Addictions to drugs and alcohol can spring up due to external circumstances. Living with a partner who uses drugs could tempt people to experiment with drugs, for example, and an addiction might follow from that experimentation. Similarly, living in a community in which alcohol abuse is common and celebrated might also lead to alcoholism, as alcohol abuse begins to seem both normal and healthy. For some people, however, addictions begin deep inside the mind, preying upon vulnerabilities these people were born with or have developed throughout the years. People with personality disorders, for example, might develop addictions as they attempt to soothe their minds and make their lives easier to tolerate.
Personality disorders can be somewhat difficult to understand, as each separate disorder has its own symptoms, risk factors and consequences. An article that explained each and every disorder in detail would stretch to thousands of words, and it might contain more detail than most users would find either helpful or necessary. As a result, this article will contain only a brief outline of all of the separate personality disorders, as well as a discussion of the link between these disorders and addictions. People who recognize aspects of their own personalities in these descriptions, or who see traits that they recognize in those they love, should consider getting formal help and more information from medical providers.
A Quick Description
Each day, people are asked to interact with other people, revealing their inner traits and adapting their approach to meet the needs of the people they’re talking to. This push-pull, give-take makes up healthy interactions between people, and those who cannot seem to get through these transactions in a normal manner might put off alarm bells to those they talk to. They might also have a personality disorder. In general, people with personality disorders tend to have an inner experience of the world, and an outer expression of that experience, that differs from what others might expect. These people tend to be stiff and rigid in these behaviors, and they might believe that they are normal or acceptable, even though they may experience negative consequences due to that behavior on a daily basis.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 9.1 percent of the American adult population has some form of personality disorder, but only about 39 percent of these people are receiving any kind of medical treatment for the issues they face. This seems to suggest that many people are dealing with this issue on their own, attempting to find their own solutions, or they simply don’t realize that they have any kind of issue at all.
Upon first glance, these prevalence numbers might seem low, as almost anyone could have an interesting and quirky inner life and outer persona. In fact, most people could rattle off a long list of friends and family members who have traits that seem to fit within the definition of a personality disorder. It’s important to note, however, that a diagnosis of a personality disorder only comes about due to distress. Someone must experience distress or impaired functioning in order to truly meet the diagnosis of a personality disorder. Those who are a little unusual, but still succeed in life and don’t struggle in any way, don’t meet the criteria for this mental illness.
Mental Health America reports that personality disorders are often recognizable in adolescence, but the symptoms of the mental illness tend to become less obvious as middle age approaches. This doesn’t mean that the mental illness has disappeared, however, as impacted people might still be looking for ways to help them relate to the world around them. But, it’s possible that adults have found ways to hide behind other coping mechanisms and elude detection by mental health professionals.
Clusters of Symptoms
Personality disorders are often placed into three separate groups based on the types of symptoms that people within these groups face. These groups are far from rigid, however, and many groups seem to share characteristics and traits. In addition, some people have more than one type of personality disorder at the same time, and this can make diagnosis even more complicated.
Cluster A personality disorders are characterized by eccentric or odd behavior. People with this type of personality disorder might be paranoid, showing a deep hostility or distrust of others. They might also show a lack of interest in relationships, and they may seem indifferent to others or unable to relate to them. Some people in this group also believe that they can influence others with their thoughts, or that public communications contain hidden messages, just for them.
Cluster B personality disorders are characterized by emotional thinking, dramatic behavior or erratic behavior.
Examples of specific illnesses include:
- Antisocial personality disorder, in which people lie, steal or demonstrate aggression
- Borderline personality disorder, in which people have unstable moods, volatile relationships and suicidal behavior
- Histrionic personality disorder, in which people are excessively emotional and constantly seeing attention
- Narcissistic personality disorder, in which people exaggerate their achievements, expecting praise and recognition from everyone who surrounds them
According to Medscape, this cluster of personality disorders contains some of the specific disorders most commonly diagnosed in American adults. For example, antisocial personality disorder impacts 3 percent of men, while borderline personality disorder impacts 2 percent of all adults.
The final cluster of personality disorders, Cluster C, is characterized by fearful or anxious behavior. People in this group may be hypersensitive to criticism, and they might seem shy and timid. Others might be quite dependent on other people, and they might be submissive and tolerant of abuse. Those in Cluster C might also create specific rituals or patterns of movement they feel will give them control or power in situations in which they feel powerless.
The Link to Addiction
Multiple studies have shown a link between personality disorders and addictions. For example, a study in the journal Addiction found that 37 percent of those who had drug addictions, and 53 percent of those with alcoholism, also had personality disorders. This is a remarkable finding, indicating that many people who enter treatment programs for addiction also have a personality disorder. Researchers didn’t identify which came first, the addiction or the personality disorder, but it’s clear that the two seem to coexist quite happily.
Other studies have attempted to solidify the link between personality disorders and addiction. For example, a separate study for Addiction looked at adult twins. They found that the environment the children lived in had little to do with the risk of addiction. Instead, the addiction rate seemed to be tied to “genetic factors common [to] a specific subset of antisocial personality traits describing conduct problems, narcissistic and stimulus-seeking behaviour.” This study seems to indicate that inheritable traits common in personality disorders, traits the children got from their parents, increased their risk of addiction. This seems to imply that mental illnesses come first, and then led to addiction.
Regardless of which condition might come first, it’s clear that the two conditions can work together and intensify one another. For example, a study in the journal Psychiatric Services found that people with personality disorders, a longer history of addiction, or both were at a higher rate of relapse to addiction after treatment, compared to people who did not have these issues. It’s clear that these two conditions tend to reinforce one another and hold one another up, making life much more difficult for people impacted by these diseases.
Recovery Is Possible
People who have personality disorders, as mentioned, may have a low awareness of their diseases. They may not know that the way they are behaving isn’t healthy, and as a result, they may not be able to change their behavior on their own. Instead, they might turn to drugs or alcohol to help them feel more at ease with their mental health issues. Therapy can help to break that link. In therapy, people can learn more about their mental health issues, and how those issues can play into a cycle of addiction. They can also get help for their addiction at the same time.
Dual treatment programs for personality disorders and addiction use:
- Medication management
- Group therapy
- Support groups
- One-on-one counseling
All of these interventions can help increase awareness, and help people to truly understand that there is a different, healthier way to live. It could be of vital importance to people who have personality disorders and addiction. For example, a study in the journal Current Opinion in Psychiatry found that the risk for suicide in people who have these conditions is quite high, even when these people get help for substance abuse. Receiving no help, or help for only one aspect of the issue, is just not helpful. But, multi-faceted help for both the addiction and the mental illness could make life seem worth living once more.
To find out more about this form of comprehensive care, please contact us. We specialize in creating programs that can help soothe the symptoms of mental illness and of addictions. We’re happy to talk with you, and help you fill out enrollment paperwork so you can get started on healing right away. Please call our operators now to get started.