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Differentiating Borderline Personality Disorder from Bipolar Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder is often confused with Bipolar Disorder, given that both of these conditions involve unstable moods, impulsive behaviors, and at times aggressivity. There are a few points that can help to differentiate these two conditions:

The symptoms of Bipolar Disorder, including the mood disturbances and impulsive behaviors, are episodic, meaning that they appear during specific mood episodes (Depressive, Manic, Hypomanic or Mixed) but then subside once these episodes have resolved. Borderline Personality Disorder, on the other hand, characterizes an individual's personality, and so the symptoms tend to be a constant feature of the person's usual behavior starting in early adulthood.

The mood swings that occur in Borderline Personality Disorder are usually in reaction to specific upsetting events, which will cause the person to become very angry, anxious or despondent for a few hours but usually not for more than a few days. In Bipolar Disorder, mood episodes tend to last for days if not weeks, during which time the individual appears to be in the grips of a mood state that seems somewhat independent from the events occurring around them.

Several of the symptoms that occur in Bipolar Manic or Hypomanic states are unique to these conditions. These include the decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, rapid speech and distractibility.

Of course, it is also possible that an individual can suffer from both Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder at the same time.


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