Updated on April 23, 2024
6 min read

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD): Addiction, Signs & Treatment

If you're living with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), you might feel like your feelings are a constant rollercoaster and find that all kinds of relationships can be challenging. It's important to remember that you're not alone, and things can get better. 

With the right support and treatment, you can learn to navigate the challenges of BPD and build a more fulfilling life. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the condition, exploring the signs of BPD, the kind of help that’s available, and why it’s important to be aware of its connection to addiction.

Our goal is to help you gain a better understanding of BPD so you can move forward with knowledge, support, and, most importantly, hope for the future.

How are BPD and Addiction Related?

If you have BPD, there's a higher chance you might also struggle with addiction. This is because the condition can sometimes lead to overwhelming emotions that are hard to manage. Some people turn to substances like drugs or alcohol to try and cope with these challenges.

BPD can be connected to impulsivity, making it harder to resist the urge to use substances, especially during difficult moments. It's also important to know that BPD and addiction sometimes share common risk factors, like family history or past traumatic experiences.

Why Do People with BPD Develop Addiction?

People who have BPD and develop addictions often do so because they want to alleviate the difficult symptoms that come with BPD, leading to self-medication. This is dangerous, but often the only way they can feel any respite from their condition.

Needing help to manage both BPD and addiction is completely normal. There are resources and professionals available who specialize in working with people facing these challenges.

Why Should You Avoid Self-Medicating?

Although substances can help you temporarily escape your problems, they often lead to long-term consequences. Substance abuse can also worsen both BPD and addiction.

This leads to a vicious cycle of using substances that make your problems worse. It’s also harder to diagnose and treat BPD when you’re struggling with addiction because of overlapping symptoms or even masked symptoms.

That's why it's so important to find a team of professionals who can address both conditions simultaneously. Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) is especially helpful during these situations.

Does Having BPD Guarantee an Addiction?

No, an addiction is not guaranteed just because you are diagnosed with BPD. You are more vulnerable to that possibility, but developing any kind of addiction isn’t always going to happen.

It’s important to note that anyone can develop an addiction—BPD or not. Anyone can also recover from addiction, even if you have a higher likelihood of developing one.

If you are struggling with BPD, addiction, or both, get medical intervention immediately. Your healthcare provider can help you recover from your addiction and find better ways for you to manage your BPD symptoms.


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Signs and Symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder

BPD can drastically affect how a person feels, how they function, and how they think about others. According to the DSM-5 (the official guidebook for mental health diagnoses), these key characteristics of BPD include:

  • Fear of abandonment or rejection
  • Unstable relationships
  • Shifting self-image and values
  • Impulsive or reckless behavior
  • Self-harm and suicidal behavior
  • Intense mood swings
  • Feeling empty or detached
  • Bursts of anger or difficulty controlling anger
  • Stress-related dissociation or paranoia

It's important to remember that everyone with BPD has different experiences. Your symptoms may be more mild or severe compared to others. The severity of your symptoms might also change from day to day.

How is Borderline Personality Disorder Diagnosed?

A qualified mental health professional, like a psychiatrist or psychologist, will make a BPD diagnosis. Here's what the process typically includes:

  • In-depth interview: They’ll ask detailed questions about your symptoms, experiences, and personal history
  • Mental health assessment: You might be asked to complete questionnaires specifically designed to identify BPD symptoms
  • Medical checkup: A doctor or other healthcare provider may do a physical exam and run tests to rule out any medical conditions that could cause similar symptoms

BPD is typically diagnosed in adults because teenage behaviors and emotions can be erratic. Additionally, diagnosing BPD can be difficult if it shares symptoms with other mental health conditions.

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How is BPD Treated?

An accurate diagnosis can help your healthcare provider create an effective treatment plan. However, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for BPD.

Your treatment plan will depend on your individual needs. Some treatments for BPD include:

  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): A specialized therapy that teaches skills for coping with difficult emotions, improving relationships, and handling stress in healthy ways
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A therapeutic method that focuses on changing negative thought patterns and behaviors that contribute to BPD
  • Medication: Although there’s no medication for BPD, your doctor may prescribe some medications for anxiety, depression, mood swings, etc.
  • Hospitalization: If someone with BPD feels unsafe or at risk of harming themselves, a short hospital stay can provide support and ensure their safety
  • Support: Family therapy and support groups can provide the necessary tools to cope and manage BPD symptoms

What Should You Do If Your Loved One Has BPD?

Helping a loved one with BPD can be rewarding, but it’s also incredibly challenging. So it’s important to take care of your own mental health and emotional well-being. 

Here are some ways to support your loved one while also caring for yourself:

  • Learn about BPD
  • Stay calm
  • Prioritize self-care
  • Communicate openly, honestly, and gently
  • Set clear and healthy boundaries
  • Be consistent about your boundaries
  • Avoid accusatory language
  • Use “I” statements to avoid defensiveness or escalation

You should also consider seeking therapy or a support group. Connecting with others in similar situations might be helpful and make you feel less alone.

Borderline Personality Disorder vs. Bipolar Disorder

Although they share similar symptoms, BPD and bipolar disorder are very different conditions. Understanding the difference can be important for getting effective treatment.

Here are the key differences between these two conditions:

CharacteristicBipolar DisorderBorderline Personality Disorder
Type of DisorderMood DisorderPersonality Disorder
Main SymptomsMajor mood swings (mania/hypomania and depression)Intense fear of abandonment, unstable relationships, unstable sense of self
Mood SwingsLast days, weeks, or longer; not always triggered by eventsShorter (hours to days); often triggered by relationship issues
ImpulsivityMay occur during manic episodesMore consistent, not just during mood episodes
TreatmentMedication (mood stabilizers, etc.) is essential; therapy is also importantPsychotherapy is the main treatment; medication may help with specific symptoms

Helpful Resources

BPD can be overwhelming, even with treatment. Fortunately, various resources are available online to help you through difficult experiences.

These include:

Additionally, if you or someone you know are at risk of suicide, don’t be afraid to call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA) at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You can also contact the Crisis Text Line (USA) by texting HOME to 741741.

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Updated on April 23, 2024

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