What is Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD)?

a young girl dealing with her parents talking about borderline personality disorder treatment program utBorderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is a seriously debilitating mental illness characterized by impulsiveness, extremely unstable emotions, distorted self-image, and intense unstable relationships. It is one of several personality disorders. People with BPD often suffer from other mood disorders like depression and anxiety. They can experience intense episodes of anxiety, depression, or anger for a few hours to a few days. While they may be seen as manipulative, dependent, and dramatic people, mental health professionals know that it is because of their overwhelming emotional pain and fear. There are four related but distinctly different subtypes of BPD.

To treat borderline personality disorders and addiction issues, Recovery Ways offers the following programs:


BPD They go between outbursts of anger and feelings of unworthiness. They have a strong need to manipulate and control others, possessive, and often have dissatisfaction in their relationships. Leading to substance abuse and other damaging issues.

Impulsive BPD

They have difficulty with impulse control and are at a high risk for self-harm. They tend to involve themselves in thrill-seeking activities and attempt suicide.

Self-destructive BPD

They have extreme feelings of self-hatred and bitterness. They tend to find comfort in others attention but it doesn’t last for long and they can turn to self-destructive behavior including suicide attempts or threats, substance abuse, or thrill-seeking.

Discouraged BPD

They are dependent on others and are very clingy. They seem passive but when they feel as though they have been abandoned they will have issues with anger control and emotional stability. Any amount of attention will not satisfy them.

While this all may sound discouraging, especially as a co-occurring disorder with addiction, there is treatment available to those with BPD. Recovery Ways has the qualified staff and tools to help patients work through and overcome their addiction and live happy lives.

We are here to help you find treatment:

Who is at Risk for Borderline Personality Disorder?

Borderline Personality Disorder affects both men and women of all ages, though according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), nearly 75% of the diagnosed cases of BPD in the United States are women. NAMI also notes that nearly 4% of people with BPD may be undiagnosed, and that recent research suggests that there may be more men than reported with BPD because men tend to be misdiagnosed with depression or post-traumatic stress disorder. While there is no clearly understood cause of BPD today, there are several risk factors that have been identified through years of study.

Genetics and Family History

It has long been noted that certain mental health disorders tend to run in families, and BPD is among these. Doctors and scientists do not yet know which genes in particular may be responsible for indicating a higher risk of developing BPD, but in general, BPD is five times more likely to appear in individuals who have a first-degree relative with this disorder.

Substance Abuse

Using drugs and alcohol, especially frequently or heavily, can significantly alter brain chemistry and cause certain disorders like BPD to develop. BPD is strongly linked to imbalances in certain areas of the brain — particularly the areas that control emotional stability and decision-making, which are both influenced by drugs and alcohol.

Brain Structure

These areas of the brain may be influenced or shaped by things other than substances, such as poor brain development or natural brain structure. Everyone’s brain structure is different, so some individuals may simply be at a higher risk for developing BPD due to differences in development in the areas that are connected to BPD.


Living through trauma such as childhood abuse, neglect, or relationship difficulties can result in significantly increased risk of mental health disorders such as BPD. Borderline Personality Disorder is often characterized by poor relationships, poor mood control, low self-esteem, and unpredictable behavior. Many of these symptoms can be connected to past traumatic events that change the way an individual interacts with others and feels about themselves.

Symptoms of a Personality Disorder
Many of Borderline Personality Disorder symptoms are similar to those of substance abuse and can often be difficult to tell apart at first. Many people with BPD have extremely low self-worth. They may also experience a psychotic episode when under stress. The American Psychiatric Association says in order to be diagnosed with BPD the individual must have five of the following diagnostic criteria.

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Extreme anxiety, paranoia, or depression
  • Episodes of anger and aggression
  • Suicidal tendencies
  • Feelings of emptiness
  • Fear of being alone
  • Eating disorders
  • Impulsive behavior
  • Manipulative
  • Extreme changes in perceptions of others
  • Unstable or lack of sense of self

Borderline Personality Disorder and Addiction

Borderline Personality Disorder and addiction have similar symptoms and signs such as extreme mood swings, unstable relationships and careers, self-destructive behavior, and deceitful actions. Alcohol and drugs make the behavior and choices of those with BPD even more erratic. Those with BPD use alcohol and drugs to try and make themselves feel better, to numb the pain of their fear of abandonment but it can intensify the more dangerous symptoms of their disorder. They try to self-medicate and artificially alter their moods with alcohol and other substances. People who were previously able to manage their disorder may become completely unmanageable as a result of the chemical dependency. The Clinical Psychology Review journal recently said that 14.3% of those with alcohol abuse or dependence met the criteria for BPD, 16.8% of those addicted to cocaine received a BPD diagnosis, and 18.5% of those addicted to opioids met the criteria for BPD. Those with BPD are already at a great risk for suicide and adding alcohol or other substances only makes that threat more prominent. Since there is such a greater risk we recommend a supervised medical detox that we will be able to help you through and make more comfortable for you and lessen the risk.

Treating Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Abuse

As part of the psychological treatment at Recovery Ways, an integrated approach is used to teach patients that there is life outside the confines of drug addiction. Each patient is encouraged to be involved in social and spiritual activities that foster awareness of the world around them. By learning to cope with life, our patients are better able to manage their emotions and mood swings. With these under control, it’s easier to form a better outlook on life which, in turn, helps recovering addicts resist the urge to relapse.

Borderline Personality Disorder is most commonly treated with a combination of medication and therapy. As with all personality disorders, BPD is amplified when an addict begins the withdrawal process. If not properly treated, these patients can represent a serious threat to their own safety and the safety of others. The clinical staff at Recovery Ways is fully trained to support BPD clients and the specific challenges their disorder presents.

As a client in our residential treatment program becomes clean of drugs and alcohol, the experienced medical staff at Recovery Ways assists in stabilizing their mood to prevent alternating episodes of anger, depression, or anxiety behavior. Guided by masters-level therapists, our clients then learn to recognize psychological triggers, effectively express emotions, and appropriately modify their behavior to reduce the likelihood of an episode occurring.

Utah BPD and Addiction Treatment Centers

Recovery Ways, accredited by the Joint Commission, offers treatment excellence to those suffering from substance use and mental health disorders, including borderline personality disorder, in the greater Salt Lake City area. If you or your loved one is struggling with co-occurring BPD and addiction, please contact us today for help finding a dual diagnosis program. To speak with an admissions coordinator and get help please call 888.986.7848.