If you’re unsure whether you have borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder, understanding the differences between the two mental illnesses is a great place to start. It’s not uncommon for someone to receive a misdiagnosis because symptoms such as extreme emotions and impulsivity appear in both. However, many differences will connect you to the right treatment you need to manage your symptoms long-term.
Differences Between Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Bipolar Disorder
When trying to determine borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder, it’s important to know that the symptoms can be similar. But understanding their differences will give you a better idea of what could be causing your underlying mental health struggles.
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder because people with bipolar disorder tend to experience extreme emotions and sudden mood swings. This is typically characterized by periods of mania and depression that can last for weeks to months at a time. In between these periods of extreme emotions, some people with bipolar disorder may feel relatively stable. In addition, certain medications can help level these intense emotions.
On the other hand, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder. This means that it affects the way a person thinks and behaves, ultimately impacting every aspect of their life. Individuals struggling with BPD are known for having an insecure attachment style, which can prevent them from having healthy relationships with others. This is especially challenging if they are unable to manage their symptoms. However, it’s not impossible to manage symptoms with the right treatment.
Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder
The main symptoms of BPD include unpredictable moods, behaviors, and a distorted self-image. Many symptoms of BPD and bipolar disorder overlap, resulting in their strong association. Keep in mind that some symptoms are unique to BPD, but not everyone with BPD has the same experiences. Everyone’s symptoms and their severity can differ, which can make it especially challenging to determine borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder.
Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:
- An “all or nothing” mindset
- Uncertainty about one’s role in the world
- Sudden changes in opinions and beliefs
- A pattern of unstable and intense relationships
- Unstable and distorted sense of self
- Fear of abandonment
- Attempts to avoid real or imagined sources of abandonment
- Difficulty trusting others
- Impulsive behavior
- Chronic feelings of worthlessness
- Episodes of anger, anxiety, and depression
- Feelings of dissociation
- Recurring suicidal ideation and self-harm behaviors
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
This condition is characterized by a fluctuating period of symptoms between mania (euphoria) and depressive episodes. Moreover, symptoms vary according to the type of bipolar disorder.
With that in mind, not everyone who is bipolar will experience depressive episodes to the same extent. Your condition can also impact the type of symptoms you experience in addition to their severity. This is why having a proper diagnosis is so important. Otherwise, some of your symptoms may go untreated, making it difficult to maintain mental wellness.
Symptoms present during a manic episode can include:
- Racing thoughts
- Rapid speech
- Sudden or extreme mood swings
- Euphoria or excessive happiness
- Difficulty sleeping due to heightened energy levels
- Recklessness and poor judgment
- Impulsive behavior
- Having grandiose ideas and making big plans
- Psychosis (this can be experienced in severe episodes of mania)
Those with bipolar I may only experience manic episodes. But those with bipolar II disorder experience a major depressive episode without experiencing mania. Instead, they will experience hypomanic episodes. These episodes are considered less severe than manic episodes but should not be taken less seriously.
Symptoms present during a depressive episode can include:
- Overwhelming feelings of sadness
- A severe drop in energy levels
- Feelings of anxiety
- Social withdrawal
- Changes in appetite
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Loss of interest in day-to-day activities
- Suicidal ideation
Many of these symptoms mirror those found in major depressive disorder. As a result, bipolar II is commonly misdiagnosed as depression and vice versa. In addition, bipolar II has the most overlapping symptoms with borderline personality disorder. This is why it’s important to continue to seek professional help if you feel like something is off with your current diagnosis.
Substance Abuse and Self-Medication
Once you know the key differences, it’s important to note the similarities when discussing borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder. Other than some of the symptoms, it’s common for those with bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder to self-medicate through substance abuse. The impulsivity in addition to a lacking or improper diagnosis of both conditions increases the chances of alcohol and drug use.
In this case, a dual diagnosis program can be an effective treatment method in helping you overcome your addiction. Regaining control of your symptoms is the first step in recovery. From there, you can discover new coping mechanisms so you don’t feel like you have to rely on drugs and alcohol to manage them.
Treatment Options for Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Bipolar Disorder
One of the biggest differences between borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder is where the symptoms stem from. BPD primarily stems from issues revolving around self-identity whereas bipolar disorder is connected with issues in the nervous system. This makes bipolar disorder more responsive to medication such as mood stabilizers and antipsychotics.
However, psychotherapy is one method used to treat both conditions. Bipolar disorder is frequently treated with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) whereas BPD is treated with dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). DBT is a modified version of cognitive behavioral therapy to help those with borderline personality disorder develop healthy methods of dealing with stress and regulating emotions.
Springbrook Behavioral Hospital uses evidence-based methods such as therapy, medication management, and support groups through an intensive inpatient treatment program. This type of residential treatment program helps adults manage their bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder symptoms in the long run.
Getting Help for BPD or Bipolar Disorder
Knowing the differences between borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder will help you find the treatment needed to recover. Our team at Springbrook Behavioral Hospital will help you manage your mental health through an individualized treatment plan that suits your needs.
If you have any questions about how we can help, call us at 352-600-3288 or submit a confidential contact form. Our treatment center provides a safe and supportive environment for overcoming all mental health challenges. With the help of our team, you won’t have to do it alone.