Personality Disorder and Alcohol

personality disorder and alcohol use disorder

Personalities make each of us who we are. They are sets of features and traits that make us feel, act and think in a certain way. Personalities can be shaped by our biology, environment and genetic makeup. While having healthy personalities can help us function daily and deal with life’s challenges, having a personality disorder can make facing everyday life a struggle. 

People with personality disorders may also deal with alcohol use disorder, which can amplify their issues. Sana Lake Recovery Center provides dual diagnosis treatment for personality disorder and alcohol use disorder so that they can take control of their lives and face each day with confidence.  

What is a Personality Disorder?

A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which someone has an unhealthy pattern of functioning, thinking and behaving. People with personality disorders have a hard time maintaining relationships and reacting to life changes, which can lead to other mental health issues like depression. They also tend to socially isolate themselves. Personality disorders usually begin in teenage years or early adulthood.

If you have a personality disorder, you may not realize it since your behaviors seem natural to you. Many times, you may even blame others for your hardships.

Types and Symptoms of Personality Disorders

The 10 major personality disorders can be grouped into three “clusters”: A, B, and C. Each cluster is defined by different symptoms and characteristics. If people have one personality disorder, they may more often than not have symptoms of other ones as well.

Cluster A

Cluster A personality disorders are defined by unusual and odd behavior or thinking. These include paranoid personality disorder, schizoid personality disorder, and schizotypal personality disorder.

Symptoms of Cluster A personality disorders include:

  • Paranoid personality disorder
    • Suspicion and distrust
    • Fear
    • Worry that someone is taking advantage of them
    • Concern about hidden motives
  • Schizoid personality disorder
    • Withdrawing and isolating themselves from others
    • Having trouble forming and keeping relationships
    • Having jobs that require little interaction with others
    • Forming bonds with animals and objects instead of people
  • Schizotypal personality disorder
    • Bizarre facial expressions
    • Lack of close friends
    • Excessive social anxiety
    • Strange clothes
    • “Magical thinking,” or believing you can influence people with your thoughts

Cluster B

People with Cluster B personality disorders behave emotionally or dramatically, and they often have unpredictable behaviors. These include antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, histrionic personality disorder, and narcissistic personality disorder.

Symptoms of Cluster B personality disorders include:

  • Antisocial personality disorder
    • Disregard for others’ feelings
    • Impulsive and violent behavior
    • Repeated run-ins with the law
    • Consistent irresponsibility
  • Borderline personality disorder
    • Mood swings
    • Unstable self-image
    • Unstable relationships
    • Periods of intense anxiety or anger
  • Histrionic personality disorder
    • Emotionally shallow
    • Risky behavior
    • Self-centered
    • Excessively dramatic
  • Narcissistic personality disorder
    • Craving attention and admiration
    • Feelings of jealousy, hurt and rejection often
    • Disregard for others’ feelings
    • Expect they should have special treatment

Cluster C

Those with Cluster C personality disorders feel constant fear and worry, and they’ll usually have anxiety, too. These include avoidant personality disorder, dependent personality disorder, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder.

Symptoms of Cluster C personality disorders include:

  • Avoidant personality disorder
    • Low self-esteem
    • Distrust of people
    • Feeling inadequate
    • Lack of confidence in building relationships
  • Dependent personality disorder
    • Overly dependent on others
    • Doesn’t like being alone
    • Constantly tries to please others
    • Vulnerable to manipulation
  • Obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (OCPD): This is different from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). OCPD is characterized by an extreme concern with hard work and perfectionism.
    • Hoarding items
    • Rigid and stubborn
    • Extremely tight budgets
    • Can’t get rid of broken or worthless things

Risk Factors of Personality Disorders

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact reason why personality disorders come about. Personality disorders are influenced by your environment, but genetics and biology also play a role. There are a few risk factors that have been shown to increase the risk of developing personality disorders:

  • Being diagnosed with conduct disorder as a child
  • Differences in brain chemistry and structure
  • Having an unstable or abusive family life growing up
  • Having a family history of personality disorders or other mental illnesses

These risk factors are similar to those that can lead to substance use, especially alcohol use disorder.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder is now an umbrella term that includes alcohol addiction and misuse of alcohol. Because alcohol is legal and readily available in stores, it is one of the most commonly misused substances in the U.S. People with alcohol use disorder usually have trouble controlling how much they drink, have strong cravings to drink each day, or drink alone. They also can’t stop drinking even when it interferes with work or relationships.

Other symptoms of alcohol use disorder include:

  • Making excuses to drink
  • Experiencing withdrawal (nausea, vomiting, shaking, tremors) when not drinking
  • Having a high tolerance to alcohol (requiring more and more of it to get the same feeling)

Risk Factors of Alcohol Use Disorder

People are more likely to develop an addiction to alcohol if certain factors are involved.

  • Drinking at a young age: The earlier you are introduced to alcohol, the more likely you are to start misusing it.
  • History of alcoholism in your family: Alcoholism can run in families, making you predisposed to have it.
  • Having a mental disorder: Depression and anxiety can lead someone to drink so they can feel relief and escape their problems.
  • Peer pressure: Young adults may feel they have to drink because their friends do it as well.

Binge drinking can also contribute to alcohol use disorder. Men who binge drink have five or more drinks in two hours, and women who binge drink have four or more drinks in the same amount of time. Binge drinking is popular in the U.S., which makes it a socially acceptable practice.

Personality Disorder and Alcohol: How Do They Interact?

It’s no secret that people with personality disorders like to turn to alcohol and other substances as a way to deal with their illness. Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is one of the most common and least understood personality disorders out there. People with BPD tend to have addictive personalities, and this, unfortunately, ties in well with alcohol use disorder. Alcohol already impairs judgment and dulls the senses, making it an attractive but dangerous substance of choice for those who have a personality disorder. 

The tricky part of co-occurring disorders is that it is unclear which condition causes another. While people with personality disorders tend to drink alcohol to escape their feelings, alcohol can also trigger symptoms of distress and isolation. Personality disorders can come with a wide range of symptoms, which is why those who misuse alcohol can develop symptoms similar to these. 

Personality disorder and alcohol use disorder have several signs and symptoms in common:

  • Mood swings
  • A pattern of unstable relationships
  • Participating in risky behavior
  • Lying and sneaking around

Co-Occurring Disorders: Treatment for Personality Disorder and Alcohol Use Disorder

If you don’t treat personality disorder and alcohol addiction at the same time, you could gloss over a detail that may have led to the substance use disorder. 

If you have an addiction to alcohol and you’re admitted to a facility, your first course of treatment will be a medical detox. A detox is designed to flush harmful substances from your system. Alcohol comes with painful withdrawal symptoms, and these should be cared for by licensed clinicians. If you detox alone, withdrawal can be too difficult for you to handle.

After 30 days in detox, your clinician and psychologist will design an aftercare program that will best treat your personality disorder and alcohol addiction. This will usually involve therapy and some kind of medication. Both outpatient and inpatient therapy options are available at Sana Lake Recovery Center. The best choice for you will depend on the severity of your situation.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) has been proven to be highly effective on people with personality disorders, especially borderline personality disorder. When first created, it was made specifically to treat BPD, but now it treats a wide range of illnesses. “Dialectics” means “balancing opposites,” and the core belief behind DBT is that acceptance can be balanced with change. Mindfulness is a large part of DBT sessions as well.

DBT can help people with personality disorder and alcohol use disorder lead stable, purposeful lives by teaching them how to regulate their unpredictable emotions. 

Support Groups

People dealing with personality disorder and alcohol addiction need to have people in their corner who can prevent them from relapsing. Group therapy and other support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) will surround you with former users who have successfully recovered from alcohol addiction and co-occurring disorders. They can share their stories with you so that you don’t feel alone. 

In AA, you are assigned a sponsor who will keep you accountable and be a voice of reason when you’re faced with the urge to drink.

Find Help for Personality Disorder and Alcohol at Sana Lake

Sana Lake Recovery Center has the best treatment for co-occurring disorders you’ll find in Missouri. Relapse rates are high for people with co-occurring disorders, which is why having quality dual diagnosis treatment is so important. When you have people in your corner who want to help you through your personality disorder and alcohol addiction, it will be easier for you to find happiness. Contact us today, and a member of our addiction treatment staff will get you on the path to sobriety.

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/personality-disorders/symptoms-causes/syc-20354463

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/192888#obsessive_compulsive_personality_disorder

https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/personality-disorders/what-are-personality-disorders

https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/basics#treatment

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.