Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar – Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Bipolar Disorder are two mental illnesses that are often confused with each other. Although they share some similarities, these two disorders are different from each other in many ways. In this post, we will explore the causes, symptoms, and treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar Disorder to help you understand the difference between these two disorders.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental illness characterized by intense and unstable emotions, impulsive behavior, and unstable relationships. People with BPD often have a distorted sense of self-image and a fear of abandonment, which leads them to engage in extreme behaviors or self-mutilation. This disorder affects approximately 1.6% of the US population, and it is more commonly diagnosed in women.

Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Causes of Borderline Personality Disorder

The exact cause of BPD is unknown, but research suggests that a combination of genetic and environmental factors plays a role. Some studies have also suggested that people with BPD have differences in brain structure and function, including abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala regions of the brain.

Environmental factors that may contribute to the development of Borderline Personality Disorder include:

  • Childhood trauma or abuse
  • Neglect or abandonment
  • Chaotic family dynamics
  • Having a parent or family member with a mental illness

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

The symptoms of BPD can be grouped into four main categories:

Emotional Instability

Emotional instability is a hallmark symptom of BPD and is often described as a rollercoaster of emotions. A person with Borderline Personality Disorder may feel intense and unstable emotions, rapidly shifting between extremes of joy and sadness, or anger and fear. These emotions can sometimes be overwhelming and difficult to manage, leading to impulsive behavior, including suicide attempts or self-harm.


Individuals with BPD may also struggle with impulsivity. They find it difficult to regulate their emotions or resist temptations, engaging in risky behaviours such as substance abuse, binge eating, or reckless driving. This impulsivity can result in negative consequences, such as legal issues, relationship problems, or financial troubles.

Interpersonal Difficulties

Interpersonal difficulties are also a common symptom of BPD. Individuals with BPD may experience intense and unstable relationships, often characterized by fears of abandonment or rejection. They may alternate between extreme idealization and devaluation of others, leading to difficulties maintaining stable and healthy relationships. Additionally, social situations, such as crowds or public speaking, can be overwhelming and trigger intense anxiety.

Distorted Self-Image

Finally, Borderline Personality Disorder can cause a distorted and unstable self-image. A person with BPD may feel unsure of their goals or values, struggle with low self-esteem, or feel a sense of emptiness. They may also experience dissociation, a feeling of being disconnected from their body or surroundings. Negative self-image can manifest in actions such as self-harm, substance abuse or even suicide attempts.

Other Symptoms

In addition to these four main categories of symptoms, other symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder include mood swings, chronic feelings of emptiness, and a general sense of impulsiveness or impulsivity. It is, however, essential to recognize that these symptoms can manifest in different ways for different individuals.

Treatments for Borderline Personality Disorder

Receiving a correct diagnosis will lead to tailored treatments and a better quality of life for individuals with BPD. There is no cure for BPD, but psychotherapy and medication such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers can help these individuals to manage their symptoms. Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is also effective in treating BPD. This therapy aims to teach the patient how to regulate their emotions, improve interpersonal relationships, and manage their thoughts and behaviours.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder, is a mental illness that manifests as episodes of manic and depressive symptoms. People with bipolar disorder can experience extreme mood swings, ranging from manic episodes, which involve feelings of euphoria or extreme irritability, to depressive episodes, which involve feelings of sadness and hopelessness. This disorder affects approximately 2.8% of the US population and is diagnosed equally in men and women.

Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar - Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Genetics and environmental factors both play a role. People with a family history of bipolar disorder are more likely to develop this disorder. Environmental factors that may contribute to the development of bipolar disorder include:

  • Stressful life events, such as a traumatic experience
  • Substance abuse
  • Sleep disturbances

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder are characterized by extreme mood swings, including manic and depressive episodes.

During a manic episode, individuals experience high energy, restlessness, and a decreased need for sleep. They may have racing thoughts, a flight of ideas, and an inflated sense of self-importance. In addition, they are likely to engage in impulsive behaviour, such as overspending, sexual promiscuity, or substance abuse. They may also engage in risky behaviours, such as reckless driving or dangerous sports. Some individuals may even exhibit psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations.

In contrast, during a depressive episode, individuals with bipolar disorder may experience a deep sense of sadness or emptiness, restlessness or slowed behaviours, fatigue or lack of energy, and a sense of helplessness, hopelessness, or worthlessness. They may lose interest in activities, even those they once enjoyed, and find it hard to concentrate or make decisions. They may sleep excessively or have insomnia, experience changes in appetite or weight, and have suicidal thoughts or suicidal behaviours.

Hypomanic episodes are milder than full-blown manic episodes and are characterized by increased energy, irritability, or euphoria. The individual may also engage in impulsive or reckless behavior, but the behavior may not be associated with extreme and detrimental consequences observed in a manic episode.

Bipolar disorder can also cause physical symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. During mood episodes, individuals with bipolar disorder may also experience changes in coordination, motor skills, and perception.

If left untreated, bipolar disorder can significantly impact a person’s ability to function and negatively affect their daily lives. That’s why it’s essential to seek treatment from a qualified mental health professional.

Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

Treatment for bipolar disorder typically involves a combination of psychotherapy and medication, and it often takes time to find the right balance of both to manage the disorder effectively.

Medication – mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants can help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Psychotherapy – cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy can help the patient manage their symptoms, improve their coping skills, and strengthen their support system.

Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar Disorder

Even though there are some similarities between BPD and Bipolar Disorder, these disorders are different from each other in many ways.

Here are some of the main differences of Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar Disorder:

Symptoms – BPD involves emotional instability, impulsivity, and unstable relationships, while Bipolar Disorder involves extreme mood swings between mania and depression.

Triggers – the triggers for BPD are usually related to interpersonal relationships, while the triggers for Bipolar Disorder can be related to stress or life events.

Treatments – the most effective treatments for BPD include DBT and medication, while the most effective treatments for bipolar disorder include medication and psychotherapy.

Duration of episodes – manic and depressive episodes in bipolar disorder can last for days or weeks, while the intense emotional states in BPD can be relatively short-lived, lasting only a few hours.

Age of onset – BPD usually develops in adolescence or early adulthood, while bipolar disorder typically develops in late adolescence or early adulthood.

Family history – bipolar disorder has a stronger genetic component than BPD, and having a family history of bipolar disorder increases a person’s risk of developing the disorder.

Co-occurring disorders – people with BPD are more likely to have co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse, eating disorders, or anxiety disorders, while people with bipolar disorder are more likely to have co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse or anxiety disorders.

Conclusion – Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar Disorder

In conclusion, BPD and Bipolar Disorder are two distinct mental illnesses that have some similarities but are different from each other in some key ways. Understanding the causes, symptoms, and treatments for these disorders is essential in identifying and treating these mental health issues effectively.

If you suspect that you or someone you know may be experiencing symptoms of BPD or Bipolar Disorder, it is essential to seek professional help. With the right treatment, people with BPD or Bipolar Disorder can lead fulfilling and productive lives, and managing these conditions can improve overall mental health and well-being.

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