The relationship between self-reported borderline personality features and prospective illness course in bipolar disorder

Georg Riemann, Nadine Weisscher, Robert M. Post, Lori Altshuler, Susan McElroy, Marc A. Frye, Paul E. Keck, Gabriele S. Leverich, Trisha Suppes, Heinz Grunze, Willem A. Nolen, Ralph W. Kupka

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: Although bipolar disorder (BD) and borderline personality disorder (BPD) share clinical characteristics and frequently co-occur, their interrelationship is controversial. Especially, the differentiation of rapid cycling BD and BPD can be troublesome. This study investigates the relationship between borderline personality features (BPF) and prospective illness course in patients with BD, and explores the effects of current mood state on self-reported BPF profiles. Methods: The study included 375 patients who participated in the former Stanley Foundation Bipolar Network. All patients met DSM-IV criteria for bipolar-I disorder (n = 294), bipolar-II disorder (n = 72) or bipolar disorder NOS (n = 9). BPF were assessed with the self-rated Personality Diagnostic Questionnaire. Illness course was based on 1-year clinician rated prospective daily mood ratings with the life chart methodology. Regression analyses were used to estimate the relationships among these variables. Results: Although correlations were weak, results showed that having more BPF at baseline is associated with a higher episode frequency during subsequent 1-year follow-up. Of the nine BPF, affective instability, impulsivity, and self-mutilation/suicidality showed a relationship to full-duration as well as brief episode frequency. In contrast all other BPF were not related to episode frequency. Conclusions: Having more BPF was associated with an unfavorable illness course of BD. Affective instability, impulsivity, and self-mutilation/suicidality are associated with both rapid cycling BD and BPD. Still, many core features of BPD show no relationship to rapid cycling BD and can help in the differential diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number31
JournalInternational Journal of Bipolar Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Bipolar disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Illness course
  • Life chart methodology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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