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Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar

Learn similarities and differences, symptoms, and available treatment options.

Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar       

Article Contents

Understanding the Differences

Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are both common mental health disorders. Comparing Borderline Personality Disorder vs Bipolar, around 2.3 million people in the United States have bipolar disorder.1 However, borderline personality disorder affects around 4.6 million people in the United States.2

It is important to understand the similarities and differences between these two diagnoses in order to appropriately administer effective treatment.

Are Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder Related?

Although bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are similar and have overlapping symptoms, they are not related. Some scientists have suggested that while bipolar disorder may be on the BPD spectrum, the two disorders are separate.

However, the two disorders can occur together. 3

Characteristics of Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder

Both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are types of mood or personality disorders. This means both are characterized by changes in mood, including mood swings. Often, both bipolar and borderline personality disorder feature some shift between manic highs and depressive lows, although the frequency, duration, and severity of the shifts may differ.

How Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder Are Similar

One reason that it’s so common for bipolar disorder to be mistaken for borderline personality disorder or vice versa is because they share so many symptoms.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

There are three different types of bipolar disorder. However, despite having distinctions to set each type apart, all three types of bipolar disorders have many symptoms in common.

Some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

  • An excessively happy or angry, irritated mood
  • More physical and mental energy and activity than normal
  • Racing thoughts and ideas
  • Talking more and faster
  • Making big plans
  • Risk taking
  • Impulsiveness
  • Less sleep, but no feeling of being tired
  • Poor judgment

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

Borderline personality disorder has many of the same symptoms as bipolar disorder. However, often these symptoms have a longer duration and are more prevalent. There is also a lack of notable manic and depressive phases, although such mood swings can and do occur to some degree.

The symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid feeling abandoned
  • History of unstable, intense relationships
  • Poor self-image
  • Self-harm or suicidal behavior
  • Mood swings involving anger and depression
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Problems managing anger and unpleasant emotions
  • Paranoia

How Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder Are Different

Although bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are similar, there are differences. These include quality, time, cause, and degree. These differences will be further detailed below.


Both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are characterized by mood changes. However, the types of mood changes may vary.

For instance, bipolar disorder focuses on either manic highs with hyperactivity and impulsivity or depressive lows with bouts of depression and anxiety. Borderline personality disorder, however, focuses on extreme feelings of loneliness, depression, and anger.


There is also a difference in time. Bipolar disorder has mood swings that operate in phases. This means that a single depressive episode can last days or even weeks. Borderline personality disorder, however, has shorter mood phases that typically only last minutes or hours at the most.


The mood swings associated with borderline personality disorder typically have a trigger. This means that a sudden burst of excess emotion usually occurs as a result of an interaction or the environment. However, bipolar disorder can have mood swings occur seemingly out of nowhere.


Bipolar disorder often features mood swings that shift from one emotion extreme to another. For borderline personality disorder, individuals may shift from a neutral feeling of being okay to a sudden extreme.

Diagnostic Distinctions Between Bipolar and BPD

There are different steps involved in diagnosing bipolar disorder versus borderline personality disorder.

Many of the distinctions are a result of the differences between the mood swings in bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder, especially their duration, impact on sleep, and ability to increase the risk of self-harm. However, diagnosis may also be impacted by relationships and family history. BPD has less evidence of being genetic than bipolar disorder.4

Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder can make it difficult to connect with those around you. However, there is treatment available. Some of the treatments available for borderline personality disorder include cognitive behavioral therapy as well as dialectical behavior therapy.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy is one of the most utilized forms of psychotherapy. It involves a professional, licensed therapist walking the individual through various activities focused on bettering the relationship between thoughts and actions. This is beneficial in identifying triggers as well as unhealthy coping mechanisms.

This is especially beneficial for borderline personality disorder as, unlike bipolar, BPD is often trigger based.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)

Dialectical behavior therapy is a type of CBT. As a result, it has the same focus of creating a better understanding of how certain thoughts may affect actions. However, DBT is targeted at self-harm and suicide.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Like borderline personality disorder, cognitive-behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy can be equally beneficial for bipolar disorder. However, medication and holistic options may also help. Iris Healing® can curate a personalized treatment plan for you or your loved ones’ individual needs, experiences, and expectations.

Get Help For Bipolar Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorder At Iris Healing®

Both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder can make it difficult to connect with those around you. They can also make it challenging to regulate your emotions and feel in charge of your mental health.

At Iris Healing®, you’ll find a professional staff of licensed therapists and health care providers dedicated to providing high-quality care to aid in the treatment of both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder.

Reach Out Today

Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at Iris Healing® and begin your journey towards wellness, recovery, and autonomy over your own life. We look forward to connecting with you!

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