These two disorders are often misunderstood and confused between one another. Bipolar disorder (formerly manic depression) and borderline personality disorder share some clinical features-primarily unstable moods and impulsive actions. They are two different diagnoses with different treatments (although psychiatrists may use medications to treat BPD as well as bipolar).
Only a qualified clinician can make a diagnosis of one or the other. However, there are a few simple ways to distinguish bipolar disorder from borderline personality disorder.
Bipolar disorder causes dramatic mood swings, from overly "high" and/or irritable to sad and hopeless, and then back again, often with periods of normal mood in between. Severe changes in energy and behavior go along with these changes in mood. The periods of highs and lows are called episodes of mania and depression.
A cycle is the period of time it takes for a person to go through one episode of mania and one of depression. The frequency and duration of these cycles vary from person to person, from once every five years to once every three months. People with a subtype of bipolar (rapid--cycling bipolar) may cycle more quickly, but much less quickly than people with BPD (shifts can even last minutes/seconds).
There are three main differences between BPD and bipolar disorder:
1. People with BPD cycle much more quickly, often several times a day.
2. The moods in people with BPD are more dependent, either positively or negatively, on what's going on in their life at the moment. Anything that might smack of abandonment (however far fetched) is a major trigger.
3. In people with BPD, the mood swings are more distinct. People with bipolar disorder swing between all encompassing periods of mania and major depression, the mood swings typical in BPD are more specific. Or, as one individual explained, “There is fear going up and down, sadness going up and down, anger up and down, disgust up and down, and love up and down." If you think you have Bipolar or BPD, or love someone with these symptoms, feel confident we can help. The clinicians at Chesapeake Psychological have extensive training and experience working with both Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder. Additionally, our clinicians are continually updating their skill base by attending workshops and seminars in order to be on the cutting edge of treatment for both Bipolar and BPD. If you have specific questions or are interested in information on joining our Dialectical Behavior Therapy Group, please call the office @ 757-420-0530.