Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar: Is BPD Worse?

Understanding and even distinguishing between Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar Disorder can be difficult because of the crossover in the related symptoms.

Both of these mental health conditions can cause depression, drive impulsive behavior, and create outsized or unwarranted emotional responses in people living with either of the disorders.

It’s important however, to know the difference between these two conditions to be able to answer the question, “is BPD worse than Bipolar?

BPD vs Bipolar

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) falls into the category of personality disorders. This type of condition, as the Mayo Clinic defines it, is associated with rigid, unhealthy patterns of thinking, behavior, and functioning that make relating to people and situations problematic for a person.

BPD vs Bipolar

People with BPD struggle with mood, behavior and a constantly changing self-image that affect the ways in which they relate to, and understand others.

This can create significant impairment in school, a professional career and social settings.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) estimates that in the United States nearly 1.5 percent of the population struggles with borderline personality disorder.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Because of the instability related to behavior, mood and self-image, people living with personality disorders generally struggle with maintaining meaningful and productive interpersonal relationships.

Some of the Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder can include:

  • Self-destructive behaviors such as reckless driving
  • Impulsively spending large amounts of money
  • Self-harming issues, such as cutting or burning
  • Drug or alcohol misuse, dependence, or addiction
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideations
  • Confusion about one’s place in the world
  • Tendency to have a “black or white” view of events, along with habitually shifting interests and values in their own life
  • Intense, sometimes volatile relationships with family and friends who they may hate in one moment and cherish in the next
  • Periods of severe depression or anxiety
  • Chronic feelings of loneliness and fears of being alone

It’s important to note that intense stress or emotion can trigger many of these symptoms, even when these situations may appear normal or somewhat minor to others.

The severity and number of symptoms an individual with Borderline Personality Disorder experiences will also vary from person to person.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Bipolar vs BPD

Unlike BPD, which is a personality disorder, Bipolar Disorder (BD) is a mood disorder. This condition is characterized by a distorted emotional state that can range from crippling depression to extended periods of mania.

Bipolar disorder is also more common than borderline personality disorder. An estimated 2.8 percent of population copes with bipolar disorder, with around 83 percent of these cases considered severe, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

The disruption in a person’s mood state can range from severe depression to acute mania or psychosis. These different emotional episodes can last as little as a few days to months long. In between these episodes, a person with bipolar can also feel stable and productive.

There are Two Classifications of this condition:

Bipolar I are diagnoses in which a person is on the extreme end of mania, experiencing highs that impair sleep for days on end and may lead to psychosis and hospitalization.

Those diagnosed with Bipolar II are more apt to suffer serious depression.

One interesting aspect of this mental health condition is that it has been linked to people who are highly creative.

In fact, a number of celebrities with bipolar disorder have been very open about their experiences with the disorder and have discussed how treatment helped them lead healthy lives.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Though people with bipolar disorder can be stable in between swings in their mood, the extreme mood shifts can alternate between serious depression and intense mania.

Symptoms of Bipolar Induced Depression can include:

  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness and hopelessness
  • Long periods of sadness or crying spells
  • Intense worry, fear or anxiety
  • Feeling irritable, agitated or angry
  • Chronically exhausted
  • Cycles of unexplained body aches and pains
  • Difficulty concentrating or feeling indifferent about everything
  • Inability to find pleasure in activities and people normally enjoyed
  • Isolating from friends, family, work, or other social connections
  • Thoughts about death and suicide
  • Dependence to drugs or alcohol

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Symptoms of Bipolar Mania can include:

  • An overblown sense of confidence and optimism
  • Severely elevated mood despite a serious lack of sleep
  • Racing speech or thoughts
  • Impulsive or risky behavior
  • Grandiose sense of self
  • Irritability, anger and aggression
  • In psychotic episodes, hallucinations and delusions can be present

Obviously, individuals living with Bipolar Disorder I or Bipolar Disorder II will experience symptoms and episodes unique to their own circumstances.

In general however, episodes of depression can last two weeks or longer while manic episodes may last up to a week, sometimes requiring hospitalization.

Related: 4 Types of Bipolar Disorder and the Connection to Substance Use

Difference Between Bipolar and Borderline Personality Treatment

A diagnosis of either BPD or BD must come from a qualified mental health professional. They will assess a patient based on recent episodes, family medical history, and a number of factors, including the presence and severity of specific symptoms.

Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment

There is not a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved medication for the treatment of borderline personality disorder.

However, some medications, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs, may be prescribed to treat some of the symptoms.

Other treatment approaches include one-on-one counseling and group therapy.

Treatment methods like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) are also useful in helping patients with BPD express themselves and communicate with family and friends.

Bipolar Disorder Treatment

For bipolar disorder, mood-stabilizing medications can help level out extreme swings in a person’s emotional state. Antipsychotic or anticonvulsant medications might also be prescribed.

Managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder is completely achievable through a mix of medication, counseling, symptom awareness, and a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, nutrition, and avoiding alcohol or drug use.

Both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are challenging mental health conditions to live with. Left untreated, both disorders will continue to worsen. However, with treatment these conditions can improve.

For those who have used alcohol or drugs to self-medicate the symptoms on their own and developed a dependence or addiction, dual diagnosis treatment may be necessary to overcome both the addiction and mental health issues together.

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