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Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction Recovery

Personality disorders affect a large percentage of the population and are sadly largely misunderstood by the general public.

There are generally 10 types of personality disorders which can be grouped into 3 different categories.

However, in this article we will be talking about borderline personality disorder (BPD). More specifically we are going to look at BPD, addiction and how they are often coupled as a dual diagnosis.

What is a personality disorder?

A personality disorder is defined as:

A deeply ingrained and maladaptive pattern of behaviour of a specified kind, typically apparent by the time of adolescence, causing long-term difficulties in personal relationships or in functioning in society.”

Borderline personality disorders

BPD distorts the person’s perception of self and interferes with their ability to maintain healthy, stable relationships.

Anyone who has BPD may be seen by their peers as dramatic, dependant and manipulative. This is because the condition is widely misunderstood and sometimes inaccurately diagnosed.

BPD most commonly arises as a misdirected and dysfunctional way to cope with unbearable emotional pain and overwhelming fear.

Borderline personality disorders and addiction

Addiction and BPD often have a close, yet extremely volatile relationship; drug and alcohol abuse exasperates some of the symptoms such as rage and depression.

These can become dangerous to both the individual and anyone who is around them at the time.

Given their overwhelming fear of abandonment, individuals with BPD are more likely to engage in drug abuse or alcohol consumption as a means to numb the pain.

Furthermore, self-harm such as cutting is very present in many individuals with BPD. This is a physical outlet for their deep emotional pain.

Suicide attempts are also an unfortunate reality for BPD sufferers and these tendencies are aggravated by substance abuse and addiction.

What causes borderline personality disorders?

Borderline personality causes remain widely unknown. However, there are various plausible theories about what could trigger this complex disorder.

  • Heredity – personality disorders including BPD are often seen in close relatives such as siblings or parents. This is indicative of a possible genetic predisposition.
  • Brain chemistry – there may be a link between BPD and certain neurotransmitters which are not being processed normally by the individual
  • Family environment – childhood trauma related to sexual or physical abuse, abandonment or neglect may be a significant contribution to BPD.
  • Neurological factors – there may be abnormalities in the parts of the brains that control behaviour, emotions and mood

It is safe to say that all of these contributing factors also play a key role in substance abuse. Childhood trauma is also very common in people who are addicted as this is a means of coping with their pain or anger.

Furthermore, there are studies which indicate that that addiction is often strongly related to brain structure and function.

Borderline personality disorder symptoms

Although symptoms can vary, the most notable are:

  • Chronic, overwhelming feelings of emptiness
  • Impulsive behaviour such as binge eating, spending sprees or reckless driving
  • A pattern of unstable personal relationships
  • Desperate efforts to avoid abandonment
  • Emotional instability
  • Recurrent suicidal tendencies
  • Intense and inappropriate feelings of anger
  • Stress-related paranoid thoughts or disassociation

Personality disorders and addiction recovery - How do BPD and addiction overlap?

The similarities between addiction and borderline personality disorder make a proper diagnosis extremely difficult. Furthermore, in the case where an individual with BPD has anti-social and manipulative tendencies, treatment can be tricky.

Several symptoms of drug and alcohol addiction are similar to that of BPD, both are categorised as:

  • Manipulative, deceitful actions
  • Lack of concern for one’s own safety and health
  • Pattern of instable relationships and jobs
  • Manic episodes
  • Impulsive, self-destructive behaviours

Borderline personality treatment

Moodiness, depression, paranoia and suicidal tendencies are all symptoms which are associated with drug and alcohol addiction.

It's for this reason that treating a dual diagnosis such as is this more challenging. It is crucial that BPD and addiction are treated concurrently, using the correct approaches.

Step Away Rehabilitation Centre Port Elizabeth - Addiction recovery programmes South Africa

At Step Away, we understand the importance of treating personality disorders at the same time as addiction. Contact us to find out more about our holistic approaches during addiction recovery.

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