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Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction in Women

Borderline personality disorder, also known as BPD, is a mental illness that is characterized by unstable behaviors, moods, and relationships.

According to the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition), BPD impacts one’s perception of self as well as one’s ability to control emotions and impulses, which can lead to difficulty functioning in one’s everyday life. American Addiction Centers report that between one and three percent of adults in the US are diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, and furthermore, that individuals with a personality disorder (including BPD) are at an increased risk for developing a substance use disorder. The male to female ratio of individuals diagnosed with borderline personality disorder is 1:3.

woman with borderline personality disorder

Risk Factors

There is no known singular reason for the development of BPD. However, research has indicated that several factors can play a role, placing some individuals at greater risk for its development. The National Institute of Mental Health asserts that a combination of genetics, brain structure and function, in addition to cultural, environmental, and social factors can all contribute to one’s susceptibility for developing BPD. 

  • Genetics: an individual with a family history that includes a presence of mental health disorders may be at increased risk for developing borderline personality disorder. 
  • Brain structure and function: certain studies have found that individuals with BPD have structural and functional changes in the area of their brain that controls and regulates emotion. The study also indicated that the cause for these changes, whether they be indicative of a warning sign or present as a result of BPD, remain unknown.
  • Cultural, environmental, and social factors: many individuals with BPD have self-reported experiencing and/ or being exposed to traumatic life events (i.e. abandonment, abuse, natural disaster…etc.). 

The above examples are a compilation of potential risk factors that may contribute to the cause for developing BPD. Should an individual be exposed to the above factors, he or she will not necessarily develop borderline personality disorder. Similarly, there may be individuals who do not experience any of the above factors and still may develop borderline personality disorder. Plainly put: the cause of borderline personality disorder remains unclear.  

BPD and Addiction Overlap

There are many overlaps when it comes to borderline personality disorder and addiction, as there are several characteristics that are commonly shared by both illnesses. Below are some examples of symptoms that are frequently exhibited in individuals with BPD and/ or substance use disorder:

  • Manipulative and/ or deceitful actions and/ or behaviors
  • Severe mood swings 
  • Self-destructive behaviors
  • Pattern of unstable relationships, finances, and/ or jobs
  • Lack of concern for personal safety 
  • Engaging in risky, unsafe, dangerous behavior 

Any person that struggles with a dual diagnosis will have a greater challenge ahead in terms of treatment, due to the fact that one’s treatment plan must be meticulously tailored to help one’s nuanced needs in treating both ailments simultaneously. 

Treatment and Medication for BPD

The symptoms that are associated with borderline personality disorder make the treatment for someone with BPD incredibly challenging. When it comes to a dual diagnosis, many mental health clinicians utilize the Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) approach. DBT is frequently used as a component of treatment for individuals with severe psychiatric disorders, as it is based on the notion that change can be balanced with self-acceptance. It can help people learn how to regulate emotions and foster change. This gives individuals struggling with BPD the opportunity to build meaningful and stable lives. There are other types of therapeutic modalities that can be helpful in treating someone with BPD.

Although there are currently no FDA approved medications specifically intended to treat BPD, some individuals benefit from certain psychiatric medications. These can include various medications to assist in minimizing the adverse effects of withdrawal symptoms as well as certain medications to treat depression and/ or anxiety. Antidepressants, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) can help an individual restore balanced levels of neurotransmitters, which can be a great support to one’s treatment. Depending on one’s drug of choice, anti-addiction medications (i.e. naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine) can help keep one’s intense drug cravings at bay, which will in turn provide the individual with more of an opportunity to focus on his or her recovery.

happy after treatment

Further Information

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous.

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. 

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