicate properly. These problems affect the way the brain works.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder (BPD) usually appear in the late teenage years or early adulthood. A troubling event or stressful experience can trigger symptoms or make them worse. Over time, symptoms usually decrease and may go away completely.

Some people have a handful of BPD symptoms, while others have many. Symptoms can range from manageable to very severe. Because BPD symptoms are similar to those of bipolar disorder, people sometimes confuse the two conditions. The most common signs of BPD include:

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition characterized by difficulties regulating emotion. 
Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a condition characterized by difficulties regulating emotion. 
  • Frequent and intense mood swings: If you have BDP, you may experience sudden changes in how you feel about others, yourself, and the world around you. Irrational emotions — including uncontrollable anger, fear, anxiety, hatred, sadness, and love — change frequently and suddenly. You may be quick to lash out at others and have trouble calming down when you’re upset.
  • Fear of abandonment: It’s common for people with BPD to feel uncomfortable with being alone. They have an intense fear of being abandoned or rejected. They might track their loved ones’ whereabouts or stop them from leaving. Or they might push people away before getting too close to avoid rejection.
  • Difficulty maintaining relationships: People with BPD find it challenging to keep healthy personal relationships. Their friendships, marriages, and relationships with family members are often chaotic and unstable.
  • Impulsive and dangerous behavior: Episodes of reckless driving, fighting, gambling, substance abuse, and unsafe sexual activity are common among people with BPD. Self-destructive behavior can be difficult or impossible to control.
  • Self-harm: People with BPD may cut, burn or injure themselves (self-injury) or have suicidal thoughts. They have a distorted or unclear self-image and often feel guilty or ashamed. They also tend to sabotage their progress. For instance, they may fail a test on purpose, ruin relationships, or get fired from a job.
  • Depression: Many people with BPD feel sad, bored, disappointed, or “empty.” Feelings of worthlessness and self-loathing are common, too.
  • Paranoia: If you have BPD, you may worry that people don’t like you or want to spend time with you. People with BPD may feel confused, lose touch with reality or have “out-of-body” experiences.

Reclaim your live from Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder, We Level Up Behavioral Center

At We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. In addition, we work as an integrated team providing information about the difference between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our specialists know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.


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[2] Merck Manuals. Borderline Personality Disorder. ( Accessed 10/10/2020.

[3] National Alliance on Mental Illness. Borderline Personality Disorder. ( Accessed 10/10/2020.

[4] National Education Alliance for Borderline Personality Disorder. Overview of BPD. ( Accessed 10/10/2020.

[5] Bipolar and related disorders. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM-5. 5th ed. Arlington, Va.: American Psychiatric Association; 2013. Accessed Dec. 2, 2016.

[6] Bipolar disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed Dec. 2, 2016.

[7] Bipolar disorder. National Institute of Mental Health. Accessed Dec. 2, 2016.

[8] We Level Up Mental Health » Psychiatric Disorder Treatment