Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar Disorder.

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Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are two conditions that are often conflated. While the science

is still out on whether or not the two conditions are related, they do share many similarities, as well as key differences.


The main symptoms of both BPD and bipolar disorder are mood instability and reckless behaviour. But one of the primary differences is that these effects tend to set in more slowly and last longer for people with bipolar disorder, while people with BPD will experience swings that are much more frequent and rapid.

The exact causes of these conditions are not yet fully understood, but both have been linked to genetic factors, brain development, and childhood trauma.

Some researchers believe that BPD should be considered part of the bipolar spectrum, while others believe it is important to distinguish between the two. Roughly 10% of people with one condition will experience the other, but this can climb as high as 20%.


As mentioned, the biggest difference between the two conditions is time, with BPD patients experiencing mood swings that set in quickly and disperse just as fast. But the type of changes that occur are also distinct.

People who suffer from bipolar disorder will move from periods of depression to periods of elation, known as mania or hypomania. It is often described as going from one extreme to the other. These periods usually last for a week or more.

On the other hand, people with BPD will have sudden mood changes that often subside in a matter of hours. The mood changes are not polar opposites, and can include a wide range of emotions.

While someone with bipolar disorder will move from depressed to elated, someone with BPD could move from “neutral” to paranoid, fearful, angry, depressed, and so on.

While medication may be used in either case, the treatments for each condition are usually not the same. People suffering from bipolar disorder will often be prescribed lithium-based medication to help regulate their mood and reduce the risk of extreme changes. Meanwhile, therapy is the main approach when dealing with BPD, although the exact treatment will always vary from case to case.

Although they share many similarities, distinguishing between BPD and bipolar disorder is crucial to successful treatment. But as long as the correct diagnosis is made, both conditions can be treated, and learning to manage them can drastically improve a person’s quality of life.  

If you experience mood swings and would like to speak with a professional, please get in touch with us today.