Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction Treatment

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a painful, chronic mental health disorder marked by an unstable sense of self, volatile interpersonal relationships, extreme mood swings, and an intense fear of abandonment. The emotional and behavioral symptoms associated with the illness can greatly impair your ability to function and cause overwhelming distress that severely interferes with your social and professional life and can deeply damage your relationships with those closest to you. Often, these symptoms are exacerbated by substance use, as you seek to escape the pain of BPD.

All-Encompassing Instability

Borderline Personality Disorder is characterized by an enduring and all-encompassing sense of instability that impacts your thinking, your moods, your relationships, your behavior, and even your sense of self. Your extreme sensitivity and inability to self-soothe can result in lashing out towards those you believe have hurt you as well as turning your anger inward to engage in self-destructive behaviors. This emotional and behavioral turbulence can be deeply distressing for both those who suffer from BPD and those around them, who often describe themselves as walking on eggshells.

Although the causes of BPD are believed to be a complex mix of biological and environmental factors, many people struggling with this illness have a history of abuse, neglect, abandonment, criticism, and invalidation in early childhood. It is believed that a lack of healthy, secure attachments in your formative years disrupts your ability to create positive social relationships, effectively manage emotions, and experience a sense of safety and stability. As a result, your ability to perceive both yourself and the world around you in a realistic way is damaged, leading to impaired self-awareness, low self-esteem, and difficulty forming lasting, meaningful relationships with others.

Borderline Personality Disorder Symptoms

People with Borderline Personality Disorder may experience a host of symptoms that include:

  • A lack of stable identity
  • Intense and volatile interpersonal relationships
  • An overwhelming fear of abandonment
  • Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, and self-loathing
  • Perceiving yourself as being rejected even when you are not
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Black and white thinking
  • Self-harm, including cutting, burning, and hitting
  • Engaging in self-destructive and impulsive behaviors, such as high-risk sexual activity, irresponsible spending, or excessive substance use.

The type and severity of symptoms may vary over time and can wreak havoc on your ability to function in everyday life.

Hope is Just a Phone Call Away


Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction

The desire to seek escape from distress combined with poor impulse control create a perfect storm for addiction to take hold amongst those with Borderline Personality Disorder. While mental health disorders and addiction often go hand in hand, for people with BPD, substance abuse isn’t just common—it’s the norm. Experts estimate that 50-70% of those suffering from BPD simultaneously experience substance abuse disorder.

The lack of emotional regulation, deep psychological pain, strained interpersonal relationships, and lack of healthy coping mechanisms that accompany BPD can make substance use an attractive escape from the perpetual turmoil of sober life. While other forms of psychiatric illnesses can create a similar impetus for substance abuse to take root, the extreme impulsivity and propensity for self-harm that characterize BPD erase the self-protective instincts that allow most people to temper their substance use. Not only are you driven to act on self-destructive impulses, you may actively seek out self-destruction, obliterating both your ability and your desire to avoid harm. This makes addiction not only extraordinarily common amongst people with BPD, it also makes it exceptionally dangerous.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Unfortunately, many people believe that BPD is one of the most difficult disorders to treat, and are under the impression that few people achieve remission of symptoms. In fact, research shows that there are a number of highly effective therapeutic modalities that can be used to establish psychological stability and behavioral wellness. However, if you are struggling with BPD and co-occurring substance addiction, it is not enough to treat BPD alone; it is imperative that both conditions are treated simultaneously to optimize your chances of recovery. Seeking specialized dual diagnosis treatment allows you to disrupt the cycle of substance use and emotional suffering and develop the emotional and behavioral resources you need to achieve both psychological stability and sobriety.

In order to promote true and lasting recovery from both BPD and addiction, your treatment plan must be tailored to your unique needs, ensuring that you are able to engage in the therapeutic process in a way that speaks to you. A comprehensive curriculum of thoughtfully layered therapies offers you chance to benefit from a broad spectrum of approaches, including:

  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Holistic Therapies
  • 12-step support groups

An interdisciplinary therapeutic framework allows you to gain the insight and the concrete skills you need to enhance distress tolerance and impulse control, develop a more realistic understanding of yourself, and form meaningful, positive relationships. If you have a history of trauma, specialized trauma-focused therapies can be a vital part of your treatment plan to help you heal from your painful history and resolve residual symptoms. Meanwhile, exploring the complex relationship between BPD and your substance abuse and replacing self-destructive behaviors with healthy alternatives lets you break the cycle of addiction and move toward a more stable and joyful life.

For people with Borderline Personality Disorder, the treatment setting itself can be a significant factor in the success of treatment. Clinicians must strive to foster a secure and trusting therapeutic alliance with clients and create relationships in which you feel validated, respected, and understood. As such, it is essential that the treatment program you select has the expertise, experience, and compassionate approach necessary to create positive treatment experiences and foster therapeutic engagement.

If you would like more information about substance addiction and Borderline Personality Disorder or have any questions about dual diagnosis treatment, we encourage you to contact us at any time. We are always available to offer support and guidance to help you begin your journey towards recovery.