Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Borderline Personality Disorder versus Bipolar Disorder: Similarities

Now that we’ve discussed exactly what Bipolar disorder is, why is it so often confused with Borderline Personality Disorder? Or vice versa?

The answer is simple. At least it’s simple to me because I immerse myself in this research everyday. To the everyday, average person, it can be pretty confusing. Because on the surface when all you have is a check list of features and symptoms on the surface the two disorders appear rather similar. One the surface. Let me reiterate something. This is why it is crucial to be diagnosed by a trained professional and not assumed via self-diagnosis.

Think about the things that you usually notice about a person that you suspect has Borderline Personality Disorder. Their moods can be all over the place. Depending on when you see them they can seem like one person or someone else entirely. They may be depressed or seem fine or even quite happy. They might be the life of the party to the point of recklessness, driving fast, talking faster, partying hard. You might notice the signs of self-harm or foolish spending.  You may even think they just have a drinking problem at times by how much they indulge. The stuff people typically see. This is also the stuff that clinicians typically find out right away upon first meeting a new client. The problem though, is that when that’s all you now at first, the description can be misleading.  


Both bipolar disorder and BPD can interfere with relationships, work, and/or school, and the ability to lead a productive life. They both may encompass:

  • Disorder of extreme mood fluctuation and instability. — Bipolar disorder causes extreme shifts in mood from depression to mania (a mood characterized by abnormal elation and energy, racing thoughts and speech, a decreased need for sleep, etc.). BPD is also associated with mood changes, causing people to frequently switch between feeling fine to feeling extremely distressed in a matter of minutes.

  • Depression – Both BPD and Bipolar Disorder may experience depression at times. With Bipolar it is part of the clinical diagnosis that this will occur while with BPD it is only a potential co-morbid mood characteristic.

  • Self-destructive behavior – This can range from self-harm to suicidal thoughts or actions

  • Impulsive Behavior - Both bipolar disorder and BPD cause people to act impulsively. These impulsive behaviors can include rash spending sprees, reckless driving, foolish financial investments, risky sexual behaviors (promiscuity), binge eating, substance abuse and self-injury.

  • Hypersexuality – As with BPD people diagnosed with Bipolar disorder can be preoccupied with sex and sexual activity. I’m making a difference between promiscuity and hypersexuality here because while being promiscuous can be reckless and impulsive, hypersexuality is more indicative of a preoccupation with sex and can just involve a single partner.
    • It should also be noted that impulsive sexual behavior and hypersexual behavior are not required for either disorder. I know people with both BPD and Bipolar that aren’t interested in sex at all, or at least not more than normal.

  • Potential for Drug and Alcohol Abuse — It’s not uncommon for people with untreated bipolar disorder or BPD to abuse alcohol or drugs as a way to cope with their symptoms. Unfortunately, substance abuse only aggravates symptoms and can hinder or hide a true bipolar or BPD diagnosis.

  • Delusional thinking/Paranoia - A delusion is a belief held with strong conviction despite superior evidence to the contrary. Paranoid thinking typically includes persecutory beliefs, or beliefs of conspiracy concerning a perceived threat towards oneself.  Making false accusations and the general distrust of others also frequently accompany paranoia. For example, an incident most people would view as an accident or coincidence, a paranoid person might believe was intentionally done to hurt them.

Now I shall dash this all to pieces. While we do share all of these things in common, the underlying motivations can be very, very different. Some are the same or similar, though many only look that way. The checklist symptom is the only real commonality. The impetus for them is vastly different. And why you absolutely cannot simply look at a list of symptoms and jump to your own conclusions about something so complex as mental health issues.  Tomorrow we’ll explore just how different these two disorders truly are.

** I’m having trouble getting information that I have found. There is a lot of information out there but only at a very high monetary cost. Very high. I’m doing the best I can with the resources I can find though. 


  1. I'm finding this extremely useful. I have a close friend of many years who exhibits nearly all of these traits. Some time ago, I thought she may be bipolar. After reading more over a couple of years, I thought she was more likely BPD. My amateur diagnosis of course does not matter, but it helps me make sense out of things. She is not in therapy, but she knows very well that she has "issues" that cause her to sabotage her romantic relationships. She is one of the most charming people I've ever known, but I know she's in a lot of pain underneath that well-polished facade of hers. Thanks for all of your efforts here. You are helping a lot of people.

  2. Hi Haven,
    I am commenting because I am highly impressed by:
    1) ... your ability to understand yourself ... about how you think ... and feel ... and about accepting yourself ... not everyone can have such great insight about oneself ...
    2) ... Your consistency in writing the articles ... the amount you have written in 3 years is huge ... How can one write such well thought, so insightful articles almost daily ? ... Amazing ...

    I wish I had seen your blog early ... perhaps that would have saved something in my life. I don't know !!!

    But it surely is helpful ... because knowledge gives you power to change your future ...

  3. Hey Haven, I'm a uni student and have access to loads of online articles from multiple scientific databases... If you ever need to get hold of stuff I'd be happy to help :)

  4. I have bipolar disorder, ADHD, insomnia and anxiety/panic attacks. This blog is extremely helpful and supportive. I just wanted to say that I support you and your blog and I wish you success, happiness and clarity in every aspect of your life.
    Follow my life in pictures:
    Instagram: NotoriouslyYours


Leave me a comment! It makes me feel good and less paranoid about talking to myself =)

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