Borderline personality disorder is recognized by a few characteristics that are also commonly seen in someone with an addiction. The characteristics of borderline personality disorder are someone who is highly manipulative, dependent, and dramatic. There is more to borderline personality disorder though.
Mental health professionals know that this kind of behavior stems from a way to cope with overwhelming fear and emotional pain, even if it is dysfunctional. The pain and emotional instability as well as impulsive behavior put someone with a borderline personality disorder at a high risk for addiction or can be confused with addiction and in some cases where both are apparent, aggravate the symptoms.
Addiction and borderline personality disorder are hard to diagnose
When addiction and borderline personality disorder overlap it can be really hard to treat. The similarities between addiction and borderline personality disorder can make a proper diagnosis nearly impossible. Here are some examples of when addiction and borderline personality disorder overlap.
- Both are characterized by impulsive, self-destructive behaviors.
- Both may be characterized by mood swings ranging from severe depression to manic periods of intense energy.
- Both may be characterized by manipulative, deceitful actions.
- Both may be characterized by a lack of concern for one’s own health and safety and an insistence on pursuing dangerous behavior in spite of the risks.
- Both are often characterized by a pattern of instability in relationships, jobs and finances.
Suicidal behavior, moodiness, depression and paranoia are all symptoms commonly associated with drug and alcohol addiction as well as borderline personality disorder also. This is why it is really important that someone with a drug addiction try to find a dual diagnosis program that can successfully diagnose between mental illness and drug abuse.
So how do you treat addiction and borderline personality disorder?
Treating addiction and borderline personality disorder is notoriously known among mental health professionals as being difficult. Clients with addiction and borderline personality disorder often times will make unrealistic demands of their therapists and will most likely require constant contact with their treatment team. Someone with an addiction and borderline personality disorder may come off as dependent because they are often times searching for caretakers who can fulfill their emotional need. Or they can be the exact opposite and fight against their “care takers”; becoming hostile, paranoid and angry for no reason. This is especially true of someone with a borderline personality disorder and the addiction just heightens it.
One of the most successful ways to approach addiction and borderline personality disorder is Dialectical Behavioral Therapy or DBT. DBT is based on the principle that change can be balanced with self-acceptance. DBT helps individuals with severe psychiatric disorder build meaningful and stable lives. This is especially important in someone with an addiction and borderline personality disorder. Why? When someone has an addiction it may seem as if they have a mental illness when they really don’t so using medication to treatment mental health issues could be dangerous for someone who has an addiction. Until an addict recovers somewhat it is best to use some kind of psychotherapy until a proper diagnosis can be determined. This is part of the reason DBT is so great for someone with an addiction and a borderline personality disorder. DBT is offered at most drug and alcohol treatment centers including Palm Partners. Here are some benefits of a dual diagnosis program that offers DBT for addiction and borderline personality disorder:
- Helping the client find the motivation to make significant changes in her life
- Teaching the client to manage moods and handle triggers through practical skills like mindfulness training
- Eliminating the environmental cues and social connections that promote substance abuse
- Reducing the craving to drink or abuse drugs
- Identifying and pursuing meaningful, self-affirming activities that provide a sense of connection to others
- Helping the client achieve set and achieve manageable recovery goals, like staying sober for 24 hours at a time
If you or your loved one is in need of treatment for alcohol or drug addiction please give us a call at 800-821-9584.