Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Bipolar Disorder

Borderline personality and bipolar: These two disorders are often confused. They both have symptoms of impulsiveness and mood swings. But they are different disorders and have different treatments.

Bipolar Disorder

Also known as manic depression, bipolar disorder causes swings in mood, energy, and the ability to function throughout the day.

Symptoms: Bipolar disorder is known for alternating periods of depression and mania that can last from days to months. During a manic, hypomanic, or depressed episode with “mixed features,” symptoms of depression and mania happen at the same time. Unlike borderline personality disorder, the mood swings of bipolar disorder are not triggered by interpersonal conflicts, last for days to weeks rather than minutes to hours, and episodes are, by definition, accompanied by changes in sleep, energy, speech, and thinking

During times of mania, symptoms might 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 (substance abuse, sex, spending, etc.)
  • Less sleep, but no feeling of being tired

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During periods of depression, symptoms might include:

  • Drop in energy
  • Lasting sadness
  • Less activity and energy
  • Restlessness and irritability
  • Problems concentrating and making decisions
  • Worry and anxiety
  • No interest in favorite activities
  • Feelings of guilt and hopelessness; suicidal thoughts
  • Change in appetite or sleep patterns

Treatment: Most people with bipolar disorder need lifelong treatment to keep their condition managed. This usually includes medicine — usually mood stabilizers, and sometimes also antipsychotics or antidepressants. Therapy can also help people with bipolar disorder understand it and develop skills to handle it.


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