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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) & Substance Abuse

Borderline Personality Disorder or the abbreviated BPD is one of several personality disorders recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. This group of disorders is seen as individuals who display poorly adapted or maladaptive personality traits.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

The way someone acts who has BPD is often explained to people as a push-pull: I love you, don’t leave me; I hate you, go away. The National Institute of Mental Health states that about 1.6% of the population is diagnosed with BPD every year, however, there is a strong belief in the healthcare community that there is significant under-diagnosis and misdiagnosis. 

There is also a common misunderstanding that the disorder affects women more often than men, this is largely due to early studies and have been refuted in more recent research.

The DSM V characterizes the disorder as a pattern of  unstable interpersonal relationships and self-image. Symptoms usually begin around adolescent to early adulthood and they occur within a variety of relationships or environments such as home, school, social and romantic.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Some of the Defining Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder:

  • Using extreme measures to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • Unstable and intense personal relationship that swing from idolization to aberration
  • Unstable self image or sense of self
  • Impulsivity particularly around risky behaviors: financial, sex, eating, driving, substance use
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior: ideation, threats, self-harm, or suicidal attempts
  • Unstable mood with intense and inappropriate anger that the individual cannot control
  • Paranoia or dissociative-like symptoms that are stress related

There is a lack of research and study around how and why BPD occurs. There is a strong belief that it is both biologically and environmentally related. However, what is know is that BPD is highly linked to other mentally illness with 85% of those diagnosed meeting the criteria for a second co-occurring illness. Anxiety, depression, Eating Disorders and Substance Abuse all show a high likelihood for comorbidity.

Borderline Personality Disorder & Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse in particular can have a devastating result for those with BPD. Given that the illness often emerges around late adolescence and that risky behaviors are a major symptom of BDP, it is unsurprising that substance use can play such a role within this disorder. 

Substances can be a way for those suffering to escape or mask their pain, as well as  a manner of acting out or an attempt to avoid abandonment. It is important to keep in mind that while substance use can appear to be a symptom of BPD, it can often become a dependence and a disorder. 

Incidences and severity of risky behaviors can also significantly increased when a teen or young adult with BDP is using. Females with the disorder are at a much higher risk than other women for sexual assault and this is often due to their substance usage paired with other dangerous behaviors.

Having a child or loved one with BPD can be extremely difficult and frustrating. Given the nature of the illness, there can be a sense that the individual does not want to get better or is manipulating with their illness. Symptoms tend to worsen without treatment and there are often periods of escalation during times of stress. 

Getting experienced clinical treatment and realizing you are not alone is essential. There are available  outpatient treatment centers that can help.

Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline Personality Disorder Treatment Options

For many years, Borderline Personality Disorder was viewed as untreatable and those suffering were given few options. This is not the case. There are many ways to treat BPD both psychiatrically and with therapy. Those suffering with BPD and substance abuse or other psychological disorders can find effective clinical treatment

If you have a young adult who is struggling with addiction or Borderline Personality Disorder and are looking for treatment programs for young adult substance abuse we can offer support. We are here to help you and your child.

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