Treating Personality Disorder and Substance Abuse

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are many types of specific personality disorders. When someone suffers from a personality disorder, they generally have trouble identifying with the world around them in a healthy manner. They have difficulty in the way they relate to people or events. They may even have problems identifying with themselves.

Significant Risks Associated with Personality Disorders

One significant and dangerous risk associate with many personality disorders is the possibility of self-harm. Self-harming behaviors may include cutting or other behaviors that cause physical injury alongside the mental health disorder.

Some individuals who suffer from personality disorders will engage in risky behavior, including:

  • Promiscuity
  • Attempted suicide
  • Completed suicide
  • Eating disorders
  • Violence that can result in injury to oneself and others

Another risk that is often associated with personality disorders is the risk of substance abuse that can lead to addiction.

Substance Abuse and Addiction Alongside Mental Health Issues

man with substance abuse and mental health issueWhen someone uses drugs without a prescription or in a manner that is not in accordance with their doctor’s instructions, they are engaging in substance abuse. Sometimes, an individual will abuse drugs they have obtained legally after undergoing an examination by a doctor. They might decrease the time between doses, taking the medication every two hours rather than every four, for example. They might take several pills, rather than the actual number they have been instructed to take. They might also take the pill in a manner other than directed, such as grinding a time-released medication into a powder to eliminate the time-released properties of the drug.

Other individuals abuse drugs by obtaining them for friends when they have similar symptoms. A friend who is diagnosed with a mental health issue may recognize those symptoms in someone they know. They might feel as though they are helping by offering some of their own medication to their friend to save them the trouble of visiting a doctor. This is dangerous for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the person will have skipped the important initial physical and mental evaluation necessary to ensure they can safely take the medication.

Addiction can develop as a result of substance abuse when individuals are unable to maintain the amount of drugs they introduce to their system. For instance, people may take two tablets and experience certain euphoric effects. They may believe that the drugs are controlling the symptoms of their personality disorder, but over time, they find that the drugs are no longer working properly. Without the advice and control of a trained medical professional, individuals simply increases the doses they are consuming. As their bodies adjust to the drugs, they begin to notice a decline in the effects again. Again, they increase their self-administered dose. This process is known as tolerance.

As the body builds more and more tolerance, it becomes dependent upon the drug. When the drug is unavailable or users consciously choose to stop abusing the substance, they may experience difficult withdrawal symptoms. The compulsion to abuse drugs may become so powerful that they are unable to quit, or they will seemingly choose to abuse drugs rather than participate in the important aspects of their lives. They may stop going to work or school, neglect their responsibilities to their children and family members, or they may completely disengage from their non-drug-abusing friends.

Treating Personality Disorder and Substance Abuse

group therapyThere are several stages to the treatment of personality disorders and substance abuse. The first stage of recovery is the detoxification stage. This is necessary to remove toxins from the individual’s body and bring them to a mental state where treatment can begin. While treatment for some personality disorders may include medication, it is necessary to remove the illicit elements in order to determine which medications will be most effective. In the event that medication is not an option, an experienced and professional care provider can make alternative suggestions.

Detoxification programs vary depending upon the drugs abused. For instance, some drugs have less severe withdrawal symptoms than others, and some drugs, such as benzodiazepines, should not be eliminated without medical supervision due to the risk of severe, sometimes life-threatening symptoms.

Detoxification can last for various amounts of time depending upon the types and amounts of drugs abused. Once it is completed, the recovering individual can expect to undergo comprehensive psychological testing. Because there is a higher abuse and addiction rate among individuals who suffer from co-occurring mental illness, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, it is important that every person who is seeking drug addiction treatment undergo these types of examinations.

In the event that the examination reveals that a mental health disorder does exist, the treatment providers can then create a unique and personalized treatment plan. Each person is different. Two individuals who are diagnosed with the same personality disorder, for instance, will bring with them varying life experiences, personal relationships, symptoms, behaviors and, when applicable, addictions. The same treatment plan will not necessarily work for both of these individuals. The elements of the treatment plan may seem very similar, however.

For instance, treatment plans for personality disorders associated with substance abuse may involve:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Therapy that is designed to unlearn unhealthy behaviors developed over time by teaching individuals a better way to see the world around them through honest, reasonable interpretation of their surroundings has been shown to help individuals with borderline personality disorder.
  • Family therapy. The family dynamic is often helped when all members participate in some capacity during the treatment process.
  • Individual psychotherapy. In addition to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, standard talk therapy between an individual in recovery and a trusted therapist or counselor can be beneficial.
  • Group therapy. Conducted in groups made up of individuals with similar conditions, group therapy provides input on a peer level that can help those in recovery feel less isolated while giving them living examples to follow and accountability to maintain sobriety and healthy behaviors for others in the group.
  • Support groups. In an effort to maintain sobriety, some individual benefit from participation in peer support groups that provide stability and increased awareness about their substance abuse condition, which studies have shown can decrease episodes of relapse.

Ongoing Treatment after Inpatient Care Is Important

ongoing treatmentThe National Institute on Drug Abuse has established that drug addiction is a chronic brain disease that is marked by relapse. An article published in the New York Times indicates that personality disorders can improve with treatment, but the prognosis varies considerably from one person to the next and there is no mention of a cure. With these two facts in place, it is important to understand that treatment may be a lifelong endeavor. Once individuals have begun the recovery process from alcohol or drug abuse and they have managed their personality disorder, they must still maintain their treatment plan over time. For instance, if they are prescribed medications for the personality disorder and they suddenly or gradually stop taking that medication, the symptoms may return. These symptoms may create an atmosphere that prompts the recovering addict to abuse drugs.

Relapse is not an indicator that treatment has failed or that the individual should give up their attempts to be healthy. Rather, it means only that the treatment plan needs to be adjusted to allow for the new conditions. If you are, or someone you love is, suffering from a personality disorder that has resulted in a substance abuse problem, it is never too early to get the help you need to begin a life that is rewarding and full of accomplishment. Please do not hesitate to contact us here at The Oaks at La Paloma. We can help you get on track to a healthy, balanced life.