What is the difference between borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder?
BPD and bipolar disorder are two distinctive and separate mental illnesses that are often confused to be the same as both conditions involve mood swings and impulsivity. But both conditions are different, having separate diagnostic criteria and treatment. In bipolar disorder, sufferers experience episodes of both mania and depression. Bipolar also results in rapid changes in energy levels and mood and impairs daily functioning. However, BPD patients experience intense emotional reactions, emptiness, anger and hypersensitivity.
Here are some observable differences between borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder:
- The degree and intensity of mood swings are different in BPD and bipolar. BPD sufferers typically don’t experience manic episodes, which is common in bipolar disorder.
- In bipolar disorder, mood swings can last for days or weeks, but in BPD mood shifts are short lived and last for hours or days.
- People with BPD feel extreme emotional pain, hopelessness, anger and emptiness which are associated with mood swings. However, mood changes in individuals with bipolar disorder tend to be different as they experience depression and mania.
What are the symptoms of borderline personality disorder?
In order to better understand “what is a borderline personality disorder,” we need better clarity about how the condition may manifest in a suffering. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of BPD:
- Extreme sensitivity
- Intense fear of abandonment
- Serious efforts to avoid real or perceived abandonment
- Unstable relationship patterns
- Rapidly shifting self-image and self-identity
- Risky, impulsive and self-destructive behavior, like gambling, unprotected sex, drug abuse etc
- Extreme mood and emotion swings
- Persistent feelings of emptiness
- Explosive and inappropriate anger & irritation
- Stress-related paranoia or suspicious thoughts
- Loss of contact with reality
- Intentional self-harm and suicidal behavior
- Intense anxiety and depressed mood
- Dissociation and disconnection from sense of identity or thoughts
- Difficulty trusting others
- Trouble regulating emotions
What are the main causes of borderline personality disorder?
Although the exact causes for the development of borderline personality disorder is unclear, it is believed that neurological, genetic, social, and environmental factors play a significant contributing role. As identifying the causes is crucial to know “what is a borderline personality disorder,” here are some of the most common and probable causes of BPD:
BPD is a genetic condition and tends to run in families, according to studies. If you have a first-degree family member, like a parent or a sibling, or a relative with a personality disorder, then it is highly likely that you will also inherit and develop this condition. According to a 2010 study, all personality disorders (PDs) classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) “are modestly to moderately heritable.”
2. Brain abnormalities
It has been observed that people with BPD tend to have certain abnormalities in parts of the brain that regulate emotion, aggression, and impulsivity. Moreover, they may also have different levels of brain chemicals, like serotonin, which may lead to impaired brain functioning.
3. Environmental & social factors
Individuals who experience mental, physical, or sexual abuse, neglect, abandonment, parental separation, poverty or other traumatic life events during childhood are at a higher risk of developing a borderline personality disorder. Moreover, growing up in abusive, invalidating and unstable relationships and hostile environments can also be contributing factors.
Related: 10 Signs You Had An Abusive Parent
What are the risk factors for borderline personality disorder?
Apart from the causes mentioned above, here are some common risk factors that can make someone vulnerable to developing BPD:
- Difficult, unstable or turbulent family life
- Abandonment and neglect during childhood or adolescence
- Emotional, physical or sexual abuse
- Past traumatic experiences
- Lack of communication among family members
- Suffering from childhood conduct disorder
- Early separation from parents or primary caregivers
- Parental insensitivity
- Genetic predisposition
- Serotonin abnormalities
- Social relationship hypersensitivity
- Female gender
- Other psychiatric disorders, like anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, eating disorders etc
- Substance abuse