Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition characterized by extreme and unpredictable shifts in mood, energy, and productivity. People with bipolar disorder may experience periods of high energy and euphoria (mania or hypomania) followed by periods of extreme persistent sadness and low energy (depression).
However, symptoms of bipolar disorder often tend to overlap with personality disorders, which begs the question: is bipolar disorder a personality disorder?
What is a Personality Disorder?
Personality disorders are mental health conditions that cause rigid, maladaptive, and pervasive patterns of thinking and behavior that are hard to overcome.
These negative patterns of thought and behavior often go against societal expectations and can cause significant emotional and psychological distress and make it hard to develop or maintain meaningful relationships.
Personality disorders typically emerge during adolescence or early adulthood and often persist throughout a person’s life.
Similarities Between Bipolar Disorder and Personality Disorder
As noted, people with bipolar disorder often exhibit symptoms that mimic personality disorders. For instance, people with bipolar disorder experience intense shifts in mood and energy – which are also common in people with borderline personality disorder.
Additionally, people with bipolar disorder often experience thoughts of grandeur or an inflated sense of self-importance during manic episodes, which is also a common feature of schizotypal and narcissistic personality disorders.
Bipolar disorder is also associated with impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors, which are also common symptoms of a number of personality disorders, including borderline, antisocial, and histrionic personality disorders.
Bipolar Disorder vs. Personality Disorder – Understanding the Difference
While bipolar disorder and personality disorders may share some similarities, they are fundamentally different.
Personality disorders are characterized by persistent patterns of behavior, thinking, and feelings that don’t conform to societal norms, while bipolar disorder is characterized by episodic mood disturbances.
People with bipolar disorder experience alternating episodes of mania and depression that can be disruptive and often prolonged- with symptom-free periods in between.
In contrast, individuals with personality disorders have persistent patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings that remain present regardless of their mood states.
Treating Bipolar Disorder and Personality Disorders
Because bipolar disorder and personality disorders are fundamentally different types of disorders, they require different treatment approaches. Bipolar disorder is typically treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medications, such as mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and antipsychotics.
On the other hand, personality disorders are primarily treated using long-term therapy, but your doctor may also prescribe some medication to help manage symptoms of other co-occurring disorders like anxiety and depression, which are common in people with personality disorders.
Bipolar depression and personality disorders are complete but distinct mental illnesses that share some common symptoms. While bipolar disorder is characterized by episodic shifts in mood, personality disorders are characterized by persistent negative patterns of behavior, thoughts, and feelings.
Distinguishing between the two requires a comprehensive assessment by a mental health professional and is key to developing an effective treatment plan. Treatment for bipolar disorder and personality disorders can vary but typically revolve around psychotherapy, medications, and lifestyle modifications.