People who deal with drug or alcohol abuse and have a personality disorder can still get help and live healthy, productive lives as long as treatment adequately addresses both conditions. Integrated care that treats both issues simultaneously is key to long-term stability.
Personality disorders are not flaws of character or eccentric qualities. These are disorders that prevent you from thinking in healthy and functional ways. Individuals with a personality disorder are not always aware they are dealing with one because they believe their thinking or behavior is normal.
Most personality disorders show up in the teen or young adult years. They can hinder a person’s ability to reach their potential and cause problems forming appropriate relationships.
The National Institute of Mental Health says that up to 9.1 percent of Americans may have one of the personality disorders.
The most recent version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) says there are 10 distinct personality disorders. Studies show that people with personality disorder may also meet the criteria for another one.
The DSM-5 also separates personality disorders into three clusters, as follows:
Disorders belonging to this cluster are:
Research shows that family history may contribute to the development of cluster B disorders, which include:
An estimated 1.4 percent of Americans are affected by borderline personality disorder (BPD). More than any other personality disorder, people with BPD are likely to face co-occurring issues, such as other anxiety disorders, substance use disorders, mood disorders, and impulse control disorders.
Cluster C personality disorders include:
Diagnosing a personality disorder is challenging because a lab, blood, or other conventional test cannot confirm or deny its presence. These tests can still be valuable in ruling out other medical conditions that cause unusual behaviors. As a result, doctors may run these during the assessment phase of care.
Doctors will also take down a patient’s family and medical history. Patients are then referred to a psychiatrist or psychologist if doctors find no physical cause for the behaviors displayed.
A mental health practitioner can then evaluate a patient and use the DSM-5 to assess whether they fit the criteria for any of the personality disorders described above.
A 2011 study published by Innovations in Clinical Neuroscience found that substance use disorders are common in people with personality disorders. People with BPD are especially at risk of a substance use disorder.
The study says the link between BPD and substance misuse is strong, and patients are most likely to abuse prescription medication. The study also found that:
As explained by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug addiction is a mental illness because it changes the way a person’s brain works, shifting their priorities, decreasing their ability to control impulses, and developing a new hierarchy of needs.
A person who deals with substance misuse and a mental health or other chronic condition is said to have a co-occurring disorder or dual diagnosis.
Data shows that mental health issues and substance abuse are linked in the following ways:
Treating a co-occurring personality disorder can be a challenge because habitual drug use can also trigger mental health conditions, making it hard to pin down the cause of a mental illness. In addition, prescription medication can cause behavioral changes that resemble those of a personality disorder.
The good news is that people with co-occurring disorders can find help and lead productive lives, regardless of the root cause of the disorder.
You are not alone if you deal with co-occurring disorders. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says that up to 9.2. million adults dealt with co-occurring substance use disorders and mental illnesses in 2018.
Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), effective treatments for substance use disorders:
Common methods used in treatment programs for co-occurring disorders include:
Common medications include those designed to address:
This ensures that people with co-occurring disorders receive proper treatment. If a co-occurring mental health issue is not addressed during substance abuse treatment, relapse is highly likely.
Well-known support groups include:
Integrated treatment is the key to sustained recovery from personality disorders and substance abuse. Choose a treatment facility that offers a holistic approach to recovery, treating patients on all fronts.
If only one issue is treated, it’s highly likely that symptoms of the other disorder will lead to relapse of the treated issue. When it comes to co-occurring disorders, you can’t achieve recovery unless you address the whole person.
Treatment won’t separate each disorder. Instead, both disorders will be simultaneously addressed in therapy sessions. As a result, patients see progress in all areas of life, and this leads to lasting recovery.