Bipolar Disorder vs. Borderline Personality Disorder

Bipolar and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are two serious mental disorders. Although they are different, they share many similar symptoms, leading to confusions between the two and misdiagnosis. They are two completely different conditions, each requiring different treatments. Diagnosing either of these disorders is difficult and extensive, especially considering these two disorders are often accompanied by other such as anxiety or depression. Here’s what you need to know about the differences between bipolar disorder and BPD.


Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder defined by extreme highs and low, which can rapidly shift. The highs are called manic episodes, and during which the individual will feel euphoria, high energy, and excitement. The lows, called depressive episodes, make individuals feel extreme depresssion and fatigue.


Borderline Personality Disorder

Individuals with borderline personality disorder have difficulty regulating their emotions, which leads to mood swings, impulsiveness, and unstable personal relationships. Individuals with BPD tend to have low self-esteem, which can manifest as self-harm and suicidal behavior.


The Differences

A big difference between BPD and bipolar disorder is that individuals with bipolar experience “breaks” in between mood swings in which they feel regular mid-range moods. While with BPD, individuals feel a constant and ongoing extreme mood.


Looking at personal relationships can also help highlight the difference between the two. Bipolar symptoms typically appear out of nowhere, where with personality disorder symptoms are triggered by conflict within relationships. Essentially, BPD symptoms are triggered by periods of interpersonal stress, whereas bipolar disorder symptoms seem to have no obvious trigger and are random.


Causes and Treatment

The causes and treatments differ depending on which disorder the individual has. It’s important to get the proper diagnosis as a misdiagnosis could lead to a treatment plan that actually makes things worse.


Bipolar disorder is usually treated with a combination of three types of medication: a mood stabilizer, an antipsychotic, and antidepressants, although the later is rather controversial. Psychotherapy by a professional psychiatrist is often recommended to accompany the medication. Doctors aren’t entirely sure what causes bipolar disorder but they believe biological factor may create physical changes in the brain. Genetics are also thought to play a role, as a family history of bipolar means an individual is at greater risk of developing it.


Borderline personality disorder is treated differently. It is mainly treated with psychotherapy, specifically dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which was actually specifically created to treat this condition. Medications may be used too, but the focus is on therapy. Like bipolar disorder, doctors don’t have an exact cause of BPD. Most believe that genetic and environmental influences play a role. Traumatic childhood events, loss, neglect, or bullying may also contribute.



Understanding the differences between these two similar disorders can help reduce the chances of misdiagnosis and improper treatment. To learn more about bipolar disorder and BPD feel free to contact us. If you or someone you know believes you have one of these disorders or believe there has been a misdiagnosis, you can contact us.


Dr. Raul J. Rodriguez

Dr. Raul Rodriguez