What is the Connection Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar?

A. Pasbjerg

Borderline personality disorder and bipolar are two separate diagnoses that in some cases appear very similar, and which can in some cases go together. Both involve patients cycling from manic moods, characterized by high energy, positive emotions, and impulsive behavior, to depressive moods where the person feels sad, irritable, and lethargic. Patients with borderline personality disorder tend to be diagnosed with bipolar somewhat more frequently than patients with other personality disorders, indicating a possible link between the two. The underlying causes of the two disorders do appear to be different, however; bipolar appears to be tied to chemical imbalances in the brain, while borderline personality disorder seems to be tied closely to delayed personal and emotional development.

Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are two separate psychiatric diagnoses.
Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder are two separate psychiatric diagnoses.

The symptoms of borderline personality disorder and bipolar can often be the same, though there are factors that differentiate them. The primary feature of both disorders is a shift from manic to depressive moods; patients can go from feeling happy, elated, and energetic to having low energy and feeling negative. The presentation of these symptoms differs, however, in how frequently patients shift moods; those with bipolar will typically maintain the same mood for weeks or months before having a shift, while people with borderline personality disorder can transition between moods very rapidly, daily or even hourly.

Unlike bipolar patients, a person with borderline personality disorder may shift moods often, even on an hourly basis.
Unlike bipolar patients, a person with borderline personality disorder may shift moods often, even on an hourly basis.

There appears to be some possible connection in the likelihood of being diagnosed with both borderline personality disorder and bipolar. Studies have found that there is a higher chance that one will be found to have bipolar in conjunction with borderline personality than with other types of personality disorders. The connection is not considered strong, however, and may also be the result of incorrect diagnosis due to the similar symptoms of the two.

Though borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder can often present in similar ways, it is generally agreed upon that the root causes of each are very different. Episodes of mood swings in bipolar patients, for example, often seem to occur for no apparent reason; this is indicative of the issues with brain chemistry thought to trigger them. Those with borderline personality disorder, on the other hand, often experience changes in mood in response to environmental or situational stressors. This is typically attributed to the fact that these patients are considered to suffer from a lack of emotional maturity which causes them to view situations in black and white, making them very sensitive and temperamental.

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Discussion Comments


I asked my doctor about bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. He said that bipolar is a mood disorder and BPD, as the name suggests, is a personality disorder. He also said that personality disorders are linked to and often caused by mood disorders.


@simrin-- You are right that these disorders are confused often but it's not just the public, doctors also confuse them. The reason is because many people often have symptoms of both.

I for one have a dual diagnosis -- bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. I have symptoms of both disorders. The first psychiatrist I saw diagnosed me with bipolar but I knew even then that I had some tendencies that doesn't fit into bipolar. My current psychiatrist spent some more time with me and told me that I suffer from both and I completely agree.

Sometimes in people, these disorders cross over into one another. And we can't deny that some of the major symptoms are similar. So it's normal for regular people to not know the differences. Try not to take it personally.


I think most people don't know much about borderline personality disorder (BPD) or bipolar and lots of people confuse the two.

The other day, I was speaking to someone about my bipolar disorder and the person started talking about an acquaintance who has BPD and her destructive behavior. I pointed out that the two are not the same and have different causes and symptoms. I don't think my clarification made much of a difference for this person though. It was clearly easier for her to group these two disorders together.

It's frustrating for me because I don't want to be perceived differently than I am and I certainly don't want to be attributed with a disorder I don't have.

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