But that doesn’t mean that they’re the same thing.
If you have someone in your life who suffers from either condition, it’s important to understand the difference, because they have different symptoms and require different types of treatment.
Take a look at some of the things that you should know about the differences of borderline personality disorder vs bipolar disorder.
Two Separate Disorders
The first thing to understand is that BPD is a personality disorder and bipolar disorder is a mood disorder.
Mood disorders have to do with how a person relates to and experiences their emotions, while personality disorders are thought patterns, beliefs, and behaviors that diverge from the norm.
Bipolar disorder comes with intense mood swings that usually occur in cycles. BPD causes people to behave and relate to others differently than those who don’t have BPD and causes them to think and feel in ways that are different from people who don’t have BPD.
What Borderline Personality Disorder Looks Like
Borderline personality disorder has many possible symptoms.
Not everyone who is diagnosed with BPD has all of the symptoms, and symptoms can be more or less severe depending on the person. Symptoms can be triggered by events that cause stress or strong emotions, but these events may seem minor to outside observers, and the reaction of the person with BPD may appear to be an overreaction.
Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:
- Black and white thinking
- An unstable self-image
- The tendency to change opinions, values, and beliefs frequently, and sometimes very quickly
- Difficulty trusting others
- A pattern of unstable relationships
- Feelings of disassociation
- Reckless and impulsive behaviors
- Fearing abandonment or being alone
- Feeling empty
- Periods of intense anger, anxiety, and depression
- Self-harming behaviors
- Thoughts of suicide or attempts at suicide
- The inability to identify one’s place in the world.
What Bipolar Disorder Looks Like
People who experience bipolar disorder experience periods of mania and sometimes periods of depression as well.
Not all people who have bipolar disorder experience depression.
One form of bipolar disorder requires only a manic episode in order for a diagnosis to be made. Furthermore, the length and severity of the manic and depressive symptoms also vary depending on the person and the type of bipolar disorder they have.
In most cases, people with bipolar disorder experience periods of stability in between manic or depressive episodes.
Symptoms of bipolar mania include:
- Racing thoughts and/or speech
- An inflated sense of optimism or self-confidence
- Grandiose ideas
- Impulsiveness or recklessness
- Poor judgment
- Reduced need for food and sleep
- A sense of self-importance
- Elevated mood
- In some severe cases, hallucinations or delusions
Symptoms of bipolar depression include:
- Social withdrawal
- Difficulty concentrating
- Crying spells
- Anhedonia, or the inability to feel pleasure
- Changes in eating and sleeping patterns
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Aches and pains that don’t have a physical explanation
- Irritability and agitation
- Indifference to what’s going on around them
- Thoughts of death
- Suicidal ideation or attempts
Getting a Diagnosis
Comparing borderline personality disorder vs bipolar disorder demonstrates how different the conditions are. Yet, their symptoms have enough overlap that it can sometimes be difficult for even experienced mental health professionals to tell the difference.
Luckily, there are some things that can help mental health professionals make the diagnosis.
One way is by looking at sleep cycles. People with bipolar disorder often experience significant changes in their sleep cycle during manic or depressive periods, needing much less sleep during manic episodes and often much more sleep during depressive episodes.
However, people who have borderline personality disorder are more likely to maintain a regular sleep cycle on a consistent basis.