Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction

Several individuals seeking addiction treatment have a co-occurring psychological issue. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is one of these. 

Borderline Personality Disorder is a serious mental illness that is characterized by highly unstable moods, behaviours and relationships. The typical patient of BPD will have drastic changes in mood in very short spans of time. For example, they may be blissfully happy one minute, and within a matter of seconds, they become angry and destructive. The dual diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and drug or alcohol addiction is a serious condition that requires specific methods of treatment and recovery.


About 60 to 80% of people suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder have experienced severe physical, emotional or sexual abuse. It has been theorized that BPD may be a severe form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. People suffering from BPD are known to exhibit 3 conditions – believing that they are inherently “bad”, finding it difficult to make compromises, and mistaking the things they want for things they need. Predictably, many people with these dysfunctional thoughts may resort to consuming drugs or alcohol in order to feel better about themselves and the world they live in.

BPD and substance abuse

Another common path leading from Borderline Personality Disorder to alcoholism or drug addiction is self-medication. Self-medication is a short-term solution to a long-term problem; however, over time, it manifests itself into addiction – another long-term problem. The build-up of all these issues and inner conflicts leads to low-self esteem and self-loathing. Extrapolated, this can lead to self-harm, physical violence and suicidal tendencies. The fact that there are so many misconceptions, and such a strong stigma, that surrounds BPD and addiction makes it more difficult for patients to seek help and recover.

The dual diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and addiction is especially harmful to people around the patient, as well as the patient themselves. People with BPD are known to “jump” into relationships, and feel and act differently towards their partners without any warning. Relationships become unpredictable and sometimes turn sour. Patients with BPD then resent these relationships, along with many other people in their lives. When patients of BPD and addiction have children, their unpredictable behaviour can lead to dysfunctional parenting, leaving their children feeling lost, confused and unwanted.

Borderline Personality Disorder also causes impulsively, which may lead people suffering from the disorder to take drugs or drink alcohol on whim. Repeated abuse of drugs and alcohol will inevitably lead these people down the path of addiction. As Borderline Personality Disorder involves drastic changes in thought process, it also involves changes in perspective. A roadblock to recovery from addiction or alcoholism in the case of patients with Borderline Personality Disorder is their contradictory moods and thoughts – they may be willing to surrender to the rehabilitation program, but then become angry and resentful. This is the equivalent of taking one step forward, and two steps back. 

BPD and addiction treatment

Recovery is possible, contrary to popular belief. There are many reputed rehabilitation centres like Hope Trust that provide people with the dual diagnosis of addiction and Borderline Personality Disorder with the resources they need to improve their mental health. At Hope Trust, clients are aided through recovery using intensive counselling, the widely recognized Twelve Step Program, and medication. Medication administered to such individuals is closely monitored and care is taken to ensure that these chemicals are not addictive.Hope Trust evaluates patients carefully and provides special care to those with dual diagnoses. We place strong emphasis on a healthy and trusting counselor-patient relationship, which enables patients to feel comfortable and safe. Our counsellors are well-equipped and trained to deal with drastic mood swings and other symptoms that characterize Borderline Personality Disorder. Hope Trust provides these persons with a chance to recover and lead a productive, normal and happy life.