It’s a common misconception that bipolar disorder is a personality disorder. However, this isn’t the case. While personality disorders can cause significant distress and impairments in functioning, they are not the same as bipolar disorder. Personality disorders are characterized by impaired patterns of thinking and behaving, while bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes extreme swings in mood and behavior.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that causes extreme, erratic changes in mood. People with bipolar disorder may experience periods of intense happiness, elevated energy levels, and overactivity (known as mania), followed by periods of low mood and extreme sadness (depression).
Bipolar disorder affects an estimated 4.4 percent of adults in the United States and is one of the most debilitating mental illnesses. It can interfere with a person’s ability to lead a normal life and has been associated with an increased risk for self-harm and suicidal tendencies.
There are two main types of bipolar disorder:
Bipolar I Disorder: This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of extreme mania lasting up to a week, often followed by periods of prolonged depression. Bipolar I disorder can be very disruptive to a person’s life and often requires hospitalization.
Bipolar II Disorder: This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of milder manic episodes, known as hypomania, followed by episodes of extreme depression. Bipolar II disorder is less disruptive than bipolar I disorder but can still lead to severe impairment.
What is a Personality Disorder?
A personality disorder is a mental health condition characterized by rigid, inflexible patterns of thinking, behaving, and functioning. Personality disorders can make it difficult for people to interact, work, and form healthy relationships with others.
There are ten different types of personality disorders, each having its own set of symptoms as outlined below:
- Paranoid personality disorder: A pervasive pattern of distrust and suspicion of others.
- Schizotypal personality disorder: A pattern of odd or eccentric thinking and behavior.
- Schizoid personality disorder: A pattern of social withdrawal and a lack of interest in activities.
- Antisocial personality disorder: A pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others.
- Borderline personality disorder: A pattern of instability in mood, emotions, and relationships.
- Histrionic personality disorder: A pattern of attention-seeking behavior and a need for approval and validation.
- Narcissistic personality disorder: A grandiose sense of self-importance and a preoccupation with power and success.
- Avoidant personality disorder: A pattern of social withdrawal and feelings of inadequacy.
- Dependent personality disorder: A pattern of clinginess and neediness in relationships.
- Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder: A rigid adherence to routines and schedules.
Bipolar Disorder and Personality Disorder – The Confusion
One of the main reasons why bipolar disorder is often assumed to be a personality disorder is because the symptoms tend to overlap. For example, borderline personality disorder can cause erratic mood swings and impulsive behavior, which are landmark symptoms of bipolar disorder.
The same is true for antisocial personality disorder and bipolar disorder. Both conditions can cause people to act impulsively with little or no regard for the consequences. Another example is people with narcissistic personality disorder tend to be preoccupied with grandiose thoughts and a sense of self-importance, which are also symptoms of mania in bipolar patients.
Regardless of the similarities, it is crucial to remember that bipolar disorder and personality disorders are two separate mental illnesses.
While personality disorders and bipolar disorder share some similarities, they are two distinct conditions. The best way to know for sure if you or a loved one is experiencing bipolar disorder or a personality disorder is to consult a mental health professional for an accurate diagnosis and treatment.