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BPD and Addiction

A woman suffers from BPD and addiction.

BPD and addiction are complex conditions that often co-occur, creating unique challenges for individuals struggling with both disorders. The occurrence of both conditions exacerbates symptoms, leading to a complicated cycle of self-destructive behavior.

Understanding these two conditions is crucial for developing effective treatment approaches to address their intertwined nature and promote successful recovery.

What Is Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a mental health disorder characterized by persistent patterns of instability in emotional regulation, self-image, behavior, and interpersonal relationships. Individuals with BPD often experience intense mood swings, shifting from extreme happiness to anger or sadness within short periods.

According to Borderline in the Act, approximately 78% of adults with BPD will develop a substance use disorder sometime in their lifetime. They may struggle with feelings of emptiness, impulsivity, and self-destructive behaviors such as self-harm or suicidal ideation and have difficulty maintaining stable and healthy relationships.

People diagnosed with BPD also frequently exhibit frantic efforts to avoid perceived abandonment and have a strained sense of identity or sense of self-worth. They may engage in impulsive behaviors like reckless spending sprees, substance abuse, binge eating episodes, or risky sexual activities. Those suffering from BPD often live in constant fear of rejection or abandonment and have trouble managing their emotions effectively.

BPD and Addiction: Alcoholism

BPD and addiction, specifically alcoholism, often co-occur and can have a significant impact on an individual’s well-being. The relationship between BPD and alcoholism is complex, with each condition influencing and exacerbating the other.

For individuals with BPD, alcohol may serve as a form of self-medication to cope with intense emotional pain, emptiness, or impulsivity. They may use alcohol as a way to escape from their overwhelming emotions or numb themselves temporarily. However, this coping mechanism ultimately perpetuates a vicious cycle where alcohol exacerbates the symptoms of BPD while simultaneously creating additional problems associated with addiction.

Alcohol abuse can intensify mood swings and lead to impulsive behaviors such as reckless decision-making or engaging in high-risk activities that are characteristic of BPD. It also affects judgment and impulse control, which can further contribute to unstable relationships and an overall diminished quality of life.

BPD and Addiction: Drugs

BPD and addiction, when related to drug addiction, can also occur. The relationship between BPD and drug addiction is equally complex. Individuals with BPD may turn to drugs as a means of coping with the intense emotional turmoil they experience. Drugs can provide temporary relief from feelings of emptiness, pain, or impulsivity. However, relying on drugs as a coping mechanism further worsens the symptoms of both disorders.

Drug abuse can intensify impulsive behaviors and mood swings. It can also impair judgment, decision-making abilities, and impulse control. These are all factors that contribute to the challenges individuals with BPD face in maintaining stable relationships and functioning effectively in various aspects of life.

Effects of BPD

Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) can have a profound impact on various aspects of an individual’s life. The effects of BPD often manifest in different ways. People with BPD experience intense and rapidly shifting emotions that can be difficult to regulate or control. They may go from feeling extreme happiness to overwhelming sadness, anger, or anxiety within short periods.

Individuals with BPD often engage in impulsive behaviors. These impulsive actions are usually attempts to alleviate distressing emotions but can lead to negative consequences and further emotional turmoil.

Maintaining stable and healthy relationships can be challenging for individuals with BPD due to their fear of abandonment and difficulty trusting others. This fear can manifest as clinginess, constant reassurance-seeking behavior, or pushing loved ones away unintentionally.

Many people with BPD struggle with a distorted sense of self-worth and identity. They may frequently change goals, interests, values, or beliefs to fit into different social contexts or please others around them.

Moreover, those living with BPD are at higher risk for self-harm behaviors like cutting themselves or engaging in other forms of self-destructive behavior as a means to cope with emotional distress and overwhelming feelings. They may also experience recurrent thoughts about suicide or engage in suicidal behaviors.

There is also a significant overlap between BPD and other mental health disorders and an increased risk for substance abuse and addiction. 

Risk Factors for BPD and Addiction

There are several risk factors associated with the development of both BPD and addiction.

Genetic Factors:

Research suggests that there is a genetic component to BPD and addiction, meaning individuals may be more susceptible to developing these conditions if they have a family history of either disorder.

Childhood Trauma or Abuse:

Experiencing traumatic events or adverse childhood experiences, such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, or abandonment, increases the likelihood of developing BPD and can also contribute to the development of addictive behaviors as a coping mechanism.

Neurobiological Vulnerabilities:

Certain neurobiological factors, including abnormal brain structure and function related to emotional regulation and impulsivity, can predispose individuals to both BPD and addiction.

Co-occurring Mental Health Disorders:

Individuals with other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at an increased risk for developing BPD as well as substance use disorders.

Environmental Factors:

A chaotic or unstable home environment during childhood characterized by parental substance abuse or inconsistent caregiving can contribute to the development of both BPD and addiction later in life.

Personal Characteristics:

Certain traits such as impulsivity, difficulties regulating emotions effectively, self-destructive behavior patterns, exaggerated reactions towards situations, instability, and a tendency towards risky behaviors increase vulnerability for BPD and addiction.


The treatment approach for individuals with co-occurring BPD and addiction is an integrated approach tailored to address the specific needs of each individual. Some commonly used approaches to create a personalized treatment plan include:

  • Medically Supervised Detox
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT)
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Group Therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Peer Support 
  • Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)
  • Medication Management
  • Holistic Therapies 

Supportive BPD and Addiction Treatment in Pompano Beach, FL

Take the first steps to recovery from BPD and addiction in beautiful Pompano Beach, FL, at Retreat of Broward. Our caring team provides compassionate and personalized treatment plans to help you achieve a brighter and healthier future. Contact us today to start your healing journey.

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