Is Borderline Personality Disorder A Variation of Bipolar Personality Disorder?

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A controversy that has been going on for almost thirty years and still not resolved is whether bipolar personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, referred to as BPD, are different or related.

The main reason some doctors and other experts suggest that bipolar personality disorder and BPD are associated is because they share a common symptom which is mood changes.  Associated with mood instability, they sometimes refer to BPD as affective instability or emotion dysregulation.  Patients with BPD often go from feeling extremely distressed to feeling wonderful within a few minutes.  They associate bipolar personality disorder with mood swings from mania to depression.  Elation, increased activity and a reduced need for sleep characterize mania or hypomania, which is less severe.  People with BPD and those with bipolar personality disorder frequently experience impulsive behaviour.

There are a few major differences between bipolar personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, such as the mood changes.  In patients with bipolar disorders, their mood shifts often last from a few days to several weeks whereas BPD mood shifts commonly last only a few hours.

In addition, patients with BPD usually have mood changes that result from an environmental agent but with bipolar personality disorder, the mood changes often occur suddenly and unexpectedly.  Finally, the mood shifts of bipolar disorder can go from feeling elevated or high to suddenly shifting and feeling bad whereas with BPD, the mood changes usually go from feeling ok to upset, but do not involve elation.

Researchers have not found a distinct, strong relationship between bipolar personality disorder and borderline personality disorder.  Some evidence suggests that they diagnose people suffering from BPD with bipolar personality disorder more often than other types of personality disorders. The result of one study found that approximately twenty percent of patients with borderline personality disorder had bipolar disorder, which means there may be a relationship between bipolar and BPD.

More research is required before the can definitely say that bipolar personality disorder and borderline personality disorder are related.  So far, researchers have found both marked differences and some shared features between the two disorders but not enough to come to a definite conclusion proving they are related.   Future research that includes biological and genetic causes of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder may show that between the two disorders, there are some undiscovered connections.

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