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Addressing Personality Disorders and Addiction

Addressing Personality Disorders and Addiction

There is a strong correlation between people with personality disorders and addiction. One study found that 37.9% of individuals who struggle with addiction have also been diagnosed with a mental illness.1 Having both a substance use disorder and mental health disorder is called a dual diagnosis. This might include conditions such as anxiety, depression, trauma PTSD, and bipolar disorder in conjunction with an addiction to opioids, stimulants, alcohol, and other harmful substances.

More specifically, personality disorders are some of the most common mental illnesses associated with a substance addiction. Because personality disorders correlate with addiction, addressing mental health is essential for long-term sobriety.

Personality Disorders: An Overview

Personality disorders are a group of mental health issues that distort and negatively impact how individuals think and behave in relation to themself, the world, and those around them. The DSM-5 recognizes ten types of personality disorders in three distinct clusters with various shared symptoms and behaviors. Here is an overview of the three clusters of disorders: 2

#1: Cluster A Personality Disorders

The disorders that make up this category are associated with odd or eccentric thinking and behaviors. This leads many individuals in cluster A to have relationship issues. These conditions include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.

#2: Cluster B Personality Disorders

Individuals with cluster B personality disorders are defined by their emotional, dramatic, unpredictable, and impulsivity in thought and behavior. The disorders that make up this category include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.

#3: Cluster C Personality Disorders

Fear and anxiety are common traits that characterize the behavior and thoughts of those with a cluster C personality disorder. This includes avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

The Common Link Between Personality Disorders and Addiction

The correlation between personality disorders and substance addiction is all too common. People with personality disorders use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, but these substances further exacerbate their mental health problems. Multiple studies have concluded that 65-90% of individuals in treatment for substance abuse or dependence also have a personality disorder.3

Additionally, personality disorders housed in cluster B are particularly subject to drug and alcohol misuse. More specifically, a shocking 78% of individuals with borderline personality disorder struggle with an addiction at some point in their life.4 Researchers mostly attribute this to Cluster B personality disorders’ susceptibility to impulsive, illegal, and risky behaviors.

The Importance Of Addressing Personality Disorders and Addiction Simultaneously

Some of the benefits that come with simultaneously addressing both a personality disorder and a substance use disorder include:

#1: Complete and Well-Rounded Healing

The beauty of treating personality disorders and addiction at once is the complete transformation and healing that occurs from within. Addressing both diagnoses and getting to the root of how they influence one another is key to developing healthy coping mechanisms and strategies for sobriety. The most successful approaches that mental health and addiction professionals use for treating someone’s addiction and personality disorder include:

  • Clinical, holistic, experiential, and eastern medicine therapies
  • Medication
  • Emotional support groups

#2: Lowered Risk Of Relapse

Suppose someone is struggling with the ways their personality disorder affects their relationships, work, and overall well-being. In that case, they often use drugs or alcohol to cope with their symptoms and distress. Because of this, when the maladaptive thoughts and behaviors of a personality disorder are properly handled, the risk for drug and alcohol relapse decreases immensely.

#3: Individualized Treatment Approach

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating a drug or alcohol addiction, especially when someone looks at the world through the lens of a personality disorder. For example, the techniques that combat addiction for paranoid personality disorder might be completely different from a treatment plan for someone with a borderline personality disorder.

By treating both personality and substance use disorders simultaneously, professionals have a better idea of how to design an individualized treatment plan that combats the specific patterns and behaviors associated with someone’s unique personality disorder diagnosis.

Spring Garden Recovery Is Here To Help With A Dual Diagnosis

If you are struggling with a dual diagnosis, know that you are not alone. If you suspect that a personality disorder is playing a role in worsening your substance abuse, Spring Garden Recovery is here to help. Our experienced team maintains a holistic approach to healing to set our guests onto a physical, emotional, and spiritual recovery path.

To learn more about how we can support you or a loved one through treatment, don’t hesitate to get in touch today.


[1] https://www.drugabuse.gov/drug-topics/trends-statistics/infographics/comorbidity-substance-use-other-mental-disorders
[2] https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20354463
[3] https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/european-psychiatry/article/relationship-between-personality-disorders-and-substance-abuse-disorders/A84721BD6B9D083AFC8B35B9FCCF821F
[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4010862/

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