Woman struggling with alcoholism and her BPD

BPD and Alcohol Use Disorder: Understanding the Relationship

Suffering from a mental illness like borderline personality disorder (BPD) can be challenging for patients and their loved ones. So can struggling with alcohol use disorder (AUD) affects every part of the BPD sufferers life. Connect the two, and the results can be devastating on your physical and mental health.

Unfortunately, BPD and alcohol use disorder commonly occur together. The good news: with the proper co occurring disorder treatment, and the right professionals by your side, you can fight them both on your way to a better, healthier life ahead.

How are BPD and Alcohol Use Disorder Connected?

Borderline personality disorder is a psychiatric illness that can negatively impact an individual’s emotional regulatory process. The individual frequently loses control over their emotions and begins to act more impulsively. As a result, they become more likely to feel down on themselves and struggle in relationships with others. 

Absent safe medical borderline personality disorder treatment options, people with occurring BPD tend to turn to alcohol as a result. One German study found that more than 78% of individuals with BPD also suffer from some form of substance abuse disorder. Inversely, another study found that patients suffering from alcohol use disorder are more than three times more likely to suffer from BPD. 

More specifically, persons with undiagnosed BPD turn to alcohol for three common reasons:

  • Depression and anxiety. As one of the most common side effects of BPD, a feeling of worthlessness can cause the individual to drink to forget about their sorrows, at least temporarily. That short-term solution becomes an addiction over time, as the brain begins to connect feelings of self-loathing with the need for alcohol.
  • Mania and mood swings. BPD manifests itself not just through depression but frequent swings to euphoria that can occur minutes after anxious feelings. Alcohol becomes a type of self-medication for BPD patients looking to stabilize their emotions during a period of bad judgment.
  • Impulsive behavior. One of the most common symptoms of BPD is the sudden feeling of a need to do something that might not necessarily be rational. That same need for instant gratification can also turn the individual towards alcohol and drinking more than planned just to get those positive short-term effects.

Finally, some evidence has also begun to suggest that the same genetic traits making a person more susceptible to BPD could also make them more likely to become addicted to alcohol and other drugs. However, more studies still need to be completed for these findings to be corroborated by the medical community.

Does BPD Make Alcohol Use Disorder Worse?

BPD and alcohol use disorder are dangerous because each can worsen the other. For example, the typical BPD symptoms can lead to frequent alcohol use. But alcohol misuse can also lead to worse mood swings and bouts of depression, as well as more impulsive behavior long-term. It’s a vicious cycle that can be difficult to break out of.

Making matters worse, the similarity of some of these symptoms can also lead to misdiagnoses, especially when an individual conducts a self-diagnosis based on their symptoms. Patients may not realize that they’re suffering from BPD because the symptoms point more directly to abusive alcohol use. This lack of diagnosis can lead to the wrong treatments, worsening both conditions.

The close overlap between BPD and alcohol use disorder also makes it more challenging to diagnose BPD in general. Borderline personality disorder is among the least understood mental health condition today, and even some professionals may attribute its symptoms to simultaneous alcohol addiction.

Finally, some studies have begun to suggest that co occurring disorders treatments may be less effective for individuals who suffer from both alcohol use disorder and BPD when compared to patients suffering from only one or the other. That makes early detection of the issue and proper, comprehensive alcohol and BPD treatment all the more critical for a full recovery.

BPD and Alcohol Abuse Disorders Effect on the Mind

Combining BPD and AUD can be harmful, especially because of the negative effect the combination of both can have on an individual’s mind. Evidence suggests that alcohol use disorder alters the brain chemistry of those affected, with metabolic changes compromising and affecting various neurobiological processes.

This evidence could explain the common blackouts and memory lapses among people affected by AUD. It could also explain the increasing impulsiveness that comes with frequent alcohol abuse, not just due to the initial intoxication but also the long-term effects of the drug on the mind. More studies are needed to conclusively prove this effect on the patient’s brain chemistry, though the combined effect of these concurring diseases on the mind is undeniable.

BPD adds another volatile element to the mix that further exaggerates these issues. Repeated bouts of depression, impulsiveness, and heavy mood swings can both be caused by and significantly alter the brain’s neurological structure. The adverse effects on the individual’s health are difficult to overstate, particularly when left untreated for extended periods.

Get Help with Inland Detox

When struggling with borderline personality disorder and alcohol use disorder, getting the right help is vital. You need professionals who care about you 24 hours a day and will do everything in their power to achieve a full recovery and better quality of life, from the proper diagnosis to detox and quality long-term care.

That process begins with a dual diagnosis that allows you to understand the state and impact of BPD and AUD in your life. The dual diagnosis allows for creating a proper treatment plan for the disorder and the addiction. It ensures that the initial detox and long-term residential or outpatient recovery plan are tailored to your specific situation and needs.

From the diagnosis to the treatment, we’re ready to help you get started in your fight against borderline personality disorder and alcohol use disorder. 

Get in touch with us for an initial consultation and to learn more about Inland Detox as your partner on the long road to recovery.