Are bipolar and borderline personality disorder related? Borderline personality disorder (BPD)has been a controversial diagnosis since it was first recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980. One controversy that still has not been resolved is whether BPD is actually just a variation of bipolar disorder.
How are Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder Similar?
The primary reason that some experts have proposed that BPD and bipolar disorder may be related is that they share the common feature of mood instability. Bipolar disorder is associated with mood shifts from depression tomania (a mood characterized by elation, decreased need for sleep, and an increase in activity) orhypomania (which is similar to mania but less severe). BPD is also associated with mood changes (sometimes called “emotion dysregulation” or affective instability). People with BPD can frequently change from feeling fine to feeling extremely distressed in a matter of minutes. Impulsive behavior is also frequently experienced both by people with bipolar disorder and by people with BPD.
How are Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder Different?
What is the difference between BPD and bipolar disorder, then? Some major components separate the two. While the disorders are both characterized by mood changes, the quality of the mood changes can be very different. In BPD, mood changes are often more short-lived — they may last for a few hours at a time. In contrast, mood changes in bipolar disorder tend to last for days or even weeks. Also, mood shifts in BPD are usually in reaction to an environmental stressor (such as an argument with a loved one), whereas mood shifts in bipolar disorder may occur out-of-the-blue. Finally, the mood shifts typical of BPD rarely involve elation — usually the shift is from feeling upset to feeling “OK,” not from feeling bad to feeling a high or elevated mood, which is more typical of bipolar disorder.