Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction: How Do They Occur?

Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction

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The combined effects of borderline personality disorder and addiction are challenges for both the patient and their doctors. In essence, this coexistence can be lethal at times.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness with severe mood swings, behavioral changes, and impulsiveness. Consequently, these unpredictable emotional responses and bursts of anger may also lead to relationship problems. In addition, they often misdiagnose it.

When you compare the coexistence to a single disorder, they pose a greater risk to the patient. Furthermore, it increases the incidence of drug addiction. A recent study shows individuals with BPD crave alcohol more than social drinkers.

What Are the Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?

Unfortunately, the symptoms of borderline personality disorder often overlap with those of other personality disorders. Consequently, this makes the diagnosis more complicated and in many cases, can cause mistakes their diagnosis.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the symptoms include:

  • Distorted or unstable self-image
  • Abnormal response to perceived abandonment
  • Unable to set life or career goals
  • Lack of empathy
  • Ongoing thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Persistent feelings of emptiness
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Overindulgence in sex, drug abuse, binge eating or other risky behaviors
  • Intense fear of rejection
  • Paranoid thoughts fueled by stress
  • Severe dissociation from reality
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Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction: Which Comes First?

There is a clear link between BPD and addiction. However, it’s very difficult to determine whether BPD is a cause or effect of addiction. As a result, many hypotheses have been made to clarify the relation between BPD and addiction. The “self-medication hypothesis” is one of them.

The Self-medication hypothesis shows many symptoms of borderline personality disorder as major influences for drug addiction. In fact, people with those symptoms abuse substances such as opioids to feel good and achieve mental stability. Over time, drugs begin to take control of the brain and addiction eventually sets in.

Findings show that alcohol and drugs are most common addictions among people with BPD support this hypothesis.

Nevertheless, it is too early to jump into conclusions and say that BPD is the major cause of addiction. Consequently, we will need more further studies to confirm the role of BPD in addiction.

Are You at Risk of Co-existing BPD and Addiction?

Have you been abusing some drugs or alcohol and being scared about the risk of developing BPD? The following information will help you determine if you are in the red zone. Remember, the risks are amplified by drug use.

Risk Factors for BPD

  • Your genes could be the culprit: Your risk increases five folds if any of your first-degree relatives has had BPD.
  • Social and environmental factors: Many people with BPD have been found to have a history of abuse or some kind of traumatic experiences. Nevertheless, you cannot hold these factors responsible for BPD.
  • Biological factors: These include abnormal brain structures or functions that may lead to BPD.

What Treatment May Help?

There is no single treatment that can assure a cure. This condition is very complicated. Furthermore, doctors often make mistakes in diagnosis. As a result, treatment for BPD can be very tricky.

Borderline Personality Disorder

However, a careful assessment of the symptoms and their relevant addictions make up the core of the treatment. Ultimately,it will be a team effort. Active participation of the patient, family members, and many different healthcare professionals are crucial.

As with other illnesses, treatments that start early have higher chances of doing well. Doctors will design it to improve and stabilize the patient’s life. Furthermore, a combination of psychotherapy and drug therapy may help the patient.

Studies all around the world are happening to discover better treatments for borderline personality disorder and addiction. Some of the psychotherapies that have shown favorable results are as follows:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy for Substance Use Disorders (DBT-SUD): This therapy for BPD and addiction focuses on making their life better and keeping them off drugs longer. It does this by empowering the patients. It includes methods for motivation, adaptation, and creating new behaviors.
  • Dual focus schema therapy (DFST): The major aim is to prevent relapse of addiction. Through a continuous effort, it tries to change the patient’s negative picture of themselves, their environment. Furthermore, it tries to develop different coping techniques.

We still have much to find out and the conditions are very complicated. As a result, it may take a while before the launch of a definitive treatment. However, it does not mean you or your loved one has to bear the pain forever.

The available treatments and addiction experts can help you enhance your quality of life. In addition, they may minimize the severity of symptoms.

Do you have any questions about borderline personality disorder and addiction? You should talk to the experts to get accurate information. Additionally, you can also learn more about specific drug addictions from them.

We can connect you with the addiction experts in your area, Click here for details.

View Sources
  1. Marina A. Bornovalova, Brad Verhulst, Troy Webber, Matt McGue, William G. Iacono, Brian M. Hicks. Genetic and Environmental Influences on the Co-development between Borderline Personality Disorder Traits, Major Depression Symptoms, and Substance Use Disorder Symptoms from Adolescence to Young Adulthood. Dev Psychopathol. 2018. 49-65. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5662484/
  2. Bornovalova MA, Hicks BM, Iacono WG, McGue M. Longitudinal Twin Study of Borderline Personality Disorder Traits and Substance Use in Adolescence: Developmental Change, Reciprocal Effects, and Genetic and Environmental Influences. Personality Disorders-Theory Research and Treatment. 2013;4(1):23–32. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435491/
  3. Bornovalova MA, Lejuez CW, Daughters SB, Rosenthal MZ, Lynch TR. Impulsivity as a common process across borderline personality and substance use disorders. Clinical Psychology Review. 2005;25(6):790–812. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16005556

Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction: How Do They Occur?

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  • Tracy NEAL
    I’m in the UK I’ve watched a boyfriend of three years lie to his family about his addiction and would rather let them think I was cohersing him in the relationship which is why he’s violent than tell his family not to kick me out he can have periods that become lengthened with fear episodes thst mske no sense where he’s awful to me blame me almost for his family’s ulatamatums toward me and us scared to be truthful as scared of losing them . After hes thrown me out he always had me back but still unaware what has happened at first he’s feel terrible and be a very intense lovely man but in time he’s started going in with his family to blame me s he dies in these eoisided his mum lives uoastaurs i bekueve being stuck in the middle has truggered it abd makes him take more drugs now I can’t live with him and he’s scared if hurting him but the family seem scared to go against him but pull together and control him. hes always in denial.hes a drug addict to anyone else reactive with any thoughts his daughter told him in not to interfere with his drug taking he uses thus to keep going .She insists on private messages and they make him trigger whilst she gets to tell him I’m awful I think he feels guilty …. He ill though adimt he has a red must and blames me I can see the family are the trigger pressure though I see guilt and live still he stopped questioning it and has let me go but intouvh now with a ex on codenine he still messages me after a time of two weeks of not being him self after they called the police he doesn’t remember anything really only what he says to me about sleep deprivation and I cohearsed him nd silly snxius things I think it’s what the family tslk about behind my back in order to make the violence acceptable uninterestedin my view or thatvim worried about his addiction and change in character… I believe them to have the gene maybe as they pull together in immoral ways on this . Everything I’ve read about this seems like bod and drug addiction how on earth do I get him to get help .? When he blames me