Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness characterized by emotional reactivity, turbulent relationships, instability, insecurity and low self-image. Many people who are living with this challenging condition don’t even know they have it.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, it’s estimated that between two and six percent of people have this disorder, but BPD is commonly misdiagnosed. The symptoms of BPD resemble the symptoms of several other possible diagnoses, so the number of people with BPD could actually be much larger.
The Challenge of Diagnosing BPD
It can be difficult for mental health professionals to diagnose BPD, because so often there are other conditions that occur at the same time. Many people who have BPD struggle with other conditions simultaneously, such as substance use disorder, eating disorders, anxiety, or depression.
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Conditions with Similar Symptoms to BPD
Some of the symptoms of BPD are also symptoms of other conditions, which can lead to a misdiagnosis. Examples of these symptoms include impulsivity, shame, anger, feelings of emptiness, intense emotions and suicidal thoughts.
Conditions that have many of the same symptoms as BPD include:
One of the most common misdiagnoses for BPD is bipolar disorder. Both conditions have episodes of mood instability. When you have bipolar disorder, your mood may shift from depression to mania, in which you experience elation, elevated energy levels and a decreased need for sleep.
Mood swings are also common in BPD, but they are usually more short-lived. In bipolar disorder, mood changes can last for days or weeks, but they don’t usually last that long in BPD. Episodes of mania or elation don’t usually occur in BPD. Instead, mood swings usually range from feeling fine to feeling full of rage or other negative emotions.
Distinguishing Symptoms of BPD
The main sign of BPD is a pattern of instability in relationships as well as instability in self-image and emotions. People with this condition often demonstrate self-harming behavior such as cutting or suicidal tendencies. They may also demonstrate recklessness, such as participating in risky sexual behavior or going on spending sprees.
People with this disorder experience an intense fear of abandonment and may put a lot of effort into trying to avoid it. In relationships, they may swing from idealizing their partner to becoming very angry with the other person and intensely disliking them. They may have a lot of trouble trusting other people and be suspicious and afraid of people’s intentions.
Similar Symptoms but a Different Approach to Treatment
Although several disorders have similar symptoms to BPD, they may require a different approach to treatment. The most effective treatment for BPD is psychotherapy, while other forms of mental illness may focus primarily on medication. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) was developed to treat people with BPD to help them reduce self-destructive behaviors and control intense emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) may also help people with BPD reduce symptoms of mood swings as well as self-harming behavior.
In order to obtain effective treatment for BPD or other forms of mental illness, it’s important to get an accurate diagnosis. If your symptoms haven’t been brought under control by the current approach to treatment, you may have been misdiagnosed. Pay attention to how you are feeling and let your mental health professional know what symptoms you are experiencing.
If you or a loved one are struggling with the symptoms of BPD or another mental illness, please contact us at (855) 409-0204 or submit the form below and a treatment specialist will contact you.