Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction

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Borderline personality disorder, also known as BPD, according to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), is a mental condition characterized by pervasive mood instability (i.e. impulsiveness, distorted self-image, unstable relationships, severe difficulty regulating emotions…etc.). Individuals who experience BPD will feel extremely intense emotions for extended periods of time. This makes returning to a stable emotional baseline far more challenging, especially after experiencing an emotionally triggering event. The emotional effects of BPD can be overwhelming, and an individual may attempt to self medicate, and lessen the symptoms of BPD, through the use of drugs and/ or alcohol. According to Addiction Center, two thirds of individuals with BPD, in America, have abused drugs and/ or alcohol at some point in their lives. Hence, addiction and BPD are common co morbid disorders. There are many similarities with borderline personality disorder and addiction. The commonalities in regards to the signs and symptoms of borderline personality disorder and addiction can make a proper diagnosis difficult.

BPD Symptoms

The reason an individual may develop borderline personality disorder remains unknown. There are, however, several factors researchers believe, that contribute to its development. These contributing factors include genetics, neurobiology, environmental factors, and altered function of the neurotransmitters in one’s brain. There are several common symptoms a person with BPD may experience. An individual that has borderline personality disorder may exhibit any combination of the following examples of common symptoms:

  • Paranoia
  • Aggression
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Intense mood swings
  • Manipulative behaviors
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Unstable relationships
  • Extreme fear of being alone
  • Feelings of despair

The severity of the above examples will vary depending on the individual. It is important to note that individuals with BPD have higher rates of suicidal ideations. It is also highly common for an individual with BPD to have additional co morbid disorders, such as anxiety disorders, clinical depression, eating disorders, and/ or addiction. 

Addiction

Addiction is a brain disorder that is characterized by the habitual and compulsive use of drugs and/ or alcohol without regard for the negative consequences. Any individual that struggles with long-term substance abuse increases his or her risk for developing an addiction. The continued abuse of any foreign substance can result in severe physical effects. There are many contributing factors that play a role in the development of an addiction (i.e. genetics, environmental factors…etc.). Addiction is most commonly treated using a variety of different therapeutic modalities, and in some cases medication. 

Medications For BPD

The treatment for BPD can be challenging, as the each individual is different and will require varying levels of support. Various combinations of different therapeutic modalities, counseling sessions, and relapse prevention training may all be helpful in one’s treatment plan. Additionally, psychiatric medications can be a component in one’s treatment plan. Certain individuals benefit from medications that help to restore the balance of one’s neurotransmitters. Selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), for example, may be prescribed for an individual with BPD. For individuals struggling with substance abuse in addition to borderline personality disorder, various anti-addiction medications (i.e. naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine) may be prescribed to help reduce withdrawal symptoms and curb drug and/ or alcohol cravings. When treating addiction, an individual with borderline personality disorder should make sure to obtain treatment from a location that specializes in dual diagnosis. 

For Information and Support 

If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one in regards to substance abuse and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. If left untreated, substance abuse can result in long lasting and potentially life-threatening consequences. Keep in mind: you are not alone! There is an entire network of professionals that are available to help and support you and your loved one throughout the recovery process. The earlier you seek support, the sooner your loved one can return to a happy, healthy and fulfilling life.

Please do not hesitate to reach out with any questions regarding our specific program at Haven House Addiction Treatment and/ or general substance abuse and/ or addiction treatment related information. Our highly trained staff is readily available to discuss how we might best be able to help you and your loved one.

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