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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) And Addiction: Co-Occurring Disorders

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) and drug or alcohol addiction are common co-occurring conditions. These disorders tend to share similar symptoms and signs. Treatment for these disorders often involves a dual diagnosis program.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a mental health condition in which a person experiences distorted self-perception and extreme mood swings. An estimated 78 percent of individuals with BPD will also struggle with a substance use disorder during their lifetime.

Co-occurring borderline personality disorders and addiction can make individuals less stable and more prone to impulsive behavior. People with a dual diagnosis of these conditions may also struggle to achieve and maintain sobriety.

While co-occurring disorders can make treatment more difficult, there are therapeutic approaches that have proven successful. These include dual diagnosis treatment catered to BPD and addiction.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

A borderline personality disorder is characterized by unstable relationships, intense emotions, impulsiveness, and a distorted self-image. Without treatment, BPD can significantly impact a person’s ability to function and perform in everyday life.

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People with BPD tend to see the world in black-or-white terms. They are rarely able to compromise or negotiate. BPD can also make maintaining healthy relationships difficult if not impossible. Individuals with BPD tend to act in irrational and negative ways.

BPD is also characterized by impulsive behaviors such as spending too much money or driving recklessly. This impulsivity can contribute to the abuse of drugs and alcohol, which can eventually result in addiction.

Common symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

  • suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • drastic mood swings
  • paranoia
  • bouts of extreme aggression or anger
  • fear of being alone
  • impulsivity
  • feelings of boredom or emptiness
  • episodes of extreme anxiety or depression

Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Abuse

Borderline personality disorder and addiction often co-occur. Many people with BPD will experience substance abuse or addiction at some point in their lives.

One factor that may contribute to a person with BPD also developing a substance use disorder is the fact that people with BPD may try to self-medicate. Someone with a borderline personality disorder may try to mask or cope with symptoms by drinking or using drugs.

Both addiction and BPD share a number of similar characteristics. These include unstable relationships, self-destructive or impulsive behavior, and drastic mood swings. Because of these overlapping symptoms, it can be hard to differentiate between the two conditions and make a proper diagnosis.

Treating these co-occurring disorders can be difficult. Drug or alcohol abuse can exacerbate symptoms of BPD and vice versa. Additionally, due to erratic behavior and mood swings, many people with co-occurring disorders find it difficult to complete a treatment program successfully.

Causes Of Borderline Personality Disorder

It is believed that several factors contribute to the development of borderline personality disorder. Someone with BPD may experience one or all of these factors.

Factors that may influence someone’s susceptibility to BPD include:

  • Brain Chemistry — People with a borderline personality disorder may have altered levels of neurotransmitters in their brain. These neurotransmitters often include serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine, which are all responsible for emotion and impulse regulation.
  • Genetics — Many people with BPD also have family members who suffer from this mental health condition.
  • Childhood Environment — People who grew up in a traumatic home or with parents who were unstable or suffered from mental or substance use disorders are more likely to develop BPD.
  • Neurological Factors — Research has shown that in some people with BPD, certain parts of their brain are smaller or abnormal. These parts of the brain are responsible for controlling mood and behavior.

Many of the factors that contribute to the development of BPD also impact someone’s vulnerability to drug or alcohol addiction. For example, someone who struggles with addiction may have a history of childhood trauma or abuse.

Treatment For Borderline Personality Disorder And Addiction

Someone with a dual diagnosis of BPD and addiction will likely find the most success at a rehab facility that offers treatment for co-occurring disorders. Rather than treat only one condition, dual diagnosis treatment addresses all aspects of co-occurring disorders.

Many dual diagnosis treatment programs focus on helping a person first stop using drugs or alcohol. This can include participation in a medically supervised detox program. Once someone has successfully quit substances, he or she will then move on to formal dual diagnosis treatment.

Cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy are two of the most common types of treatment for co-occurring BPD and addiction. Additional forms of therapy may be incorporated into a program of recovery for a dual diagnosis.

To learn more about borderline personality disorder and addiction, contact a treatment specialist today.

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