Substance Use

Borderline Personality Disorder & Substance Abuse Counseling

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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is the most common – and one of the most serious – of all personality disorders. More than 5 million Americans have been diagnosed with BPD, and many experts believe the number of undiagnosed cases is even higher. 

People with borderline personality disorder frequently suffer from substance abuse, eating disorders and other impulsive behaviors. Research has shown that two-thirds of people with BPD abuse drugs and alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate as they struggle to cope with their emotional pain.

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What Are the Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder?

The symptoms of BPD and substance abuse are very similar: self-destructive actions, extreme mood swings, low self-esteem, troubled personal relationships and risky, dangerous behavior. This can make it difficult to diagnose the two conditions separately.

The misuse of drugs and alcohol can make the erratic behavior of people with BPD even more extreme, and it is often a challenge to get them to enter rehab and complete treatment.

People with BPD often have feelings of isolation, depression, and loneliness, have trouble feeling empathy for others, have a persistent, ongoing fear of being abandoned, and are often hostile toward those around them.

How Is Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosed?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders has determined that if five of these criteria are met, a person is diagnosed with borderline personality disorder:

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
  • A pattern of unstable and intense interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation
  • Markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self
  • Impulsivity in at least two areas that are potentially self-damaging (spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)
  • Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures, or threats
  • Self-mutilating behavior
  • Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days)
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (frequent displays of temper, constant anger, or recurrent physical fights
  • Transient, stress-related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?

The Mayo Clinic recently issued a report that cites several factors that may contribute to BPD:

  • Brain chemistry: BPD may be caused by imbalances in naturally produced chemicals in the brain that affect the way you behave and think.
  • Hereditary factors: Some people have a genetic predisposition for BDP. Close family members, such as parents and children, often share a risk of the disorder.
  • Dysfunctional family environment: Physical or sexual abuse may trigger BPD. Children who feel abandoned or neglected are at high risk of developing the disorder as they get older. 

How We Treat Borderline Personality Disorder And Substance Abuse

Dialectical behavior therapy was designed specifically for helping people with borderline personality disorder and is the cornerstone of treatment for BPD. This therapy helps people learn how to recognize toxicity within interpersonal relationships (from themselves and others) and maintain healthy relationships.

As part of a comprehensive addiction treatment program at Zinnia Health, it stresses the importance of remaining mindful of self-regulating your emotions without resorting to self-harming or using drugs or alcohol.

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