When Women Battle ADHD and Borderline Personality Disorder

Does BPD Camouflage ADHD Symptoms?

There is a lot of overlap between the symptoms of the two disorders. The experience of women with ADHD, BPD, or both is characterized by difficulties in self-regulation; feelings, behavior, relationships, and sense of self are chronically unstable. They are challenged by impulsivity and emotional volatility, especially in managing anger. In both disorders, impulsivity can lead to gambling, financial troubles, eating disorders, substance abuse, and unsafe sex.

Both groups are hypersensitive to sensory changes. With either or both disorders, the battle to self-regulate leads women to feel ashamed, unsupported, and alone, struggling with anxiety, depression, rage, panic, and despair. In some cases, the more dramatic BPD symptoms can camouflage the more classic ADHD symptoms.

There are clear differences between the two diagnoses as well. The core symptoms of ADHD, such as persistent inattention, distractibility, and hyperactivity, are not among the criteria for BPD. Stress-related dissociative symptoms and paranoid thoughts that may occur in BPD are not ADHD symptoms. While women with either disorder may experience despair, women with ADHD are more likely to be responding to the shame and demoralization they feel about the choices they’ve made. Women with BPD are more likely to feel hopeless and frantic in response to perceived losses in relationships.

For untreated women with either or both diagnoses, there is the risk for self-harm and suicidality. However, the risk for these self-destructive behaviors is much higher for women with BPD. The risk of suicide is real, and must be taken seriously.
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