Borderline Personality Disorder and Co-occurring Addiction/Alcoholism

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

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According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a condition characterized by difficulties in regulating emotion. This leads to severe and unstable mood swings, impulsivity and instability, poor self-image and rocky personal relationships. With borderline personality disorder, people make several attempts to avoid real or imagined events of abandonment. Self-harm and suicide are two destructive behaviors that could result from someone having BPD.

People who have BPD typically experience periods of depressed mood, anxiety, or irritability that can last for days, disassociation, chronic boredom or emptiness, and more. These individuals may seem as manipulative or over-dramatic, but researchers have found that they behave this way to cope with the overwhelming fear and emotional pain. For people who suffer from BPD, they are even higher at risk for adding addiction/alcoholism to the mix. Almost 9 million people who have an addiction also suffer from a mental illness. There are several symptoms of BPD that overlap with addiction/alcoholism, making it hard to diagnose at times:

  • Both involve the individual acting out impulsive, destructive behaviors
  • Both may include extreme highs and lows, from severe depression to high bursts of energy
  • Both may include the person acting in manipulative or deceitful ways
  • Both may involve the person acting in risky ways without regard to their personal health
  • Both are patterned by instability in jobs, finances, and relationships

The reason why individuals with BPD may be more susceptible to addiction is because drugs/alcohol often service as depressants, which can help the person calm down their central nervous system. For a person with borderline personality disorder, their emotions can become so intense and overwhelming that they may seek alcohol or drugs to help tone them down. This is incredibly dangerous as one can see, because the side of effects of drugs clashing with the symptoms of BPD places someone at severe risk for self-harm or injury.

If a loved one is concerned that someone who has BPD may be addicted to drugs or alcohol as well, they need to seek help from a doctor. Having this co-occurring addiction is treatable, and the individual can find an appropriate recovery plan with the help of a doctor. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a common therapy method which helps individuals change their core beliefs and inaccurate perceptions on life and themselves. Dialectic Behavior Therapy (DBT) is another form often used and is like CBT but has been designed to focus more on borderline personality disorder specifically.


The serene estate of Avalon Malibu offers a unique experience for residential treatment. As one of California’s only certified primary mental health treatment facilities, our programs are trusted to provide trusted results.

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