5 Ways BPD is Different From Bipolar Disorder

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Nearly two-thirds of individuals with bipolar disorder have been misdiagnosed at some point in their lives, and they visit nearly four physicians on average before receiving a definitive bipolar diagnosis. Perhaps the most troubling feature is the length of time it takes for a person to receive a bipolar diagnosis and appropriate treatment. It takes an average of 10 years from the time a person experiences their first bipolar mood episode until they receive bipolar disorder treatment. This treatment gap is the result of widespread misunderstandings about bipolar disorder and how it shows in episodes, as well as a general aversion to discussing a persistent psychological disorder, especially when symptoms are present in a young person.

Before we take a look at the difference between BPD and Bipolar disorder, let’s take a moment to understand what these terms mean. 

Disclaimer: This article is meant for educational purposes only. Do not use information in this or any other article to self-diagnose or diagnose other people. If you feel that you or someone close to you may possess some of the characteristics mentioned in this or any other article on our blog and need help then please, consult a licensed mental health professional. This article is not a substitute for professional advice, but for general guidance.

What is bipolar disorder? 

According to APA, bipolar disorder is any of group of mood disorders in which symptoms of mania and depression alternate. In DSM–IV-TR and DSM–5, the group includes primarily the following subtypes: bipolar I disorder, in which the individual fluctuates between episodes of mania or hypomania and major depressive episodes or experiences a mix of these: bipolar II disorder, in which the individual fluctuates between major depressive and hypomanic episodes; and cyclothymic disorder. The former official name for bipolar disorders, manic-depressive illness, is still in infrequent use.

What is borderline personality disorder (BPD)? 

According to APA, borderline personality disorder in DSM–IV-TR and DSM–5, is defined as a personality disorder characterized by a long-standing pattern of instability in mood, interpersonal relationships, and self-image that is severe enough to cause extreme distress or interfere with social and occupational functioning. Among the manifestations of this disorder are (a) self-damaging behavior (e.g., gambling, overeating, substance use); (b) intense but unstable relationships; (c) uncontrollable temper outbursts; (d) uncertainty about self-image, gender, goals, and loyalties; (e) shifting moods; (f) self-defeating behavior, such as fights, suicidal gestures, or self-mutilation; and (g) chronic feelings of emptiness and boredom. See also mentalization.

Type of Disorder:

  • BPD is a type of personality disorder that causes people to feel, think, relate, and behave differently than people without the condition.
  • Bipolar disorder is a type of mood disorder, which is a category of illnesses that can cause severe mood changes.

Quality and Degree:

The first major distinction is that bipolar is a primary mood disorder, whereas borderline is a primary personality disorder marked by long-term interpersonal dysfunction. As a result, bipolar disorder manifests itself in mood episodes that might last a short time or last for a long time, with intervals of seeming balance in between, referred to as the baseline mood zone. As a result, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are defined as episodic. In contrast, borderline personality disorder is deemed ubiquitous when the condition’s symptoms and functional implications persist across mood states.

As a bipolar-type baseline mood zone, people with borderline personality disorder appear to be pleasant, calm or collected. Regardless of emotional state, borderline personality is frequently defined by an ongoing entangled and chaotic jumble of interpersonal connections and self-image.

Treatment Approach:

To keep their condition under control, most people with bipolar disorder require lifetime treatment. This frequently involves medications, such as mood stabilisers, antipsychotics, and antidepressants. People with bipolar disorder can benefit from therapy to better understand their condition and build coping strategies.

People with borderline personality disorder frequently require long-term treatment. Specific types of psychotherapy, such as dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) or transference-focused psychotherapy (TFP), are used to help people manage impulses (such as suicidal urges or tendencies to self-harm when they are upset), feelings of distress or anger, and emotional oversensitivity to interpersonal interactions. Medications are occasionally used to aid with these symptoms, but they aren’t always helpful and aren’t the primary focus of treatment for borderline personality disorder. Short hospital stays are sometimes necessary to manage times of crisis that pose a threat to one’s safety and well-being.

Causes of the symptoms:

Mood shifts in BPD are typically triggered by an environmental stressor, such as a disagreement with a loved one.

Mood shifts in bipolar disorder may occur out-of-the-blue without any triggers.

Sleep Cycles: 

During periods of mania and depression, people with bipolar disorder have severely disrupted sleep cycles. 

People with BPD usually tend to have a regular sleep cycle.

Risk Factors:

The link between bipolar disorder and genetics is still a mystery. Bipolar disorder is more common in people who have a parent or sibling with the illness than in the general population. However, most people who have a close relative with the disease will not develop it.

Borderline Personality Disorder is genetic and can be passed from one person to another within a family. Research suggests that people with BPD are five times more likely to have a close family member with the disorder, such as a sibling or parent.


APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from 


APA Dictionary of Psychology. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from 


Kristalyn Salters-Pedneault, PhD (February 18, 2020). Differences Between Bipolar Disorder and BPD. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from 


Jamie Ludwig (October 4, 2019). What’s the Difference Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder? Retrieved December 13, 2021, from 


Mary Jo DiLonardo (July 15, 2020). Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved December 13, 2021, from  


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