The Relationships Between BPD and Addiction

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) impacts how you think and feel about yourself and others, leading to problems functioning in everyday life. Trying to cope with this condition through substance use can exacerbate symptoms and lead to substance use disorder (SUD). Developing SUD can make it harder to manage your BPD and sobriety. Despite the challenges, treatment can help you manage BPD and addiction. 

Many people with SUD must also cope with another mental health condition. This is referred to as a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis. Thankfully, dual diagnosis treatment can help you manage your symptoms and live a life free of active addiction. You can live life to the fullest regardless of what mental health conditions you may have alongside SUD. Treatment is possible, recovery is attainable, even with BPD, and you can start a life of improved mental health today. 

What Is BPD?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes BPD as a mental health condition that "severely impacts a person's ability to regulate their emotions." If you have this disorder, you may experience a loss of control over your emotions. This can make you impulsive, impact how you feel about yourself, and harm your relationships. Stabilizing emotions can become increasingly challenging, especially if BPD goes untreated. Furthermore, episodes of intense emotions can lead you toward other harmful behaviors. 

Similar to other mental health conditions, the direct cause of BPD is unknown. However, researchers have ideas about what factors can increase the likelihood of developing BPD. Some of those factors are genetic, environmental, and social. Symptoms may present after: 

  • Neglect or childhood and adolescent abandonment 
  • Unhealthy family dynamics, such as poor communication or a "disrupted family life"
  • Violence and sexual, physical, or emotional abuse 

Long-term exposure to distress during childhood can also increase the chances of developing BPD. Especially in situations of neglect or abuse from one or both parents, you may experience BPD as well as SUD. 

Some people may block out or forget memories of distress or neglect. This can make it difficult for you to get to the root of your BPD or even realize you have it. So what signs should you look for to identify BPD? 

Recognizing the Signs of BPD

The most significant indicators of BPD are intense mood swings and changed feelings about yourself and loved ones. When you have BPD, you may have unstable relationships and experience a lot of emotional pain. Additionally, you may view circumstances as all or nothing, all good or all bad, or black and white. This symptom can be difficult to identify. 

Signs and symptoms for you to look out for, according to the NIMH, include: 

  • Attempts to avoid abandonment by diving into relationships or breaking them off quickly  
  • Patterns of unstable relationships 
  • Low self-esteem or distorted sense of self 
  • Erratic and impulsive behavior, such as substance use or unsafe sex 
  • Other harmful behaviors, like self-harm 
  • Experiencing suicidal thoughts or threatening suicide 
  • Feeling overwhelmingly lonely or chronic emptiness 
  • Anger management issues 
  • Experiencing frequent dissociation 

The experience of these symptoms is subjective to each person. However, if you recognize any of them within yourself, seek professional help immediately. A professional can make an official diagnosis, which is necessary before true treatment can begin. 

If you do not seek treatment, you put yourself at great risk. It's all too easy to turn to self-medication as a way to cope with BPD symptoms. Drinking alcohol, using illicit drugs, or misusing prescriptions can make your BPD symptoms much worse. You may also find yourself dependent on these substances, which leads to SUD. To avoid this, seek BPD and addiction treatment today. 

BPD and Addiction

As mentioned, mental health disorders and addiction tend to go hand-in-hand. Research indicates that approximately "78% of adults with BPD also develop a substance-related disorder." Another reason you may turn to substance use when you have BPD is that this disorder causes you to feel excessively empty and disconnected. Alcohol or illicit drugs can cause a high and euphoric sensation that helps you escape from these feelings. However, these are only temporary releases and can quickly lead to addiction. 

In the case of BPD and addiction, dual diagnosis treatment is vital. Dual diagnosis focuses on treating all disorders involved. Instead of just focusing on one disorder or the other, dual diagnosis can help you recover from your BPD and addiction simultaneously. 

Treatment Options for BPD and Addiction

Specific treatments you may expect for your BPD and addiction include: 

  1. Psychotherapy: This can be done individually or in a group setting. Modalities like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) can be beneficial. CBT helps you identify and change harmful thoughts or behaviors about yourself and others, while DBT can help you regulate your emotions. 
  2. Medications: You may be wary about using medications to treat BPD if you also have SUD. However, some medications can help you manage mood swings, depression, and other symptoms of BPD without becoming addictive. 

There are other treatments available, but these two are typically used in combination together. Together, various treatments can help you manage your symptoms, recover from SUD, and live a full life free of substance use and untreated symptoms. 

Mental health disorders and substance use often go hand-in-hand. What many do not initially realize is that substance use can significantly worsen the symptoms of a mental health condition and lead to substance use disorder (SUD). Individuals with borderline personality disorder (BPD) typically experience intense mood swings and distorted perceptions of self and feel dissociated or disconnected from the world around them. Substance use may temporarily relieve these feelings but ultimately cause several more problems. Despite the struggles of dealing with BPD and addiction, treatment and recovery is possible. To learn about your treatment options and seek treatment for yourself or a loved one, call NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400 today. 

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