Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction

Signs and Treatment

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is much more common than people think. In fact, more people are affected by BPD than schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Just over 1.5 percent of the U.S. population has been diagnosed with BPD, which translates into about 4 million people. When we look at the rate of BPD around the world,  the number of individuals living with the disorder is much higher. However, there are many myths about BPD, so let’s look at some of the hard facts and research about the illness.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder?

BPD is a mental health condition where people experience a consistent pattern of mood swings, changes in behavior, and self-image issues. The mood swings can cause an individual to shift between different personalities and perspectives, which often comes with impulsive actions and anger. Additionally, people living with borderline personality disorder commonly view situations in extremes, for example, they could view someone as a close friend one day, and the next day consider them to be an enemy. Because of that, many people with BPD struggle to maintain close relationships with other people.

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Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

Borderline personality disorder symptoms may include:

  • Mood swings
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Confusion around self-identity
  • Black and white thinking (also known as splitting)
  • Anger problems
  • Impulsiveness
  • Engaging in risky or dangerous behaviors

However, it’s important to note that not every person with BPD experiences every symptom. People with BPD tend to experience episodes that last from a few hours to a few days at a time.  

Researchers still haven’t determined the exact cause of BPD, but it’s often attributed to environmental factors, like an unstable or stressful home life. Many people who suffer from BPD have experienced some type of traumatic life event, such as abuse or abandonment. There is also thought to be a connection between family history and BPD. People who have a parent or sibling who has been diagnosed with BPD could be at greater risk of developing BPD or related symptoms, like mood swings and aggression.

Borderline Personality Disorder in Young Adults

Personality is often formed by the experiences we have in childhood, so it’s likely that someone’s early development can have a lasting impact on their personality later on in life. In most cases, people with BPD are diagnosed by early adulthood, although symptoms often start to show up during childhood or the teenage years. However, scientists believe that personality disorders tend to get worse with age, especially if they go untreated. Very rarely do symptoms of a personality disorder show up for the first time in older ages. 

In the mental health community, there is significant controversy around diagnosing BPD in young adults. Many therapists have been trained to not make a personality disorder diagnosis before a patient is at least 18 years old. The reason for that is because doctors have evidence that suggests a person’s self-identity and personality are still taking shape until that point, so diagnosing someone with a personality disorder before age 18 might not be accurate. However, some new research suggests that personality traits are about as stable in adolescents as they are in adults, so childhood diagnoses could be justified.

One study, in particular, aimed to examine the risk of BPD in children and young adults. Researchers followed a group of over 200 adolescents around age 14 who were referred to a mental health program for young people in Australia. The researchers followed up with the subjects six years later when they were 20 years old, and administered the Personality Disorders Examination.

The findings uncovered that 28 percent of the subjects had a personality disorder, and 40 percent of them also had a disruptive disorder, such as ADHD or OCD. Additionally, 30 percent of young adults with a personality disorder also had at least one other personality disorder diagnosis. The data also looked at how the adolescent’s upbringing affected their personality disorder diagnosis. According to the researchers, the quality of the family environment before age 12 was the best predictor of a young adult’s likelihood of developing a personality disorder.

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How Does Borderline Personality Disorder Differ from Bipolar Disorder?

BPD is often confused with bipolar disorder, which can lead to an incorrect diagnosis. The two mental health conditions have very similar symptoms, although there are some specific factors that set them apart from each other. It’s important to correctly diagnose BPD because the recommended treatments for BPD and bipolar disorder are very different.

BPD is a personality disorder, whereas bipolar disorder is a mood disorder. Personality disorders affect a person’s way of thinking, feeling and behaving, which can impact their ability to function normally. BPD also usually affects a person’s ability to have relationships and relate to other people. On the other hand, mood disorders only affect an individual’s emotional state. The mood swings in someone with bipolar disorder are usually random, and they aren’t triggered by specific events, which is more common in people with BPD. 

The Link Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Abuse

Substance abuse is very common in people with BPD, especially as part of their tendency to engage in risky or unsafe behaviors. According to research published in Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, roughly 78 percent of adults living with BPD also develop a substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives. The data also found that people living with BPD are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol if they are low income, under age 30, divorced, or did not receive proper education.

There have been many studies published on the link between BPD and addiction. One survey found that 40 percent of people who used buprenorphine to treat opioid addiction also suffered from BPD. Another study found that half of people with BPD said they also had a history of prescription drug abuse, and over half of people with a lifetime diagnosis for BPD were also diagnosed with a substance use disorder within the past year.

Many individuals with BPD use drugs or alcohol as a way to self-medicate or mask their symptoms of depression, anxiety, mood swings, and extreme anger. The research study from Deutsches Ärzteblatt International discovered that tobacco and alcohol are the two most common substances of abuse among people with BPD. However, drugs and alcohol tend to aggravate the more dangerous symptoms of BPD, including rage and depression. As a result, people who have BPD and also overuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to hurt themselves or the people around them.

Finding Treatment in Los Angeles for Borderline Personality Disorder

At Launch Centers, we offer a unique approach to treating mental health conditions and substance abuse disorders. We offer traditional recovery services, like psychotherapy, medication, group therapy, family therapy, drug and alcohol education courses, and continued aftercare. We also offer dual diagnosis treatment for people suffering from multiple mental health conditions and addiction struggles.

However, the core of our innovative programming lies in our commitment to helping clients excel in school, pursue their passions, and achieve their goals. Our clients leave treatment with a greater sense of passion and purpose, so they have the motivation to stay sober longer and improve their self-esteem.

We believe that giving young adults the life skills they need to look for an apartment, apply to college, find a job, or budget their expenses is just as important as their mental health and substance abuse treatment plan. Our trained staff gives every client the resources to get sober and reenter the world more confidently. 

Contact us today to learn more about our dual-diagnosis treatment process, and see what sets Launch Centers apart from other treatment centers in Los Angeles. Call us at 1-424-526-5339 or send us a message to schedule a free consultation.

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