Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction – How To Understand Yourself and Accept TreatmentBorderline personality disorder (BPD) is a condition that most often occurs in people who have experienced trauma early in life. It is characterized by anger, instability, mood swings, and impulsiveness. People who suffer from BPD often hold very strong opinions about others, are suspicious of their motivations, and have difficulty finding and maintaining stable, trusting relationships. The borderline personality is prone to substance abuse for a number of reasons – the most obvious being the pre-existence of trauma, and the development of impulsive personality traits. Studies have found that 50-70% of persons with BPD also have another co-occurring substance use disorder. BPD sufferers also tend to very willful – a characteristic that can increase the difficulty of treatment. If you have been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and are also suffering from addiction, it is worthwhile to understand the challenges that treatment professionals fac – and what you can do to make treatment easier on yourself, as well as others who are trying to help you.
Complying with TreatmentKeeping the BPD patient in addiction treatment can be a daunting task. Studies show that the longer the borderline personality stays in treatment, the better the outcome. However, perhaps due to willfulness and a general mistrust of others, BPD sufferers tend to be resistant to treatment. For example, one study found that BPD patients in a detox program were much more likely to have an “unplanned discharge” than others. At the same time, however, patients can be very demanding of treatment, and insist that others go out of their way to care for them. In general, BPD personalities tend to look for quick fixes and exhibit a lack of patience – impulsivity may also drive a desire to move on quickly during periods of frustration or boredom. As a patient, the borderline personality can assist themselves and others by recognizing their resistance to change and attempt to understand why this is so (often due to trust issues.) Also, there is a tremendous need to fully understand and accept that the treatment process is often time-consuming, difficult, and will probably require an extended duration.
Therapist-Patient RelationshipsAgain, often due to trust issues and impulsiveness, many patients drop out of therapy because of difficulties engaging in relationships. Also, due to strong convictions about others, the borderline personality tends to flip-flop regarding feelings about another’s motivations. For example, in a breakthrough moment, the borderline personality may perceive a therapist as a needed support source – someone who is very helpful and understanding, almost to the point of being a savior. But if the patient perceives any sign of criticism or rejection, the therapist may instantly become an enemy who is not deserving of trust. At this point, the patient may become resistant or drop out of therapy entirely. As a patient, the borderline personality can help facilitate therapy by attempting to put aside feelings of distrust. Keep in mind, these feelings are very normal for someone with BPD – but also understand that these feelings do not have to overtake every personal interaction. It is true that not all therapists are not created equal, and some may be more judgmental or less effective and understanding than others. That said, if you are a patient and find you are bonding well with a therapist, it may behoove you to set aside suspicious feelings when they arise – or at least, try not to overreact to what you perceive as criticism.
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