How Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Addiction Are Connected

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How Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Addiction Are Connected

How Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Addiction Are Connected

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Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and addiction often go hand in hand, creating a complex interplay that can be challenging to unravel. The relationship between BPD and substance abuse is similar to the classic "chicken or egg" dilemma: which one comes first? While they are not guaranteed to co-occur, many individuals with BPD are at a higher risk of developing addiction. Studies show that a significant percentage of people with addiction may also have BPD, highlighting the importance of understanding and addressing both conditions in treatment.

What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a type of personality disorder marked by unstable self-image, severe mood swings, relationship violations, and fear of negligence. People suffering from BPD often experience psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, sleep issues, and eating disorders. Neglecting diagnosis may cause severe discomfort, interfering with your social and professional life.  

What is BPD Drug Abuse?

The term "BPD drug abuse" refers to the co-occurrence of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and substance abuse disorders. People with BPD might use drugs or alcohol to try to handle their intense emotions, mood swings, and impulsive actions. This can make their symptoms worse and more challenging to treat. To help someone with both BPD and drug abuse, it's important to treat both issues at the same time, focusing on both their mental health and their addiction.

Can BPD be Caused by Drug Abuse?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is generally not caused directly by drug abuse. Instead, BPD is considered a complex psychological condition that arises from a combination of genetic, neurological, and environmental factors. However, substance abuse can exacerbate BPD symptoms and complicate the diagnosis and treatment. In some cases, the chaotic lifestyle and emotional instability associated with drug abuse may mimic or intensify symptoms of BPD, making it harder to distinguish between the two conditions.

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The Connection Between Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction

The connection between Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and addiction is well-documented, with numerous studies indicating a strong link between the two conditions. Here's an overview of how these disorders are interconnected:

Emotional Regulation Issues 

Individuals with BPD often struggle with managing intense emotional states. Substance use can sometimes serve as a coping mechanism, providing a temporary escape or a way to self-medicate feelings of emptiness, depression, or anxiety.


A hallmark of BPD is impulsivity, which can extend to substance use. The immediate gratification provided by drugs or alcohol can be appealing to someone with BPD, leading to patterns of abuse as a means to manage or control unpredictable emotional swings.

Overlap in Risk Factors

Both BPD and addiction share common risk factors, including early childhood trauma, neglect, and abuse. These experiences can predispose individuals to both disorders, often compounding the severity of each.

Relationship Struggles 

People with BPD frequently experience intense and unstable relationships, which can exacerbate stress and emotional turmoil. The stress of these interactions can increase reliance on substances as a form of relief or emotional numbing.

How Common is Co-Occurring Borderline Personality Disorder  & Substance Abuse?

The co-occurrence of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and substance abuse is relatively standard. Research indicates that around 50% to 70% of individuals diagnosed with BPD will struggle with substance abuse at some point in their lives. 

Given the significant overlap, treatment for individuals with both BPD and substance abuse issues often involves therapies that address emotional regulation and interpersonal effectiveness, such as Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), alongside traditional substance abuse treatment modalities like detoxification and relapse prevention strategies.

What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

According to researchers, there are a few factors that may cause Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) include:


For an individual, the possibility of experiencing Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) through families is slightly higher. It may pass from parents to children and also affect siblings. This genetic predisposition means that if a close family member, such as a parent or sibling, has BPD, the likelihood of developing the disorder increases.

Problem with brain chemicals

If there is an imbalance in neurotransmitters (messenger chemicals in the brain), then the chances are higher for developing BPD. Neurotransmitters are responsible for transmitting signals between the brain cells. With imbalanced brain chemicals, the person experiences difficulty in controlling emotions such as excessive worrying, aggression, and destruction.

Problem with brain development

Unusual activity levels in the amygdala (negative emotions), hippocampus (behavior regulation), and orbitofrontal cortex (decision-making) can increase BPD symptoms. Abnormalities in these brain areas affect emotional regulation, impulse control, and social interactions.

Environmental factors

There are a few environmental factors that are common among individuals with BPD. They are:

  • Childhood with trauma or sexual abuse
  • Raised up in unstable family situations
  • Abandoned by parents
  • Growing up with a person having mental health conditions or substance use problem

How Do BPD and Addiction Overlap?

Researchers suggest that Borderline Personality Disorder addiction is the most common type of co-morbid illness amongst addicts. According to a study, approximately 50% of individuals suffering from BPD use substances.

BPD Symptoms and Effects

  • Severe mood swing
  • Increased level of anxiety and depression
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Paranoia
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Poor sense of belonging
  • Eating disorder
  • Feelings of emptiness

Involvement of Family in Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Recovery 

Family involvement plays a crucial role in the recovery process for individuals dealing with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and addiction. Here’s a detailed exploration of how family support can impact recovery:

Emotional Support 

Family members can provide a stable emotional environment that helps the individual feel secure and valued. This emotional backing is vital as it helps mitigate feelings of abandonment and loneliness that people with BPD often experience.

Understanding and Validation

Educating family members about BPD and addiction is essential. Understanding the complexities of these conditions can foster a more supportive and empathetic home environment. Validation from family members can help individuals feel acknowledged and understood rather than judged.

Assistance in Therapy 

Family therapy can be an integral part of treatment for BPD and addiction. It helps resolve conflicts and improves communication skills, which can enhance family dynamics and support the individual’s recovery journey.

Monitoring and Encouragement

Family members can help monitor the behavior and symptoms of their loved ones, providing encouragement and motivation to adhere to treatment plans and healthy habits. This includes helping them keep appointments, take medications as prescribed, and follow through with therapy sessions.

Role of Pharmacological Therapy

There are currently no medications that are specifically approved to treat Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), various drugs are frequently used off-label to help manage specific symptoms associated with the disorder. These include:

Mood Stabilizers 

These medications are used to help level out mood swings and reduce impulsivity, which are common challenges for individuals with BPD.


Often prescribed to address symptoms of depression and anxiety, antidepressants can significantly improve the quality of life for those experiencing these co-occurring symptoms.


These drugs can be effective in reducing symptoms such as paranoia, dissociation, or severe agitation. They are particularly helpful in managing intense episodes of anger and emotional instability.

Supporting Overall Treatment Goals

 Medications can support therapy by helping stabilize the patient’s mood or reducing impulsivity, which allows them to engage more effectively in psychotherapy, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) or Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) Treatments Approaches

Borderline Personality Disorder Addiction Treatments – focus more on DBT in this if you retain this section.

Some of the treatment options available for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and addiction are-

  1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  2. Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  3. Psycho Therapy
  4. Family counselling
  5. Group therapy
  6. Individual counseling
  7. 12-step support groups

Why Cadabams for Borderline Personality Disorder(BPD)?

All the treatment methods are wholly evidence-based and highly effective therapeutic modalities. The individual may experience increased psychological stability and behavioral wellness through the process. Here at Cadabam’s, with experienced professionals and tailor-made treatment plans, we maximize the chances of recovery. 

If you are searching for a solution to your problem, Cadabams Anunitha’s De-Addiction Centre can help you with its team of specialized experts. We have been helping thousands of people live healthier and happier lives for 30+ years. We leverage evidence-based approaches and holistic treatment methods to help individuals effectively manage their  Borderline Personality Disorder addiction. Get in touch with us today. You can call us at +91 96111 94949

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What triggers a person with borderline personality disorder?

People with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) are often particularly sensitive to environmental circumstances, and various triggers can provoke intense emotional responses. 

What happens if BPD is left untreated?

If Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is left untreated, it can lead to a variety of negative outcomes, affecting an individual's emotional health, relationships, and overall quality of life. Here are some potential consequences: Chronic Emotional Instability, Impulsive Behaviors, Worsening of Co-morbid Conditions, Career and Financial Problems

At what age does BPD get worse?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) does not necessarily get "worse" at a specific age, but its symptoms can manifest and change over time. Typically, BPD symptoms can begin to show in adolescence and may become more apparent in early adulthood. However, the intensity and nature of the symptoms can vary widely among individuals.

Do Individuals with BPD Get Obsessed with People?

Individuals with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) may develop intense attachments due to a deep fear of abandonment and a strong desire for close relationships. These attachments can sometimes seem obsessive, but it's important to understand that each person's experience with BPD is unique.

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