Is ‘Borderpolar’ a Real Diagnosis? – Unpacking the Term and Its Validity

Dr. Serenity
April 11, 2023

Exploring ‘Borderpolar’: A Real Diagnosis or Myth?

Days of Our Lives star Linsey Godfrey, 33, received a borderline personality disorder (BPD) diagnosis in addition to her bipolar disorder treatment. She explains that “borderpolar” has given her an explanation for symptoms such as relationship instability, feelings of worthlessness or emptiness, and difficulty controlling impulses and anger. Godfrey advocates for accessible treatment and shares her journey of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), medication, and personal support systems to help others with similar mental health struggles.

Borderpolar: The Term, Overlap, and Symptoms

Borderpolar is a term coined to describe individuals with both bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD). Although it is not officially recognized as a diagnosis in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it is gaining interest in the medical field. Dr. Mark Zimmerman, a psychiatrist and human behavior professor, is credited with coining the term.

  • Overlap of Symptoms

It is not uncommon for individuals to receive multiple diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder and BPD. According to research, approximately 20% of people diagnosed with one condition have the other as well. However, accidental misdiagnosis can occur, especially with BPD, as some individuals may receive additional diagnoses, such as bipolar disorder, before receiving the correct diagnosis.

Misdiagnosis can happen because bipolar disorder and BPD have overlapping symptoms. To correctly diagnose an individual, doctors often need to observe symptoms over time across multiple visits.

  • Understanding Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood swings ranging from euphoric emotional highs to deep depressive lows. The symptoms vary by the type of mood episodes an individual experiences. Manic episodes cause a person to feel abnormally happy, upbeat, irritable, or energetic. Hypomanic episodes, which are less severe versions of manic episodes, also cause abnormal talkativeness, grandiosity, racing thoughts, and risky or impulsive behavior.

Depressive episodes, on the other hand, are marked by deep sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness. Other signs of a depressive bipolar episode include fatigue, inability to sleep or oversleeping, loss of interest in activities, restlessness, significant weight gain or weight loss, and suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

  • Understanding Borderline Personality Disorder

BPD affects the way individuals view themselves and others, leading to difficulties managing their emotions and behaviors and trouble maintaining stable, healthy relationships. The signs of BPD include bouts of paranoia, an extreme fear of abandonment or rejection, habitually having unstable or explosive relationships, intense and inappropriate anger, impulsive or risky behaviors, persistent feelings of emptiness, quick changes in self-image, and sabotaging one’s own successes. Suicidal thoughts or behaviors are also common.


Borderpolar is not an official diagnosis, but rather a term to describe individuals with both bipolar disorder and BPD. It is gaining interest in the medical field due to the overlap of symptoms between the two conditions. Accidental misdiagnosis can occur, so doctors often need to observe symptoms over time across multiple visits to make the correct diagnosis. With proper treatment, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and medication, individuals with these conditions can manage their symptoms and maintain healthy relationships.


Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder: How They’re Alike and How They Differ

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Bipolar Disorder are two mental health conditions that can be difficult to differentiate from each other due to the overlap in their symptoms. Researchers have been striving to distinguish the two disorders from each other, according to Mark Zimmerman, MD, a professor of psychiatry and human behavior at Brown University.

Similarities between BPD and Bipolar Disorder

Both BPD and Bipolar Disorder share some common characteristics, such as:

  • Risky or impulsive behavior, such as gambling or reckless sex
  • Extreme mood changes
  • Impaired ability to function in daily life
  • Frequent psychiatric help-seeking
  • Low self-esteem (most apparent with depressive episodes among people with bipolar disorder)
  • Substance use disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors

Differences between BPD and Bipolar Disorder

Despite the similarities, BPD and Bipolar Disorder have differences, which can help distinguish between them.

  • Risky Behavior – People with BPD tend to engage in risky behaviors as a way to cope with sadness, anger, or emotional pain, while people with bipolar disorder engage in these behaviors most often during a manic or hypomanic episode, but not during a depressive episode when they’re feeling sad or empty.
  • Duration of Mood Swings – Another key difference between the two disorders is the duration of mood swings. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) states that mood swings associated with bipolar disorder occur in the form of episodes that last from several days to weeks at a time. On the other hand, mood swings related to BPD tend to be quicker, lasting several hours to a few days, according to the Mayo Clinic.


While both BPD and Bipolar Disorder share some similar features, there are some differences that can help distinguish between the two. People with BPD tend to engage in risky behaviors as a coping mechanism, whereas people with bipolar disorder may engage in these behaviors during manic or hypomanic episodes. In terms of mood swings, bipolar disorder episodes tend to last for days to weeks, while BPD mood swings tend to last for hours to days.


Borderpolar: Why Is It Challenging to Recognize Both Bipolar Disorder and BPD?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and bipolar disorder share many symptoms, making it challenging for healthcare professionals to distinguish between them. This difficulty leads to individuals being diagnosed with one condition before the other, or being misdiagnosed entirely.

  • Similar Symptoms Masking Each Other

Both BPD and bipolar disorder have symptoms of impulsivity, mood swings, and difficulty functioning in daily life. According to Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, neuropsychologist and director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services in New York City, the overlapping symptoms of these disorders often make it difficult for doctors to recognize both conditions at the same time.

  • Misdiagnosis and Bipolar Disorder as a Primary Diagnosis

In most cases, bipolar disorder is diagnosed before BPD, which makes it challenging for doctors to detect the latter. This is because BPD symptoms are often attributed to bipolar disorder, which can lead to a misdiagnosis or delay in receiving appropriate treatment. Hafeez suggests that over time and with proper treatment, the presence of both disorders can become clearer.


How Is Borderpolar Treated?

Borderpolar, the combination of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder (BPD), can be difficult to treat, but it is not impossible. Dr. Sanam Hafeez, the director of Comprehensive Consultation Psychological Services and a faculty member in Columbia University’s PhD program in clinical psychology in New York City, notes that it’s important to treat both conditions as separate health conditions.

  • Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Mood stabilizers are often prescribed to reduce the frequency, intensity, and persistence of bipolar disorder symptoms, as well as the risk of future mood episodes. Psychotherapy, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal and social rhythm therapy (IPSRT), can also be helpful. CBT teaches individuals to identify triggers for mood episodes and manage those episodes with healthy thinking and behavioral patterns, while IPSRT helps individuals regulate their symptoms by establishing daily routines.

In some cases, hospitalization may be necessary for individuals experiencing manic episodes that go along with bipolar disorder combined with the suicidal tendencies sparked by BPD.

  • Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder

The first-line treatment for BPD is psychotherapy, specifically dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT). DBT helps individuals learn how to manage intense emotions, better their relationships, and decrease any self-destructive behaviors. While no medications are currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat BPD, doctors may prescribe medication to help manage certain symptoms, such as mood swings or depression.

  • Additional Ways to Cope

Self-care plays a key role in managing the symptoms of both bipolar disorder and BPD. Individuals can maintain a consistent sleep schedule, eat a healthy diet rich in fruits and vegetables, exercise regularly, and try mindful meditation to help manage stress. Keeping a mood journal or using a mood tracking app can also be helpful in recognizing symptoms and triggers. It is also important to understand the risk of comorbid mental health disorders, including substance use disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders, and to avoid drugs and alcohol as they can worsen symptoms.

In conclusion, while treating borderpolar can be tricky, with proper treatment, individuals with the coexisting conditions can live successful, happy, and fulfilling lives.

Author Dr. Serenity

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