Borderline Personality Disorder and Alcohol Blackouts
A dual diagnosis is defined as a mental disorder that occurs at the same time as a substance use disorder. A substance use disorder can pertain to any drug, but one in particular is alcohol. Alcohol is a highly addictive, legal and often lethal substance that claims the lives of approximately 88,000 people each year.
In many cases, borderline personality disorder (BPD) is characterized by remorse, shame, or guilt in the frame of suicidal thinking. In cases of borderline personality disorder, blackout drinking may result when a person intends to do harm upon his or herself. Mental disorders like BPD are treatable for the most part, but drugs and alcohol must be taken out of the equation for treatment to be successful. If a person suffers from alcoholism or an alcohol use disorder, this may present problems of its own.
What Causes Borderline Personality Disorder?
The exact causes of borderline personality aren’t always clear. It isn’t something that happens overnight nor is it always caused from consuming too much alcohol; however, researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health have discovered that certain risk factors including genetics, environmental, and brain can have an affect on both substance use disorders and mental disorders.
Genetics – BPD is about five times more likely to occur if a person has a close family member (first-degree biological relatives) with the disorder.
Environmental and Social Factors – Many people with BPD report experiencing traumatic life events, such as abuse or abandonment during childhood. Others may have been exposed to unstable relationships and hostile conflicts. However, some people with BPD do not have a history of trauma. And, many people with a history of traumatic life events do not have BPD.
Brain Factors – Studies show that people with BPD have structural and functional changes in the brain, especially in the areas that control impulses and emotional regulation. However, some people with similar changes in the brain do not have BPD. More research is needed to understand the relationship between brain structure and function and BPD.
It can be difficult to try to understand borderline personality disorder. At times it may feel like your loved one’s behavior is so sporadic that you don’t know how to react. There might be times that person suffering from BPD seems impulsive, dependent, and manipulative; however, there are mental health professionals who understand that these behaviors are symptoms of a greater malady, and know how to treat them.
Signs And Symptoms Of Borderline Personality Disorder
Once the signs and symptoms of BPD have been established, you can decide how to treat the problem, and gauge whether some form of behavioral therapy will be necessary. Here are some of the common signs and symptoms of a borderline personality disorder:
- extreme mood swings and uncertainty about who they are
- frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment
- pattern of intense and unstable relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often swinging from extreme closeness and love to extreme dislike or anger
- distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self
- impulsive and often dangerous behaviors, such as spending sprees, unsafe sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, and binge eating
- recurring suicidal behaviors or threats or self-harming behavior, such as cutting
- intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few days
- chronic feelings of emptiness
- inappropriate, intense anger or problems controlling anger
- having stress-related paranoid thoughts
- having severe dissociative symptoms, such as feeling cut off from oneself, observing oneself from outside the body, or losing touch with reality
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When Do Borderline Personality Disorder And Alcohol Blackouts Overlap?
Alcohol use disorders are diagnosed when a person’s consumption or abuse of alcohol results in other problems in their work, school, relationships, or health. Some people suffering from alcohol use disorders or alcoholism will drink to the point that they have a blank spot in their memory; this is known as a blackout.
“Blackouts are much more common among social drinkers—including college drinkers—than was previously assumed, and have been found to encompass events ranging from conversations to intercourse” (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
Blacking out doesn’t always constitute an alcohol use disorder. In certain social circles, binge drinking and blacking out can be the point of partying. Some people might joke about a precarious drinking episode that they or a friend had. This isn’t always the case in the mind of a person suffering from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcoholism. To a person suffering from an AUD, a blackout can bring feelings of shame, remorse, discontent, irritability, concern, and fear—which are also symptoms of borderline personality disorder.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs
A medical detoxification can help safely remove alcohol from your system, as well as combat the withdrawal symptoms that can occur. Though detox is always a good idea, it’s important not to stop there. With an alcohol addiction, you must treat the mental and physical addiction. Only going to detox can be ineffective, and costly—and vise versa, only going to therapy can leave room for fatal withdrawals.
With a co-occurring disorder, ineffective treatment can be a result of overlapping symptoms of each disorder, inadequate treatment specialists, or that there were other factors that needed to be attended to first. “The consequences of undiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated co-occurring disorders can lead to a higher likelihood of experiencing homelessness, incarceration, medical illnesses, suicide, or even early death” (SAMHSA)
In any case, use of alcohol and other drugs must be barred in order to successfully correct a borderline personality disorder. A doctor at Psychology Today expands on this idea stating that “addiction plus (borderline personality disorder) can be lethal as BPD patients are more likely to be suicidal and impulsive to begin with. Add alcohol or drugs and the ability to prevent self-harm goes out the window.”
Some of the most successful treatment types for borderline personality and alcohol use disorders are:
- Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
- Schema-Focused Therapy
- Adventure Therapy
- Family Therapy & Support
- Mindfulness Therapy
- Individual & Group Counseling
- Inpatient Treatment
- Outpatient Treatment
- Healthy Living Courses
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A dual diagnosis can present a lot of confusion for you and your family, and we want to help you. Contact our treatment specialists and let us help you figure out your best plan of action for treatment and recovery. Each call is confidential.
For More Information Related to “Borderline Personality Disorder and Alcohol Blackouts” Be Sure To Check Out These Additional Resources From AlcoholTreatment.net:
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism – What Happened? Alcohol, Memory Blackouts, and the Brain
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)- Co-Occurring Disorders