Are Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder Alike?


Research published in The British Journal of Psychiatry and confirmed on has revealed that people who suffer from borderline personality disorder (BPD) tend to experience physical and emotional problems similar to those patients who have bipolar disorder.

“The level of psychosocial morbidity and suicidality associated with BPD is as great, or greater, than that experienced by patients with bipolar disorder,” said Zimmerman, director of outpatient psychiatry at Rhode Island Hospital and director of the Rhode Island Methods to Improve Diagnostic Assessment and Services (MIDAS). “From a public health perspective, improving the detection and treatment of BPD is as imperative as diagnosing and treating bipolar disorders.”

According to Zimmerman’s study, not only is borderline personality disorder a crippling illness just like bipolar disorder, but both disorders tend to occur quite frequently.  Nevertheless,“these co-occurring mental illnesses may have symptoms that overlap with BPD, making it difficult to recognize BPD in patients with these other mental illnesses.”

“About 1.6 percent of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with BPD, compared with 2.6 percent of those with bipolar disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. The study is the largest comparison of patients who have been diagnosed with BPD or bipolar disorder.”

Borderline personality disorder is considered a serious mental illness that is characterized by unstable moods, reckless behaviors and patients struggling with personal relationships on a daily basis. in 1980, The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental disorders, Third Edition (DSM III) listed this disorder as an actual diagnosable mental illness for the very first time. Most, if not all, medical professionals use this manual to diagnose patients with one or more mental illnesses.

Besides having problems with moods, behaviors and personal relationships, people with borderline personality disorder also experience issues with depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse (alcohol, drugs or both) and suicidal behaviors. Even though borderline personality is a difficult illness to treat it can be treated successfully over a period of time (this is true for bipolar disorder as well).

For a person to be diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, he or she has to exhibit a recurring behavior pattern which, in turn, must have at least five or more diagnosed symptoms, including:

  • engaging in any impulsive behaviors such as spending sprees
  • unsafe sexual activities and reckless driving
  •  consistently expressing feelings of emptiness or boredom
  • having anger management issues
  • showing constant shifts in moods and more

Similar to borderline personality disorder, bipolar disorder is an illness that is characterized by both highs (mania) and lows (depression). During a manic phase, some bipolar patients can lose a grip on reality and as a result, can eventually end up having a nervous breakdown.

Hypomania is also considered to be a high-energy like state, but patients do not lose their grip on reality during this phase. While patients with bipolar disorder usually tend to exhibit the same mood pattern for weeks, borderline patients’ mood swings are much shorter in duration.

“Hypomania can be a pretty enjoyable state, really,” Dr. Bearden explains. “A person’s mood can be elevated, they may have a lot of energy and creativity, and they may experience euphoria. This is the ‘up’ side of bipolar disorder that some people with the condition actually enjoy—while it lasts,” he added.

Other symptoms attributed to bipolar disorder include being unorganized or having the inability to complete tasks,  depression, irritability, rapid speech, dealing with issues in the workplace, substance abuse problems, engaging in erratic behaviors, enduring sleep problems and constantly having racing thoughts.

“This study was a component of the MIDAS project, which is an ongoing clinical research study at Rhode Island Hospital involving the integration of research assessment methods into routine clinical practice.”

Other researchers involved in Zimmerman’s study include William Ellison, Ph.D., Theresa A. Morgan, Ph.D., Diane Young, Ph.D., Iwona Chelminski, Ph.D., and Kristy Dalrymple, Ph.D.

If you are wanting to assess yourself or see if someone you know is displaying symptoms of borderline personality disorder Click Here to take the test here.

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