Despite a few similar symptoms, bipolar disorder is not a type of personality disorder. However, it may be misdiagnosed as one, or you can have both.
Bipolar disorder is considered a type of mood disorder. All types of bipolar disorder and depression are mood disorders.
There are 10 types of personality disorders, but bipolar disorder is not one of them.
Bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD) are commonly confused with each other, though they’re two different conditions. This confusion may happen due to:
- similarities in certain symptoms
- people receiving diagnoses of both conditions (comorbidity)
Mood disorders and personality disorders are categories of mental health conditions. Mood disorders are typically broken up into bipolar disorders and depressive disorders. These disorders are also called affective disorders because they cause significant changes in your emotional state.
The following conditions are considered mood disorders:
- bipolar I and II disorder
- cyclothymic disorder
- major depressive disorder (MDD)
- disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD)
- persistent depressive disorder (PPD)
- premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD)
Mood disorders can be short or long lasting. A mix of therapy and medication can typically manage them.
While personality disorders can also impact your emotional state, they also involve feelings, behaviors, and thoughts that affect how you:
- think about yourself
- respond emotionally
- relate to others
- control your behaviors
Personality disorders are often long lasting with patterns starting in adolescence.Bipolar disorder vs. borderline personality disorder
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes intense mood episodes where a person might feel extreme “highs” (mania or hypomania) and extreme “lows” (depression). Bipolar disorder can affect your mood, ability to function, and energy levels.
Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder that severely affects your ability to regulate emotions. The condition can affect relationships and how you see yourself.
A mental health professional may diagnose BPD when someone has patterns of:
- unstable relationships, often involving avoidance or fear of abandonment
- intense emotions, especially anger
- poor self-image
- challenges with impulsive behaviors (impulsivity)
BPD and bipolar disorder may be confused with each other because some symptom overlap. Symptoms that can occur in both conditions include:
- sudden or intense changes in mood
- inappropriate anger
- suicidal ideation or self-harm
Commonly, people with BPD have co-occurring depression, which could be misdiagnosed as a depressive episode in bipolar disorder.
Getting an accurate diagnosis can take time, especially if you have symptoms that may fit more than one condition.
Getting a bipolar disorder diagnosis will involve having a mental health professional evaluate your symptoms and their severity, along with other factors.
You can get a diagnosis at any age, though the average age of bipolar disorder symptoms beginning is 25 years old.
Diagnosing a personality disorder may not happen right away, as a clinician will need to evaluate your long-term functioning and symptoms. Keep in mind that personality disorders are only diagnosed in people over age 18, though symptoms may begin earlier.
A 2020 studyTrusted Source notes that distinguishing between BPD and bipolar disorder can be particularly challenging for healthcare professionals. This is because of the overlapping clinical definitions and risk factors. Plus, some people have both conditions.
For context, in a 2022 research review, 10% of people with BPD received a diagnosis of bipolar I disorder, and another 10% with BPD had bipolar II disorder.
Still, 80% to 90% of people with these conditions do not have both. Researchers explained some of these dual diagnoses might be due to diagnostic errors.
Researchers even found evidence that other personality disorders, such as histrionic and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, were more commonly diagnosed than BPD in people with bipolar disorder.The bottom line
Bipolar disorder is a type of mood disorder, not a personality disorder. Still, bipolar disorder does have some of the same symptoms as personality disorders like BPD.
Some people may also receive a diagnosis of both bipolar disorder and a personality disorder, so this can make diagnosis and information surrounding the conditions a little confusing.
If you believe you have symptoms of bipolar disorder or any other mental health condition, reach out to a mental health professional for an evaluation.