Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar Disorder

September 21, 2023

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Borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder are mental health conditions characterized by significant mood swings, leading some people to wonder, “Is BPD bipolar?

The key difference between bipolar and BPD lies in their classification: bipolar disorder is categorized as a mood disorder, while BPD is classified as a personality disorder.

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic-depressive disorder, involves prolonged periods of extreme highs and lows, which can persist for weeks or months. BPD, by contrast, is marked by more rapid mood shifts, cycling through various emotional states within hours or days.

Recognizing the variations in symptoms between borderline personality disorder vs bipolar

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is vital for accurate diagnosis, as the two conditions require different treatment approaches. This brief bipolar vs borderline guide highlights the following key issues:

  • Borderline personality disorder vs bipolar disorder: what’s the difference?
  • Bipolar disorder vs BPD: what are the similarities?
  • Is BPD or bipolar worse?
  • How to connect with mental health treatment in Southern California.

Symptoms of Borderline vs Bipolar Disorder

BPD and bipolar disorder share certain characteristics but exhibit distinct patterns, durations, and triggers. Emotional turbulence and impulsive behavior are common to both, yet notable differences exist when assessing bipolar vs BPD.

BPD Symptoms

These are the most common symptoms of borderline personality disorder:

  • Intense emotional shifts lasting hours to days.
  • Impulsive, risky behavior.
  • Inappropriate anger.
  • Feelings of emptiness and low self-worth.
  • Self-injury or self-harm ideation.
  • Chronic depression.
  • Distorted self-image.
  • Fear of abandonment.
  • Unstable and intense relationships.
  • Potential for uncontrolled aggression.
  • Often triggered by conflicts or stressful events.

A unique aspect of BPD is splitting, where individuals struggle to reconcile opposing emotional perspectives about themselves and others, leading to black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. This defense mechanism is often driven by a fear of abandonment, contributing to impulsive actions and relationship challenges.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

These are the most common symptoms of bipolar disorder:

  • Significant mood fluctuations between mania and depression.
  • Manic episodes include decreased need for sleep, inflated self-esteem, elevated mood, talkativeness, racing thoughts, impaired judgment, easy distraction, and sometimes aggression.
  • Depressive episodes involve depressed mood, limited expression, guilt, cognitive impairment, slow speech, low energy, negative thoughts, weight changes, insomnia, and thoughts of death or suicide.
  • Notably, manic episodes in bipolar disorder can lead to reckless behavior, despite the euphoria, and individuals may lack awareness of the consequences of their actions. Bipolar I disorder often involves cycling between depressive and manic states.

When considering bipolar vs borderline personality disorder, bipolar individuals may experience true symptom-free periods between episodes, while those with BPD often grapple with persistent emotional symptoms that can impact daily life on an ongoing basis.

image of man representing the difference between bipolar disorder vs bpd

Treatments for Borderline vs. Bipolar

How do bipolar disorder vs borderline personality treatments differ, then? The most effective approach to treating these conditions involves tailoring the treatment plan to match the individual’s symptoms, specific needs, and lifestyle.

For Borderline

  • Psychotherapy: The primary treatment for BPD is psychotherapy, with evidence supporting various approaches such as DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) for emotional management and MBT (mentalization-based therapy) for understanding thought processes.
  • Medications: The role of medications in treating BPD is less certain, but in some cases, a psychiatrist may prescribe them to address specific symptoms like mood swings or depression.
  • Lifestyle adjustments: Maintaining a balanced mood is critical, involving practices like regular sleep, exercise, and self-care. Participation in psychoeducation can also be beneficial.

For Bipolar

  • Medications: Bipolar disorder often requires medication management. Mood stabilizers like lithium and antipsychotic drugs are common, with the potential addition of antidepressants under careful supervision.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapeutic approaches like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), psychoeducation, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, and family-focused therapy can complement medication by teaching coping strategies and promoting stability.
  • Brain stimulation therapies: In severe cases, treatments like ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) or TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation) may be considered to address severe or refractory mood episodes.

Individuals with these conditions should collaborate closely with mental health professionals to develop a tailored treatment plan that addresses their unique circumstances. Effective management of both BPD and bipolar disorder can significantly improve a person’s overall well-being and quality of life.


What is the difference between BPD and bipolar?

BPD and bipolar are distinct mental health conditions. BPD is a personality disorder that primarily involves unstable self-image, relationships, and emotions, while bipolar is a mood disorder characterized by mood swings between depressive and manic states.

Are BPD and bipolar treated differently?

Yes, BPD and bipolar are treated differently. BPD is often treated with psychotherapy, while bipolar typically requires mood stabilizers, therapy, and sometimes antipsychotic medications.

Are BPD and bipolar the same?

BPD and bipolar are not the same. The conditions have different diagnostic criteria, symptoms, and treatment approaches. BPD focuses on emotional dysregulation and interpersonal difficulties, while bipolar centers around mood fluctuations between depression and mania.

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Get Treatment for Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder at Connections

At Connections Mental Health in Southern California, we understand the distinction between borderline personality vs bipolar and tailor treatment accordingly.

If you require stability and peace while you address mental health disorders like BPD or bipolar, we can help you achieve this at our luxurious beachside facility. Our team of passionate and committed experts blend holistic therapies and science-backed interventions to help you live unconstrained by mood disorders or personality disorders.

Whether you or a loved one is grappling with BPD or bipolar, engage with personalized treatment at Connections Mental Health to restore functioning and improve your mental health.

Call admissions at 844-413-0009 for immediate assistance and inpatient mental health treatment in Southern California.

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