Borderline Personality Disorder is a mental health condition characterized by instability in relationships, self image, and emotions. Among the symptoms for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are:
- Intense fear of abandonment
- Inappropriate or extreme emotional reactions
- Impulsive or risky behavior
- History of unstable relationships
- Unstable or dysfunctional self image
- Feelings of emptiness
- Explosive anger
- Intense and highly changeable moods
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Addiction and Borderline Personality Disorder
Addiction and BPD are strongly linked. While BPD affects only 2.7% of adults, 78% of those will also develop a substance-abuse related disorder at some time in their lives. Feelings of emptiness, distorted self image, and a high propensity for impulsive, risky, or self-destructive behaviors are thought to be key drivers in a BPD sufferer’s tendency toward substance abuse.
A patient with BPD from Harmony Recovery Group, who asked to remain anonymous, described life with the disorder as having your self image distorted because you are different and you know it. Feeling like an outsider or “alien” as she called it makes a BPD sufferer more likely to mask their feelings of self-loathing and insecurity through drugs and alcohol.
Treating Addiction and BPD Together
It is important that BPD be addressed in the treatment plan because studies have shown that these persons are less likely to to complete treatment and have shorter abstinence phases. Thus this combination requires a comprehensive therapeutic approach.
Treating both issues concurrently ensures the best chance for long-term success, as treating one without the other creates a vicious cycle in which the BPD fuels the desire to use and the substance abuse exacerbates the BPD symptoms.
Borderline Personality Disorder has been historically difficult to treat. Studies have shown significant progress can be made using Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). DBT is a type of cognitive behavioral therapy that uses a philosophical concept called “Dialectics,” based on the idea that everything is composed of opposites. Then, change can occur when there is discussion between the two opposing forces. It teaches mindfulness, distress tolerance, and emotional regulation to help patients function better in everyday life.