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Personality Disorders and Addiction

Personality disorders can be difficult to diagnose in many cases. For those who suffer from them, their symptoms can become quite severe. They can impair every aspect of their lives. This includes their abilities to maintain solid relationships, stay in school, and hold down steady employment. If you're suffering from a personality disorder and an addiction, you're not alone. Many people have found that these two conditions go hand in hand. Quite often, the personality disorder goes undiagnosed. They simply choose to use substances as a way to cope with their symptoms. This creates a dangerous addiction cycle that is very difficult to break.

Personality Disorders Information

Personality disorders and addictions commonly occur together. The DSM-5 states that an individual can be diagnosed with a personality disorder under certain circumstances. There must be:

  • Significant impairments in self-functioning
  • Problems with interpersonal functioning
  • Stability with these features for an extended period of time
  • Inconsistency within the person's developmental stage
  • No effects because of a medical condition

At Northpoint Washington, we've had great success with helping people with personality disorders overcome their addictions. We utilize a specific type of treatment that is known as dual diagnosis treatment. Sometimes it is referred to as integrative addiction treatment. We've found that the key is to address the reasons behind the addiction, along with the addiction itself. In doing that, our patients have higher than average success rates.

It's possible that you've been suffering from a personality disorder for years, but you never knew it. If you have an addiction, and you suspect you also have a personality disorder, you need to know for sure. We'd like to provide you with the information you need and educate you on this subject. First, it's important to understand what personality disorders are, and what they look like.

Personality Disorders Explained

“Some days, I feel everything at once. Other days, I feel nothing at all. I don't know what's worse; drowning beneath the waves or dying from the thirst.” – O.M.

There are many different mental illnesses that can fall under the heading of personality disorders. These conditions involve long-term, unhealthy patterns of behaviors and thoughts. They are completely inflexible, and they often cause serious personal problems.

People with personality disorders often find it difficult to work or maintain positive relationships with others. Trying to deal with mundane, everyday stresses is a challenge for them. They don't handle problems well at all.

Another component of personality disorders is the fact that people usually don't realize they have them. In their opinions, the thoughts they have are completely normal. They rarely take credit for their own shortcomings, and they blame others for their problems.

Fortunately, the fact that these individuals have work and relationship problems usually drives them to get treatment. According to the National Institute of Mental Health:

  • 9% of people in the United States have a personality disorder.
  • The majority of these individuals were also found to have co-occurring disorders.
  • Only 39% of personality disorder sufferers get any type of treatment.
  • Of those who did get treatment, they averaged two total visits with professionals.
  • Borderline personality disorder was found to be among the most common types. 1.4% of those with some type of personality disorder had it.

There are several different types of personality disorders. Each one affects people differently.

What are the Different Types of Personality Disorders?

If you think you may have a personality disorder, it can be helpful to look at the different types. Personality disorders take a number of different forms, and they include the following:

Paranoid Personality Disorder

Someone who has paranoid personality disorder lives in constant distrust of other people. He or she doesn't trust friends, families or even partners. This leads to guardedness and suspicion. What's worse is that this person is always looking for ways to validate these thoughts.

People with paranoid personality disorder frequently become sensitive to setbacks. They tend to become withdrawn from other people, and their personal relationships suffer. They feel very strongly about their personal rights, and they often hold grudges.

Someone who has paranoid personality disorder will project his or her thoughts onto other people. This is a coping mechanism that they use to defend their own egos.

Schizoid Personality Disorder

Someone with this personality disorder tends to direct attention away from the world. Instead, attention is directed internally. This person may live in a world of fantasy and introspection. He or she may come across as being detached and even aloof at times.

An individual with schizoid personality disorder usually feels no desire for social relationships. They lack deep emotions, and are not at all interested in sexual relationships.

There are some experts who believe that deep down, people with schizoid PD may desire deep relationships. However, they find initiating these types of relationships to be very intimidating. This drives them inward, where they've created a rich and rewarding life all their own.

It's quite common for people with schizoid PD to avoid treatment. They are usually high-functioning individuals who aren't bothered by the way they are at all.

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

In many ways, schizotypal personality disorder can be very similar to schizophrenia. They usually have an odd appearance, behaviors and speech patterns. They typically have strange belief systems and may even have magical thinking patterns. They may be suspicious and may ruminate on strange thoughts and ideas.

People with schizotypal PD are generally afraid of interacting with other socially. They may even think of other people as being harmful to them. Eventually, they may form ideas of reference. This means that they believe that everything that happens is related to them.

People with this type of personality disorder are at a great risk of developing schizophrenia, eventually.

Antisocial Personality Disorder

More men suffer from antisocial personality disorder than women. This disorder is characterized by having no concern about the feelings of other people. Someone with antisocial PD may completely disregard social rules and obligations. They may become aggressive at times, or act impulsively. No matter what they do, or what lines they cross, they have no guilt. They can be irritable, and they don't learn from their experiences.

One of the things that makes antisocial PD so interesting is the way the person functions within relationships. Many of these individuals have no problem forming relationships. In fact, they may often even come across as charming or extremely kind. However, these character traits are only superficial at best. Any relationships formed usually end up ending soon afterwards.

Also, people with antisocial PD have a tendency to have criminal records. The individual may have a prison history.

Borderline Personality Disorder

For someone with borderline personality disorder, this individual lives in constant fear of abandonment. He or she lacks a general sense of self. This can lead to emptiness and general instability.

The behaviors of someone with borderline PD often occur in patterns. There may be many unstable relationships, bursts of anger and even violence. Impulsive behaviors are typical, as are suicidal threats and self-harm. These problems may be one of the reasons why those with borderline PD are more likely to get treatment.

Borderline personality disorder got its name in an interesting way. It is on the “border” of anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders. Borderline PD seems to be much more common in women than in men. This may be because experts believe it could stem from childhood sexual abuse.

Histrionic Personality Disorder

For those who have histrionic personality disorder, they crave the attention and approval of others. They may seem to play a role in order to earn attention. People who have histrionic PD will take care of their appearance. They may come across as being overly seductive or charming.

Understandingly enough, people with this personality disorder frequently put themselves at great risk. They may suffer from accidents or from being exploited. Relationships with other people may be superficial or insincere. Long-term, this can have a dramatic effect on their relationships.

People with histrionic PD will frequently become sensitive to criticism. They try to avoid rejection at all costs. If they experience a loss or a failure, it is detrimental for them. When they do experience rejection, this can create a terrible cycle of increased histrionic behavior.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

For those with narcissistic personality disorder, they feel self-important. They have a strong desire to be admired, and often feel entitled. This person envies other people, and expects them to be envious of him or her too. For someone with narcissistic PD, he or she has no empathy for other people. In fact, exploiting others to achieve his or her goals is quite common.

To other people, someone with this personality disorder can seem uncaring, insensitive, selfish and self-absorbed. They may also seem controlling most of the time.

If someone suffering with narcissistic PD feels ridiculed, he or she may become destructively angry. Taking revenge is very common. This is often referred to as a narcissistic rage. For those involved, the consequences can be dire.

Avoidant Personality Disorder

People with avoidant personality disorder use an extreme amount of restraint in their relationships. They live their lives in fear of being rejected or embarrassed. They may feel socially inept or inferior most of the time.

As far as new relationships go, people with avoidant personality disorder will avoid them. The only way they will give them a chance is if they're guaranteed to be liked. Their intimate relationships suffer horribly.

This personality disorder shares many characteristics with anxiety disorders. It may be associated with childhood rejection by peers or even parents. They tend to monitor their own internal reactions, as well as those of other people. This prevents them from becoming too social.

Dependent Personality Disorder

People who suffer from dependent personality disorder will often maintain a child-like persona. They depend on others for almost everything in their lives. They lack the necessary self-confidence to make decisions for themselves. As a result, they constantly need to be looked after and taken care of.

This individual will have a strong fear of being abandoned. He or she may be consistently worrying about maintaining personal relationships with others. They visualize other people in their lives as being powerful and competent.

The fact that they lack insight into themselves and their own capabilities drives them to depend on others. People with this personality disorder are very vulnerable to abusive situations and relationships.

Anankastic Personality Disorder

Anankastic personality disorder is very closely linked with anxiety. This person is very focused on rules, details and order. His or her level of perfectionism is extreme, and it can prevent tasks from becoming completed.

This individual is highly devoted to work and being productive. This usually is at the expense of everything else in life. Controlling behaviors are typical of someone with this personality disorder. Also, this person lacks humor and is rigid and doubting most of the time.

The anxiety that accompanies anankastic PD stems from feeling a lack of control. The more he or she tries to regain control, the more out of control they feel. The world is seen in black or white, good or bad.

For this individual, personal relationships are often strained. This is because of the unreasonable demands that are constantly made on these people.

Symptoms of the Various Personality Disorders

As you can see, with so many different personality disorders, there aren't many symptoms that are typical with all of them. Knowing the symptoms of each one can help you understand where you might fit.

Symptoms of paranoid personality disorder include:

  • Constantly distrusting others and their motives
  • Always feeling as though someone is trying to harm you
  • Being suspicious of the loyalty of other people
  • Feeling hesitant to talk with others in case what you share is used against you
  • Perceiving innocent remarks as being personal attacks
  • Becoming angry to perceived insults
  • Holding grudges

Symptoms of schizoid personality disorder include:

  • Having a preference of being alone
  • Not having any interest in social relationships
  • Being unable to feel pleasure in most activities
  • Not being able to understand social cues
  • Appearing indifferent to others
  • Having no interest in sex

Symptoms of schizotypal personality disorder include:

  • Having strange speech, behaviors or thoughts
  • Experiencing strange things, such as hearing voices
  • Demonstrating inappropriate emotional responses, or no emotions at all
  • Being very uncomfortable with social relationships
  • Being suspicious of other people
  • Having the belief that you can influence others with your thoughts
  • Believing that some events contain hidden messages just for you

Symptoms of antisocial personality disorder include:

  • Paying no attention to others' needs or feelings
  • Lying, stealing, or otherwise conning other people
  • Having recurring legal problems
  • Violating the rights of others repeatedly
  • Becoming aggressive or violent
  • Displaying impulsive behaviors
  • Very irresponsible
  • Having no remorse for behaviors

Symptoms of borderline personality disorder include:

  • Exhibiting dangerous or risky behaviors
  • Having a fragile self-image
  • Intense and unstable relationships with others
  • Frequent mood swings because of stress
  • Threats of self-injury
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
  • Feeling afraid of being alone
  • Living in fear of being abandoned
  • Constantly feeling empty
  • Frequent bouts of anger
  • Frequent bouts of paranoia

Symptoms of histrionic personality disorder include:

  • Always seeking attention from others
  • Very emotional and sexually provocative
  • Speaks with strong opinions
  • Rapidly shifting emotions
  • Very concerned with physical appearance
  • Very easily influenced by other people
  • Believes that relationships are much closer than they are

Symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • Feels special and more important than other people
  • Often thinks about success and power
  • Frequently focuses on his or her own attractiveness
  • Fails to consider others' feelings and needs
  • Exaggerates talents and achievements
  • Expects constant admiration and praise
  • Behaves arrogantly
  • Places unrealistic expectations on other people
  • Frequently takes advantage of others
  • Envies other people
  • Believes other people should envy him or her

Symptoms of avoidant personality disorder include:

  • Very sensitive to rejection or criticism
  • Feels inferior, unattractive and inadequate
  • Avoids activities that require contact with others
  • Very timid and isolated from other people
  • Very shy in social situations
  • Avoids personal relationships
  • Lives in fear of disapproval and embarrassment

Symptoms of dependent personality disorder include:

  • Feels a constant need to be taken care of
  • Very submissive and clingy toward other people
  • Is afraid of being abandoned or left to care for him or herself
  • Lacks confidence
  • Requires excessive advice from others, even in making small decisions
  • Has problems starting projects or completing them
  • Is afraid to disagree with others
  • Lives in constant fear of disapproval
  • Will tolerate being abused or treated poorly
  • When a close relationship has ended, feels an urgent need to start a new one

Symptoms of anankastic personality disorder include:

  • Being very preoccupied with rules and details
  • Holding themselves to the highest standards of perfectionism
  • Desiring to be in control of other people and situations
  • Neglecting friends and fun because of work
  • Being unable to get rid of worthless objects
  • Very rigid and stubborn
  • Feeling inflexible about values and morals
  • Doesn't like to spend money

What Causes Personality Disorders to Develop?

There are a number of different things that can lead to the development of a personality disorder. Many psychologists believe that family upbringing is probably involved in most cases. People who have dysfunctional home lives are more likely to have personality disorders.

Genetic factors probably play a major role in them as well. If a mother or father had a personality disorder, they may pass it down to their children.

Of course, every person is different. Also, just because certain factors are present, that doesn't make a personality disorder inevitable.

How are Personality Disorders Usually Treated?

There are many different methods that are used to treat personality disorders. Treatment usually depends on how extreme the symptoms are at that time.

  • Hospitalization: For those who are experiencing problematic, or even life-threatening symptoms, hospitalization may be required. In an inpatient setting, those with personality disorders can get the help and support they need.
  • Psychotherapy: Psychotherapy is a very important part of treating personality disorders. It allows people to learn more about their conditions. They are also free to talk about their moods and behaviors. Psychotherapy is a great way to learn how to cope with stress and manage the disorder successfully.
  • Social Skills Training: It appears that social skills are often lacking for people with personality disorders. Getting the right kind of training in this area can be very helpful.
  • Family Therapy: It is important for family members to understand personality disorders. They often don't realize what their loved ones are going through or being faced with. Family therapy helps families to be able to offer continual support.
  • Medications: Several different medications are quite useful in managing the symptoms of personality disorders.

Medications Used to Treat Personality Disorders

The FDA has not approved certain medications to help with personality disorders. However, many different types of medications can be used to control symptoms. Antidepressants can help with anger or depressed moods. Mood stabilizers can even out moods and reduce aggressive behaviors. Antipsychotic medications can aid in psychosis-related personality disorders. Anti-anxiety medications can decrease anxiety levels and even help to improve sleep.

Types of Substances Commonly Used by Those with Personality Disorders

Because there are so many different personality disorders, these individuals may use a number of substances. Sufferers tend to go for substances that counteract the symptoms they're experiencing.

For example, someone who lives with anxious feelings may tend to drink alcohol or use prescription opiates. Someone who feels depressed may turn to stimulants like cocaine or prescription drugs like Adderall or Concerta. Someone who suffers from the psychotic effects that can accompany some personality disorders may prefer hallucinogenic drugs.

The Connection Between Personality Disorders and Addiction

There is a strong connection between personality disorders and addiction. Because of the fact that people with these conditions often live in denial, they fail to get treatment. In order to cope with how they feel, using drugs or alcohol seems like a viable option for them.

At first, these individuals probably feel as though their symptoms are managed well with substances. This is especially true when they choose those that counteract their symptoms. However, over time, drugs and alcohol don't seem to work as well as they once did. This may lead to compensate and increase how much they're using. They may even move on to different, harsher drugs to achieve what they want.

When a personality disorder and addiction are both present, these are called co-occurring disorders.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for the Co-Occurring Disorders of Addiction and Personality Disorders

At one point in time, co-occurring disorders didn't get treated together. Instead, they were treated separately. This caused a lot of confusion for people, and it led to a lot of relapses too.

Dual diagnosis treatment offers help for both conditions at the same time. This is important because for many people, their personality disorders led to their addictions. Unless the cause of the addiction receives adequate treatment, the addiction is likely to continue.

The best drug and alcohol treatment facilities will offer specific types of treatment for each patient. They should provide drug and alcohol detox services for those who need them. They should also encourage most people to opt for inpatient treatment. This ensures that they'll get the type of help they need.

During inpatient treatment, patients will meet with a therapist for individual counseling sessions. During these sessions, the reasons behind the addiction will be discovered. At that point, they will be able to be treated appropriately.

For someone with co-occurring disorders, following up is important. An intensive outpatient program might be the right course of action after inpatient treatment.

Integrative Addiction Treatment for Personality Disorders Can Help with Recovery

After reading the above information, you may feel fairly certain that you have a personality disorder. You also might feel stuck in your addiction. So many people do. They worry that their symptoms are going to drive them to continue using forever. This does not have to be the case for you.

The right kind of drug and alcohol treatment can make such a difference in your life. Not all addiction treatment centers offer the kind of help you need. It's important to keep that in mind. However, those that offer dual diagnosis treatment will provide you with the support you need.

Here at Northpoint Washington, we know the importance of treating the source of your addiction. Co-occurring disorders are very serious. The chances of recovering without treating them are quite small. The right type of psychotherapy can provide you with the help you need to overcome your addiction. This is usually done in an inpatient treatment setting.

Perhaps it's time for you to think about your addiction differently. If you have a personality disorder and a drug or alcohol addiction, we can help you.

Are you ready to get the help you need for your addiction and personality disorder? Please contact us today to learn how you can get started right away.

Northpoint Washington: Opening April 2019

Our facilities currently open for services:

Ashwood Recovery at Northpoint

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Boise, Idaho.

Northpoint Recovery

Our National Medical Detox and Inpatient Addiction Facility.

The Evergreen at Northpoint

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Washington State.