Severe Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder Lead to Misdiagnosis of Bipolar Disorder

CW; Suicide 

As many individuals go to college to seek a higher form of education for their future careers, several of them suffer from one or more mental disorders. The prevalence of mental disorders among college students is higher than the general population (Limone & Toto, 2022). For example, Borderline Personality Disorder prevalence amongst the general population is only 1.6% while college students have a higher rate of being BPD symptomatic, up to 17.1% to be exact (Meaney & Hasking & Reupert, 2016). One would assume that with the high prevalence amongst college students, a proper diagnosis would be established. But, unfortunately, Bipolar Personality Disorder is often misdiagnosed(Porr, 2017). The severity of Borderline Personality Disorder can lead individuals into depressive episodes that lead 10% of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder to commit suicide (Porr, 2017). The symptoms that are associated with Borderline Personality Disorder often overlap with more common disorders, such as Bipolar Disorder (Ruggero & Chelminski & Young, 2009). People are commonly misdiagnosed with a mood disorder rather than Borderline Personality Disorder. 

Many of these symptoms can be seen in several other disorders as well, specifically mood disorders.  The symptoms are as follows: greatly afraid of abandonment and take extreme actions to avoid what they fear; an unstable ideology of the individuals’ relationship with others; dissociating from reality for minutes and/or hours at times and paranoia associated with stress; “impulsive and risky behaviors”; suicidal ideation, behavior, and/or threats in response from fear of abandonment; “wide mood swings” that can last for hours and/or days; endless feeling of emptiness; “inappropriate, intense anger” (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2019). 

According to Ruggero & Chelminski & Young, the likelihood of individuals being misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, increases with the number of Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms (2009). This means the more symptoms an individual exhibits of Borderline Personality Disorder, the more likely they will be diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. This reinforces the assumption that the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder and Bipolar Disorder are very similar to one another, leading to a greater number of people to be misdiagnosed.

Misdiagnosis can lead to detrimental effects, such as suicide attempts and completions (Porr, 2017). The misdiagnosis of individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder accounts for 40% of individuals misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder (Ruggero & Chelminski & Young, 2009). Misdiagnosis can lead to incorrect treatments that may lead symptoms to worsen over time. Comorbid diagnoses often occur with Borderline Personality Disorder (Porr, 2017). This means there is a high prevalence of individuals with  Borderline Personality Disorder that have one or more co-occurring mental disorders. Co-occurring mental disorders may lead to a longer period of misdiagnosis. More symptoms affiliated to Borderline Personality Disorder lead to an incorrect diagnosis, thus even more symptoms affiliated to other disorders may lead to several misdiagnoses until a proper diagnosis is done. 

The stigmatization of Borderline Personality Disorder is very prevalent considering the continuous misdiagnosis of Bipolar Disorder instead. Thus it can be concluded that many clinical professionals often diagnose individuals with more common disorders without taking into account the existence of less common mental disorders. Luckily training was established to educate clinical professions with the proper diagnosis techniques for Borderline Personality Disorder (Ruggero & Chelminski & Young, 2009). 

Misdiagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder, and many other mental disorders alike, is still prevalent today. But as more awareness and factual knowledge about different mental disorders is spread, the chance for proper diagnosis to occur in the future is greater.


Limone, P., & Toto, G. A. (2022). Factors That Predispose Undergraduates to Mental Issues: A Cumulative Literature Review for Future Research Perspectives. Frontiers in public health, 10, 831349.

Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2019, July 17). Borderline personality disorder, Mayo Clinic.

Meaney, R., Hasking, P., & Reupert, A. (2016). Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms in College Students: The Complex Interplay between Alexithymia, Emotional Dysregulation and Rumination. PloS one, 11(6), e0157294.

Porr, V. (2017). Real life consequences of stigmatization, misdiagnosis, misunderstanding, and mistreatment of borderline personality disorder. European Psychiatry, 41(S1), S259–S260.

Ruggero, Zimmerman, M., Chelminski, I., & Young, D. (2009). Borderline personality disorder and the misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder. Journal of Psychiatric Research, 44(6), 405–408.

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