Evidence-Based Reviews

Bipolar disorder or borderline personality disorder?

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Several factors might make clinicians reluctant to diagnose BPD, or bias them to diagnose BD more frequently. These include a lack of familiarity with the diagnostic criteria for BPD, the phenotypical resemblance between BP and BPD, or even concerns about the stigma and negative implications that are associated with a BPD diagnosis.32,37,38

Whereas BD is currently perceived as a condition with a strong biological basis, there are considerable misconceptions regarding BPD and its nature.4-6,22,26 As a consequence, individuals with BPD tend to be perceived as “difficult-to-treat,” “uncooperative,” or “attention-seeking.” These misconceptions may result in poor clinician-patient relationships, unmet clinical and psychiatric needs, and frustration for both clinicians and patients.37

Through advances in biological psychiatry, precision medicine may someday be a part of psychiatric practice. Biological “signatures” may eventually help clinicians in diagnosing and treating psychiatric disorders. Presently, however, rigorous history-taking and comprehensive clinical assessments are still the most powerful tools a clinician can use to accomplish these goals. Finally, destigmatizing psychiatric disorders and educating patients and clinicians are also critical to improving clinical outcomes and promoting mental health in a compassionate and empathetic fashion.

Bottom Line

Despite the phenotypical resemblance between bipolar disorder (BP) and borderline personality disorder (BPD), the 2 are independent conditions with distinct neurobiological and psychopathological underpinnings. Clinicians can use a rigorous assessment of pathological personality traits and characterization of symptoms, such as onset patterns, clinical course, and phenomenology, to properly distinguish between BP and BPD.

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