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J Psychiatr Res. 2001 Nov-Dec;35(6):307-12.

Affective instability and impulsivity in borderline personality and bipolar II disorders: similarities and differences.

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  • 1Service Universitaire de Psychiatrie, Centre Hospitalier Charles Perrens, 121 rue de la B├ęchade, 33076, Bordeaux, France.



many studies have reported a high degree of comorbidity between mood disorders, among which are bipolar disorders, and borderline personality disorder and some studies have suggested that these disorders are co-transmitted in families. However, few studies have compared personality traits between these disorders to determine whether there is a dimensional overlap between the two diagnoses. The aim of this study was to compare impulsivity, affective lability and intensity in patients with borderline personality and bipolar II disorder and in subjects with neither of these diagnoses.


patients with borderline personality but without bipolar disorder (n=29), patients with bipolar II disorder without borderline personality but with other personality disorders (n=14), patients with both borderline personality and bipolar II disorder (n=12), and patients with neither borderline personality nor bipolar disorder but other personality disorders (OPD; n=93) were assessed using the Affective Lability Scale (ALS), the Affect Intensity Measure (AIM), the Buss-Durkee Hostility Inventory (BDHI) and the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale (BIS-7B).


borderline personality patients had significantly higher ALS total scores (P<0.05) and bipolar II patients tended to have higher ALS scores than patients with OPD (P<0.06). On one of the ALS subscales, the borderline patients displayed significant higher affective lability between euthymia and anger (P<0.002), whereas patients with bipolar II disorder displayed affective lability between euthymia and depression (P<0.04), or elation (P<0.01) or between depression and elation (P<0.01). A significant interaction between borderline personality and bipolar II disorder was observed for lability between anxiety and depression (P<0.01) with the ALS. High scores for impulsiveness (BISTOT, P<0.001) and hostility (BDHI, P<0.05) were obtained for borderline personality patients only and no significant interactions between diagnoses were observed. Only borderline personality patients tended to have higher affective intensity (AIM, P<0.07).


borderline personality disorder and bipolar II disorder appear to involve affective lability, which may account for the efficacy of mood stabilizers treatments in both disorders. However, our results suggest that borderline personality disorder cannot be viewed as an attenuated group of affective disorders.

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