Borderline Personality and Substance Abuse

Borderline personality disorder is characterized by multiple different symptoms. However, before borderline personality disorder, or BPD, was declared a diagnosable disorder the term borderline was used to recognize the possibility or existence of “borderline” symptoms of other disorders. This means that being borderline meant that you had some symptoms of other disorders, rather than a completely different disorder as we recognize it now.

Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder symptoms share similarities with the many other existing mental disorders, making it difficult to correctly diagnose. Extreme reactions or impulsive and dangerous behaviors share similarities with bipolar disorder. Suicidal tendencies and changeable moods also share similarities with bipolar or manic depression and schizophrenia as well.

Pinpointing a Cause

borderline personality disorder and substance abuseDoctors continue their attempt to pin-point a cause of BPD. Although they have not found a potential causes, doctors have found multiple theories that tend to be true with both BPD and substance abuse sufferers. These theories include:

  • A dysfunctional family environment,
  • Hereditary factors,
  • Neurological factors,
  • Brain chemistry.

Since all of these instances tend to also cause substance abuse as well as borderline personality disorder, it makes those suffering from borderline personality disorder much more susceptible to substance abuse and addiction.

Frequency of Dual Diagnosis

It has been found that a near 50% to 70% of those who have been properly diagnosed with borderline personality disorder will have or do have a dual diagnosis of substance abuse. With borderline personality patients being that “at risk” to become addicted to substances, it makes it even more difficult to diagnose those with BPD.

The Effects of Substance Abuse on BPD

It has also been found that the misuse of substances often seen in BPD patients worsens the symptoms of the personality disorder. People with dual diagnosis of substance abuse and borderline personality disorder often experience dependence issues, earlier age drinking or drug use and greater likelihood of suicidal tendencies.  Therefore, in the worst borderline personality disorder cases it is very likely that the sufferer will also have a substance abuse issue, especially with alcohol. The dual diagnosis of BPD and substance abuse can also cause increased anxiety, antisocial behavior and suicide attempts.

Some scientists and psychologists believe that the abuse of substances in borderline personality disorder patients is due to the impulsive behavior that is displayed by this diagnosis. Others wonder if there is another psychological or neurological issue that causes such great dependence and abuse problems.

Either way, it is very clear that if diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, one is much more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, than those without the disorder. It is also clear that substance use is like throwing gasoline on a fire of borderline personality. The dual diagnosis of the two strongly increases the symptoms and characteristics of the disorder while also putting the person in great danger of self-destruction.  It is in these instances that a substance abuse counselor should be prepared to follow the 12 core functions by setting proper boundaries and having community contacts for psychiatric and psychological referrals.

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