Bipolar vs. borderline personality disorder (BPD): 3 things you should know
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Bipolar vs. borderline personality disorder (BPD): 3 things you should know

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Mental health disorders look different for everyone, as there are more than 200 that have been defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. And there are many overlapping symptoms between different disorders that can lead to a lack of diagnosis or misdiagnosis.

Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are two common mental issues. Even though they aren’t the same type of disorder, they have some similarities that can cause them to be confused for one another. Knowing the difference between the two can be pivotal to getting the proper diagnosis and treatment. And that’s what we’re here to help you learn.

Read on to learn about the ins and outs of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder as well as their similarities and differences. At the end, you’ll learn about how to differentiate between the two to ensure that you get the support you need for your disorder.

The basics of bipolar disorder

Let’s start off with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mood disorder that causes atypical activity and energy levels. It involves periods of manic highs and depressive lows, which can interfere with your quality of life by making it difficult to maintain healthy connections with other people as well as carry out your daily responsibilities. 

Manic episodes can last up to seven days and cause:

  • Unusually high levels of energy
  • Changes in sleeping and eating patterns
  • A heightened sense of self-confidence
  • Increased irritability
  • Unusually risky or spontaneous behavior

Depressive episodes can last more than two weeks and cause:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • An increase in sleep or fatigue
  • Concentration problems
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Suicidality

There are two main types of the disorder, bipolar 1 and bipolar 2. While bipolar 1 consists of extreme cycles between manic and depressive episodes, bipolar 2 has less severe symptoms and more time between episodes. For bipolar 2, people experience hypomania instead of manic episodes, meaning the symptoms are more muted.

The basics of borderline personality disorder

Let’s take a look at borderline personality disorder, or BPD. Borderline personality disorder is a Cluster B personality disorder that causes unstable behavior and emotions. It’s characterized by intensely emotional thinking and impulsive decision-making. Individuals with BPD often have an unstable sense of self, which can make it difficult to form and maintain healthy relationships with others, as well as regulate their emotions. 

Symptoms of BPD:

  • Dislike of being alone
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Persistent feelings of emotional emptiness
  • Severe emotional shifts
  • Intense irritability or angry outbursts
  • Risky or self-destructive behavior
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts

Similarities of bipolar disorder vs. BPD

It’s important to note what bipolar disorder and BPD have in common, as well as how they differ, to ensure that you have an idea of which disorder your emotions and behaviors align with more.

Both mental health disorders have similar prevalence rates: BPD affects about 1.4% of the adult population in America, while bipolar affects about 2.6% of adult Americans. They have several overlapping symptoms and qualities, including:

  • Extreme emotional changes
  • Overwhelming negative emotions
  • Risky behavior
  • Suicidality

Some of these similarities may only be present during certain bipolar disorder episodes.

3 differences you should know between bipolar disorder and BPD

It’s important to know about the overlapping symptoms between the two disorders, but the differences between the disorders are how you’ll be able to determine which one better aligns with your symptoms.

Three ways to differentiate between bipolar disorder versus BPD:


  • Consistency — One of the most notable ways to tell the difference between the two disorders is how often you’re experiencing control over your emotions. BPD causes consistent symptoms that make it difficult to regulate your emotions on a daily basis. Bipolar disorder is associated with periods of emotional stability between manic/hypomanic and depressive episodes. 
  • Types of disorder — While both bipolar disorder and BPD are mental health disorders, they are categorized under different types. Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that affects your emotional well-being. On the other hand, BPD is a personality disorder that refers to behavioral patterns that are seen as “unusual.”

Mood swings — While both BPD and bipolar disorder cause extreme emotional shifts, people with bipolar disorder usually demonstrate mood and behavior stability outside of their manic and depressive episodes. People with BPD are more likely to have mood swings and reactivity consistently throughout the course of their disorder. 

Find help for bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder at Lightfully

It can be frustrating to not have a formal diagnosis for your mental issue because it prevents you from getting the correct treatment. If you’re unsure whether you’re living with BPD or bipolar disorder, we’re here to help. Not only can we help you determine which disorder your symptoms align with, but we can also provide the compassionate treatment required for your exact needs.

Change is possible. When you’re ready to take the first step, reach out to our Admissions Concierge Team. We’ll take the next steps together, toward the fullest, brightest version of you.

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