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How do Psychologists Differentiate between Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder?

Commonalities Between Borderline Personality Disorder And Bipolar Disorder

For the average person with some knowledge of psychiatric disorders, it may seem like there are many commonalities between borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder. If it seems that way, it is because there are. Like many psychiatric diagnosis, certain symptoms may be characteristic of more than one diagnosis. Fortunately, psychologists and other mental health professionals have determined strict diagnostic criteria that helps us to make the most accurate diagnosis possible.

Mood vs. Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder share some common features such as unstable moods and impulsive actions. Though they may seem similar, they are, in fact, different. For one, borderline personality disorder is categorized as a personality disorder while bipolar disorder is categorized as a mood disorder. In other words, bipolar disorder affects your mood whereas borderline personality disorder is a function of basic personality development.

Duration of Mood Swings

The mood swings associated with both disorders are differentiated in their length of time. An individual with borderline personality disorder can experience mood changes several times within an hour whereas one with bipolar disorder can stay in a mood for days or weeks. They also vary in intensity. Those with borderline personality disorder experience shifts in mood that might be more frequent, but vary to a smaller degree than the vast differences in intensity in the mood swings of those with bipolar disorder.

Origin Of Mood Swings

The origin of mood swings is also different between each disorder. In borderline personality disorder, external circumstances, or what is going on in their life in that moment, are generally triggers. This displays as an extreme dependence on either the people in their life or the situation they are in to determine mood. In bipolar disorder, shifts in mood usually come from internal influences. Research also supports that individuals with borderline personality disorder were more likely to have experienced childhood trauma than those with bipolar disorder.

Though many psychiatric disorders share similar features, all presenting symptoms and characteristics must be considered before a mental health professional is able to make an accurate diagnosis. We hope this has cleared up some of the questions you.

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