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Is Your Spouse Borderline or Bipolar? Simple Ways to Tell the Difference

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When someone suspects their husband or wife is suffering from a serious personality disorder and starts researching the matter, it’s easy to get confused with all of the information that is available. What’s especially confusing is that there is a great deal of overlap with the symptoms of various mental illnesses. Of course, only a licensed clinician can diagnose someone, but if you’ve lived with someone for a long time you know more about your spouse than any professional.

Let’s talk about how to distinguish whether someone has bipolar or borderline disorder.

What is borderline personality disorder?

Borderline personality disorder is a mental health disorder that makes the individual unstable and affects their relationships with others. Some traits of borderline personality disorder include:

  • An intense fear of abandonment, even going to extreme measures to avoid real or imagined separation or rejection
  • A pattern of unstable intense relationships, such as idealizing someone one moment and then suddenly believing the person doesn’t care enough or is cruel
  • Rapid changes in self-identity and self-image that include shifting goals and values, and seeing yourself as bad or as if you don’t exist at all
  • Periods of stress-related paranoia and loss of contact with reality, lasting from a few minutes to a few hours
  • Impulsive and risky behavior, such as gambling, reckless driving, unsafe sex, spending sprees, binge eating or drug abuse, or sabotaging success by suddenly quitting a good job or ending a positive relationship
  • Suicidal threats or behavior or self-injury, often in response to fear of separation or rejection
  • Wide mood swings lasting from a few hours to a few days, which can include intense happiness, irritability, shame or anxiety
  • Ongoing feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger, such as frequently losing your temper, being sarcastic or bitter, or having physical fights

What is bipolar disorder?

“Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

There are three types of bipolar disorder. All three types involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, irritable, or energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very “down,” sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.” (Source)

Simple Ways to Tell the Difference #1 – The Source of The Mood Swings

Although both borderline and bipolar sufferers are characterized by dramatic mood swings, the source of these shifts tends to vary. With borderline personality disorder, the shift is most often triggered by interpersonal conflicts with other people and the outside world. With bipolar disorder, the shift is triggered by internal processes that aren’t necessarily linked to relationships with other people.

Simple Ways to Tell the Difference #1 – How Long Does the Shift Last?

Although both borderline and bipolar sufferers experience dramatic mood changes, the length varies. For someone with borderline personality disorder, the shift tends to be shorter, lasting minutes, hours, or days. When someone with bipolar shifts from a state of mania to depression or vice versa, the change tends to be more long lasting- for days, weeks, or even months.

Our Firm Specializes in Southern California Divorces Complicated by Mental Illness, Including Bipolar & Borderline Personality Disorder.

Do you have a divorce or family law question?

Call our office today at (949) 363-5551. We specialize in helping clients who have divorce and family law matters complicated by mental illness. John A. Bledsoe is Orange County’s premier divorce attorney and a certified family law specialist. Our firm offers a confidential initial case evaluation to learn more.

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