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As many know, people who struggle with substance use disorder (SUD) often also struggle with other mental health conditions. For instance, it’s certainly not uncommon for someone with SUD to experience co-occurring anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, others experience mental health conditions that can exacerbate overall symptoms and complicate the healing process. Some examples include schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or bipolar disorder. Another common co-occurring disorder that many experience alongside SUD is borderline personality disorder (BPD). However, the connection between BPD and SUD isn’t always clear. 

Many with BPD turn to alcohol and other drugs to cope with their symptoms. On the flip side, some with SUD may be at a greater risk for developing other severe mental health conditions like BPD. If you think you may be struggling with BPD and SUD, we encourage you to seek treatment immediately. However, if you’re simply looking for more information about the two, then we can help with that as well. 

What Is BPD?

BPD is a mental health condition that, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), can severely impact an individual’s ability to regulate their emotions. As stated by NIMH, such “loss of emotional control can increase impulsivity, affect how a person feels about themselves, and negatively impact their relationships with others.” Though available treatments can help people with BPD manage their symptoms, many do not utilize treatment. Unfortunately, leaving BPD untreated has many short- and long-term consequences. Meanwhile, trying to manage symptoms with substance use opens up a whole other can of worms. 

When self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, it can be even more difficult to stabilize and regulate emotions. Like other mental health conditions, BPD and SUD can develop from many risk factors. Some examples include childhood trauma, unhealthy family dynamics, and physical and emotional abuse, to name a few. An effective way to achieve symptom management from BPD is to get to the root cause of the problem. However, that’s not always easy, as some people with BPD block out memories of distress and neglect. They may even use substances to try and forget their traumas. 

As is, untreated BPD can be extremely problematic. However, what happens when you throw SUD into the mix? 

What Are the Dangers of Leaving BPD and SUD Untreated?

Leaving either BPD or SUD untreated can be extremely dangerous. People with BPD struggle with emotional pain and, because of this, they engage in impulsive behaviors as a way to cope. This may include substance use, unsafe and unprotected sex, or excessive eating. However, at its worst, untreated BPD may even increase a person’s risk of self-harm or suicide. 

There are similar concerns with untreated SUD. Initially, people may think substances are helping them manage their BPD symptoms. Yet, contrary to this, those who self-medicate BPD with substances will likely become dependent on them over time, making them vulnerable to addiction. Furthermore, untreated BPD and SUD will negatively impact their physical and mental health and overall well-being. 

Other concerns of leaving BPD and SUD untreated include: 

  • Increasingly intense mood swings 
  • Disturbed sleeping patterns 
  • Increased risk of eating disorders 
  • Chronic pain or physical health complications 
  • Increased risk of other mental health conditions, like PTSD, depression, or anxiety disorders

Thus, the most significant question to ask is, “How can people heal from these conditions?” The short answer is through treatment. Yet, before people can even consider treatment, they must recognize the warning signs of co-occurring BPD and SUD. 

Recognizing the Signs of BPD and SUD

Many have a hard time accepting their struggle with mental illness, let alone recognizing the signs of it within themselves or their loved ones. Nevertheless, identifying the signs is the first critical step toward healing. Acknowledging the signs can encourage individuals to accept their need for help and begin recovery. 

The most significant sign that you or someone you love is struggling with BPD is intense mood swings. Someone with BPD will usually have unstable relationships and have little to no control over their emotions. Of course, symptoms can vary from person to person. Other signs and symptoms for co-occurring BPD and SUD to look out for within yourself or a loved one may include:

  • Experiencing frequent dissociation 
  • Erratic and impulsive behaviors 
  • Patterns of unhealthy and unstable relationships 
  • Lacking confidence and having low self-esteem 
  • Experiencing an overwhelming sense of loneliness
  • Going from relationship to relationship in an attempt to avoid abandonment
  • Using substances in an attempt to cope with BPD symptoms

What Does Treatment for BPD and Sud Look Like?

Addiction and mental health treatment look different for everyone. While there’s no single blueprint to follow, many options are available for BPD and SUD treatment. West Coast Recovery Centers offers several therapeutic approaches and services, including dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) and cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), case management, and aftercare support. We focus on providing several clinical and holistic practices to help you heal from both BPD and SUD and live a full life of sustainable recovery. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with BPD, SUD, or any other co-occurring mental health conditions, know that we can help. Consider working with West Coast Recovery Centers and contact us to learn more about our programs today. 

Individuals who struggle with substance use disorder (SUD) often experience other mental health conditions. These are referred to as co-occurring disorders, which can include many different types of disorders ranging from anxiety and depression to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and more. Another mental health condition individuals with SUD may experience is borderline personality disorder (BPD), categorized as a disorder that impacts someone’s ability to regulate their emotions. If untreated, BPD can lead to erratic and harmful behaviors like self-harm or substance use. The connection between BPD and SUD should not be ignored, and if it is, the effects can be life-threatening. Call (760) 492-6509 to learn how West Coast Recovery Centers can help you with BPD and SUD today.