Personality Disorders and Substance Use

We all have strengths and weaknesses in our personality traits, and they influence the way that we engage with the world. But people with a personality disorder experience anomalies within their personality traits, which impair their ability to function. As a result, people with personality disorders have an increased risk of developing substance use disorder.

What Are Personality Disorders?

Personality disorders are clinical diagnoses that refer to a specific group of mental health conditions. People who have these types of disorders usually have a maladaptive way of thinking, behaving or relating. Certain traits may overpower others, leading to negative consequences.

Cluster A

There are three clusters of personality disorders. People within cluster A often seem eccentric or strange because the following personality traits are accentuated:

  • Paranoid personality disorder – This disorder is characterized by wariness and suspicion when it’s not justified. It can lead to mistrust in others and difficulty with relationships.
  • Schizoid personality disorder – A lack of interest in others leads to general detachment and a limited scope of emotional expression.
  • Schizotypal personality disorder – Social discomfort paired with eccentric behaviors, bizarre preoccupations and a distorted perception of reality make interpersonal relationships stressful. However, people with this disorder have an interest in connecting with others.

Cluster B

Cluster B personality disorders are distinguished by pronounced, erratic emotions:

  • Antisocial personality disorder – Impulsiveness and recklessness with disregard for others characterize this personality disorder. Deceitfulness and manipulativeness are also symptoms.
  • Borderline personality disorder – A pattern of unstable emotions and behaviors, combined with strong insecurities, make it difficult to stay in healthy relationships and routines.
  • Histrionic personality disorder – Exaggerated emotions and attention-seeking behaviors are combined with a distorted sense of self-worth.
  • Narcissistic personality disorder – Someone with this condition has grandiose beliefs about themselves, seeks admiration and has little empathy.

Cluster C

Cluster C personality disorders are associated with anxiety and fearfulness:

  • Avoidant personality disorder – Fearing rejection, people with this personality disorder isolate themselves from social connections.
  • Dependent personality disorder – A strong insecurity about their ability to take care of themselves leads to codependent and unhealthy attachments.
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder – This disorder can make you have rigid thinking and behaviors. A preoccupation with order and control can make it difficult to adapt and function in life.

An unspecified personality disorder is diagnosed when an individual meets the criteria for different personality disorders across the spectrum. Regardless of the diagnosis, most personality disorders are characterized by a distorted image of self and trouble with interpersonal relationships.

We help people with addictions and substance use disorders recover. Get mindfulness training and learn the 12 Steps for deeper healing.

What Is the Relationship Between Substance Abuse and Personality Disorders?

The presence of personality disorders can increase the risk of substance use disorder and addiction. One reason is that they generate adverse consequences in people’s lives, and individuals may use drugs and alcohol to cope.

The symptoms of personality disorders aren’t always inherently distressing to the individual. They may not be bothered by their symptoms or see a reason to change. For example, someone with a cluster A personality disorder may not be bothered by their eccentricity. An individual with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder may not realize that their high standards are imposing and unattainable.

Personality disorders usually become evident when they begin to affect your personal, professional and social life. You may have a hard time maintaining relationships, making friends or holding a job. This can lead to isolation and stress.

Moreover, some personality disorders can make you feel unstable. You may feel great one day and miserable the next. You might feel like you lack the ability to manage your emotions.

Substance abuse masks those dramatic ebbs and flows. It may seem like an escape from your issues, but it almost always causes more problems down the road.

Statistics About Personality Disorders and Addiction

The high rate of statistical correlation between personality disorders and addiction might answer the question, “What is the relationship between substance use and personality disorders?”

Approximately 73% of people who are treated for addiction have a co-occurring personality disorder. Some studies indicate that up to 90% of people in substance use disorder treatment also struggle with a personality disorder.

Many studies have found that cluster C disorders are highly associated with alcohol use disorder. However, cluster B personality disorders are most commonly related with substance abuse in general. As many as 66% of people with borderline personality disorder struggle with drug dependence.

Does Substance Abuse Cause Personality Disorders?

With such a strong link between substance abuse and personality disorders, you might wonder whether drug use can cause a personality disorder. Experts say that substance use disorder doesn’t cause personality disorders. However, it can exacerbate symptoms and consequences of the condition.

Personality disorders are different from other psychological conditions, like depression. Depression and anxiety are highly linked to imbalances in brain chemicals. But personality disorders may have more to do with the brain’s wiring than its neurotransmitters. Therefore, these disorders aren’t as susceptible to changes from medications or substances.

That doesn’t mean that substance use disorder can’t make symptoms of personality disorders worse. For example, being high might make someone with borderline personality more impulsive. The memory deficits that occur with addiction can make someone with paranoid personality disorder more mistrustful.

A substance use disorder adds stress to an individual’s life. It can make it even more difficult to live a fulfilling existence and connect with others. Plus, it can create trauma and distress that contribute to a personality disorder.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Renewal Lodge

The relationship between personality disorders and substance use disorder is complex. Because these mental health concerns overlap so much, they require holistic, comprehensive treatment. You can reduce the risk of relapse by attending a dual diagnosis treatment program.

At Renewal Lodge, we offer a well-rounded dual diagnosis treatment program that helps you get your life back on track. You will learn more about your personality disorder and the way that it interacts with your substance use disorder. With our long-term planning approach, you’ll get to know yourself as you work toward recovery.

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Dear Renewal Lodge Visitors,

My name is John Bruna, co-founder of the Mindfulness in Recovery® Institute, and more importantly, a grateful member of the recovery community. I am incredibly fortunate to have found my recovery in 1984. Of course, I did not achieve continuous recovery through willpower or my own efforts, but through the guidance and caring support of countless others that selflessly taught me how to live through the 12 Steps.

My journey of recovery brought this once homeless, shame-based, traumatized, insecure young man to a life far beyond anything I could have ever imagined. I discovered self-worth, the joy of helping others, the gifts of parenting and grandparenting, and most importantly the ability to live a meaningful and purposeful life with integrity.

One of the greatest gifts of recovery is that I have the opportunity to give back and help others discover their self-worth, dignity, and the skills to fully live lives that they find truly meaningful. This is the inspiration for developing the skills of Mindfulness in Recovery® (MIR) to meet the needs of new generations struggling with alcohol and other substance use disorders. MIR is a set of evidence-based skills designed to help people fully integrate their tools of recovery in ways that are personalized, practical, and in alignment with their deepest values.

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