Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Bipolar Disorder: A Comprehensive Comparison

This comparison of borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar disorder will outline some of the critical characteristics that they have in common and their main differences.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar disorder (BD) are two mental illnesses that can be difficult to distinguish. Both conditions involve mood swings and impulsivity. However, there are some key differences between the two disorders that can help differentiate them from one another—let’s get into them.

Learn in This Article

  • What’s Bipolar Disorder
    • Symptoms
    • Causes
    • Diagnosis
    • Treatment
  • What’s a Borderline Personality Disorder
    • Symptoms
    • Causes
    • Diagnosis
    • Treatment
  • What’s the Main Difference Between Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder
  • How Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder Are Similar

What’s Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a severe mental health condition that affects many people worldwide. The list of bipolar personality traits typically includes extreme changes in mood, ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. People with bipolar disorder often struggle with feelings of sadness, hopelessness, despair, and thoughts of self-harm or suicide. Contrastly, they may also experience manic energy, reckless behavior, hyperactivity, and difficulty sleeping.

While the exact causes of bipolar disorder are still unknown, it is believed to be related to fluctuations in neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Treatment for this condition commonly involves a combination of medication and therapy to help stabilize moods and manage symptoms. With the proper care and support, it is possible for those living with bipolar disorder to lead healthy and happy lives.


People with bipolar disorder can swing from feeling very high (known as mania) to feeling very low (known as depression). These mood swings can last for several weeks or longer, and they can significantly impact everyday life.

Bipolar personality disorder symptoms are, naturally, different in the two phases. Symptoms of mania include feeling very happy, chattering, having lots of energy, being easily distracted, and making impulsive decisions.

Symptoms of depression, on the other hand, include feeling sad or hopeless, having low energy levels, trouble concentrating, changes in sleep patterns, and thoughts of death or suicide.


Bipolar disorder is a complex medical condition with multiple underlying causes: genetics, environmental triggers, and brain dysregulation are the most common factors.

Genetic factors are thought to play a crucial role in developing bipolar disorder, as this condition tends to run in families. Those with a family history of bipolar disorder are more likely than others to develop the condition themselves. However, other risk factors can modify this genetic influence, such as stress and trauma.

In addition, certain environmental or lifestyle factors may also contribute to the development of bipolar disorder. For instance, ongoing exposure to extreme weather conditions may put some individuals at greater risk for developing mood disorders like bipolar disorder. Likewise, substance abuse can interfere with mood regulation and increase one’s susceptibility to it.

Other contributing aspects include abnormal brain structure or function that disrupts normal mood regulation. This can be due to brain injuries or developmental problems during fetal development or childhood.


The diagnosis of bipolar disorder can be tricky because the symptoms can vary so much from person to person. For example, some people with bipolar disorder may only experience manic BPD episodes, while others may only experience episodes of depression. Still, others may oscillate between the two extremes.

In order to diagnose bipolar disorder, doctors will often ask about family history and perform a physical exam and psychological evaluation. The goal is to rule out other potential causes of the symptoms, such as thyroid problems or drug abuse. Once other causes have been ruled out, doctors can then diagnose bipolar disorder based on the patterns of mood swings that the person has experienced.


As an intricate condition, bipolar disorder can profoundly impact the lives of those who suffer from it. While there is no definitive treatment for this illness, many strategies and approaches are somewhat effective. These may include medication, therapy, lifestyle changes, nutrition, and alternative treatments such as stress reduction techniques or exercise.

Additionally, research suggests that close family support can help improve outcomes for those with bipolar disorder by providing them with tools and resources to cope with the challenges of their illness. In light of these findings, we must continue exploring new ways to effectively manage bipolar disorder so that people living with this condition can lead healthy, happy lives.

What’s a Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental illness that typically manifests in early adulthood. It’s characterized by impulsive and self-destructive behaviors, intense mood swings, and difficulty maintaining relationships (due to an intense fear of abandonment). People with BPD often have a history of trauma or abuse and may suffer from co-occurring disorders such as depression, anxiety, or substance abuse.


Additionally, people with BPD often have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships. They may exhibit signs of clinginess, neediness, and jealousy. This is sometimes manifested intensely towards one particular person, and it’s called the Favorite Person Syndrome.

Additionally, people with BPD often have difficulty maintaining healthy relationships. They may exhibit signs of clinginess, neediness, and jealousy. They may also threaten or attempt to harm themselves or others when they feel overwhelmed or betrayed.


There is no single definitive cause of borderline personality disorder, and researchers are still exploring the various factors that may contribute to the development of this complex condition. 

Some of the possible causes include genetic factors, environmental and social stressors, and biochemical imbalances in the brain. 

Ultimately, it is essential to remember that borderline personality disorder is not a personal flaw or moral failing—it’s a mental health condition requiring professional support and compassionate care.


Because these traits can be seen in other mental illnesses and normal behavior, diagnosing BPD can be challenging for healthcare professionals. However, doctors and psychologists use several different diagnostic criteria to determine whether a patient has the disorder. 

These include assessing a patient’s history of mood swings, patterns of intense relationships, difficulty controlling impulses, and worrying thoughts or beliefs. By taking all of these factors into account when evaluating a patient, clinicians can accurately diagnose borderline personality disorder. Recognizing this disorder and getting help early on can make all the difference in allowing patients to manage their symptoms effectively.


While there is no cure for BPD, effective treatments can help people manage their symptoms and lead fulfilling lives. The most common type of treatment for BPD is psychotherapy, which can be delivered in individual, group, or family formats. Medications may also be prescribed to help manage specific symptoms, such as anxiety or depression.

What Is the Main Difference Between Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder

Is borderline personality disorder the same as bipolar?

Not quite, as one is a mood disorder and the other is a personality disorder. Understanding the difference between bipolar and BPD can be critical when it comes to mental health conditions. Although bipolar disorder and BPD share similar symptoms, there are also many significant differences in their underlying causes, possible treatments, and general outlooks.

The main difference between BPD and bipolar disorder is the causes. While bipolar disorder is thought to be caused by disruptions to neurotransmitter levels in the brain, BPD is more strongly associated with early life trauma or adverse childhood experiences—it’s not unusual for children to show signs of BPD at a very early age.

This fundamental difference has implications for treatment options as well. While medications that target neurotransmitter levels may help treat bipolar disorder, they are typically not effective in reducing BPD symptoms and may even worsen some of them. Instead, psychotherapy appears to be most effective for managing and treating BPD.

Another critical difference between these disorders lies in their respective outlooks or prognoses. Although individuals with bipolar disorder experience regular setbacks on the road to recovery, their long-term outlook is generally positive once treatment measures have been effectively implemented. On the other hand, people with BPD are often still dealing with impulse regulation and other issues.

How Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder Are Similar

Both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are mental illnesses involving extreme mood swings.

People with bipolar disorder experience periods of mania, during which they may be excessively happy or irritable, and periods of depression. Similar mood swings characterize a borderline personality disorder, but these tend to be more sudden and intense. Both disorders can also lead to impulsive behaviors, such as spending sprees, risky sexual behavior, and substance abuse.

In addition, both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder can be challenging to treat.

BPD vs. Bipolar Disorder: Key Takeaways

Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are two very different mental illnesses. However, they share one commonality: both can be highly disruptive to the lives of those who suffer from them. It’s essential to know the signs and symptoms of each in order to get proper treatment and hopefully live a more peaceful life.

If you think you or someone you know may have bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder, please seek professional help.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can BPD be mistaken for bipolar?

BPD and bipolar disorder share some symptoms, making it difficult to distinguish between the two conditions. Both disorders are characterized by intense mood swings, impulsive behavior, and problems with relationships and work. However, there are some critical differences between BPD and bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder tend to experience more extreme highs and lows, known as mania and depression. In contrast, people with BPD often swing from feeling happy and content to angry and frustrated.

Which is worse—bipolar or BPD?

There is no clear answer to whether bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder is worse, as these conditions present severe challenges for those who suffer from them.
Both conditions can be debilitating and disruptive to normal functioning, making it difficult to say which one is worse overall. Ultimately, treatment options related to each condition will vary depending on a person’s individual needs and preferences. Nevertheless, it’s crucial to recognize that both are severe mental health disorders that must be treated appropriately to improve sufferers’ overall quality of life.

Can you have BPD and bipolar disorder?

While it is possible to have both, it’s important to understand these are different conditions with distinct causes and treatments when comparing borderline personality disorder vs. bipolar. If you think you may have either condition, it’s vital to seek professional help. 
A qualified mental health professional can conduct a full assessment and provide an accurate diagnosis. You can manage your symptoms and live a fulfilling life with the right treatment plan.