There are some very close similarities between Teen Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder. And although this is true, these mental illnesses also have significant differences that are worth noting.
Teen Borderline Personality Disorder
For instance, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a personality disorder. Personality Disorders are those mental illnesses that include deep-seated and long-lasting character traits that cause distress and can lead a teen towards self-harm. Symptoms can impair a teen’s functioning in school, at home, or within relationships. Borderline Personality Disorder, specifically, characterizes certain behaviors that are significantly harmful and is worthy of examination.
These deep-seated traits in a teen’s behavior are one of the primary differences between BPD and bipolar disorder. BPD symptoms are chronic, representing a teen’s baseline. On the other hand, bipolar disorder symptoms tend to grow slowly and are cyclical and episodic. Bipolar disorder symptoms tend to be different than a teen’s usual behavioral patterns, whereas BPD symptoms are inherent in a teen’s usual behavior. For instance, impulsivity, irritability, and aggression are typical for an adolescent experiencing a manic episode. Yet, a teen diagnosed with BPD may experience these symptoms regularly.
Furthermore, the mood swings with BPD teens are abrupt, short, and often in response to an external trigger. On the other hand, teens with bipolar disorder will experience mood swings that develop slowly, last longer, and may not be in response to anything external.
Teen Bipolar Disorder
Despite these differences in symptoms, it’s still possible that a clinician might diagnose a teen with bipolar disorder instead of BPD. Some psychologists see adolescents as having personalities that are not yet stable and still developing. For this reason, diagnosing a teen with a personality disorder is at times considered too early. Instead other diagnoses are sometimes considered. In general, when seeing these signs of personality disturbance, some clinicians today might diagnose an adolescent with the appropriate personality disorder, while other clinicians might keep the disorder in mind while watching his or her client over time.
Yet, regardless of how a clinician chooses to diagnose a growing adolescent, it’s important to note the differences as well as the similarities in these diagnoses. For instance, symptoms such as having an unstable sense of self, mood instability, impulsivity, impairment in self-regulation, and self-harming behavior can be present in both BPD and bipolar disorder. These symptoms warrant the right treatment, particularly working with a psychologist and psychiatrist. A psychiatrist will be able to prescribe the right psychotropic medication while a psychologist or therapist will provide psychotherapy. Some forms of therapies include Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Both medication and psychotherapy are used to facilitate better functioning in adolescents with these disorders. Learn more about teen bipolar disorder treatments from Paradigm Malibu.
Fink, C. & Kraynak J. (2013). Bipolar disorder for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.