Borderline and bipolar patients both experience mood swings that may involve violent outbursts, depression, and anxiety. Bipolar patients typically cycle through these moods over a period of weeks or even months, while BPD patients may have bursts lasting only a few hours or a day. Manic behavior is also far more likely to be associated with bipolar. Patients with BPD tend to spend most of their lives in various different states of depression and intense feelings of worthlessness.
Patients with borderline personalities are more likely to experience not just abrupt changes in mood but what might be described identity crises. Transient, stress related paranoia and periods of disassociation are not uncommon. It’s almost as if a borderline personality is built on a psychological fault line; as a result, a patient’s interests, dislikes, and even who or what they love and hate can change in the blink of an eye. Borderline personalities behave with impulsivity, often failing to stay focused on one goal and having trouble sticking to any one activity for extended periods of time. Irrational acts such as major shopping sprees, high risk sexual behaviors, and self-harm are all telltale signs. These are also symptoms of mania in bipolar patients.
Borderline personalities also undergo periods of feeling worthless, mistreated, misunderstood, and empty. These symptoms also occur in bipolar depressive phases.
When it comes to relationships, the symptoms of both disorders tend to rear their ugly heads. Borderline personalities tend to perceive intimate or personal relationships in black and white absolute terms, with little time afforded to examining the myriad shades of gray that actually exist in human relationships, no matter the type. Either the patient is totally in love a person or hates them flame of a thousand fires. A patient may be completely in love one minute, then hate that same person due to a small conflict or stressful situation. Borderline personalities have an intense fear of abandonment that often provokes threats of suicide, preemptive rejection, and continuing bouts of depression in the patient. These relationship issues are also the source of struggle for bipolar patients as well.
Treatment of Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder are also similar. Psychotherapy and medication management have been proven effective for both, provided the patient accepts that he or she has a problem and is willing to change. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), while used extensively with bipolar patients, was originally developed for use with borderline personality disorder. Antidepressant medications such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil are frequently prescribed to both.
Like Bipolar Disorder, little is known about the actual cause of Borderline Personality Disorder. Controversy abounds regarding the impact of nature versus nurture, but research does seem to suggest that bipolar is more hereditary and biological in nature, whereas borderline personality disorder seems to result from traumatic environmental and situational stimuli (e.g., sexual abuse or neglect).
Similarities abound between both disorders. It can often be quite difficult to distinguish one illness from the other, even for doctors and psychologists. It’s also not uncommon for the two disorders to co-occur. If you or someone you love suffers from any of the symptoms discussed here, it is important you obtain the assistance of a licensed professional counselor for appropriate diagnosis and treatment. You should never attempt self-diagnosis and treatment for symptoms such as those associated with bipolar and borderline personality disorder without the help of a mental health professional. Doing so may worsen symptoms and sabotage treatment efficacy in the long run.