Personality Disorders and Addiction

personality disorders and addiction

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This year’s theme emphasizes the message that you are not alone and that you can connect safely to heal and to prioritize your mental health. Especially given the challenges of the past year, remember that it’s okay to not be okay but it’s also important to seek help when you need it. Substance use disorder has been an important concern as well, particularly during the pandemic. There are many connections between personality disorders and addiction that can be addressed in positive ways for your continued mental and physical health.

What is a Personality Disorder?

There are many types of personality disorders, which are a group of mental illnesses. These disorders involve long-term patterns of thoughts and behaviors that are inflexible and unhealthy. When you have a personality disorder, your behavior can cause serious problems for you at work or in your relationships with others. You may have trouble dealing with your everyday problems and stressors.

The symptoms of each type of personality disorder can range from mild to severe. When you have such a disorder, you may not realize it until it becomes a problem for you. In fact, you may feel as though your thoughts are normal and may blame others for any problems you may encounter.

Personality disorders are typically characterized by:

  • Behavior patterns that are inflexible, resistant to change, and pervasive
  • Behavior that is significantly different from the usual expectations and that is entrenched
  • A lack of awareness that these behavior patterns and characteristics are different and are causing problems
  • Distress and challenges in one or more areas of your life, usually when other people get upset about your behavior
  • Behavior that cannot be attributed to other factors, such as a head injury.

Personality disorders usually emerge in early adulthood.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Various studies have shown that people with mental health issues, such as personality disorders, can also have substance use disorders. In turn, those individuals who are addicted may have mental health challenges. Substance use disorders co-occur at a high rate in individuals with mental disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder, psychotic illness, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), borderline personality disorder, and antisocial personality disorder.

One study generated data that suggested that people with personality disorders as well as other mental health disorders were at greater risk of misusing prescription opioids. The research indicates that 43% of individuals in addiction treatment for nonmedical use of prescription painkillers are also diagnosed with the symptoms of mental health disorders, especially depression and anxiety.

Personality Disorders in Individuals Who Are Addicted

A significant number of studies have shown that the prevalence of personality disorder is higher among individuals who experience addiction than in those in the general population. The findings are especially true for those with borderline, avoidant, antisocial, and paranoid personality disorders. The overall occurrence of personality disorder ranges from 10% to 14.8% in the general population and from 34.8% to 73.0% in patients treated for addiction. In addition, these studies also found that personality disorder and addiction co-occurred in 46% of patients with substance use disorders. The most common types of personality disorders in this group were antisocial and borderline.

Causes and Treatment

Personality disorder may be attributed to genetics, a negative childhood experience, or a variation in brain chemistry. However, the true cause is still unknown. People who experience addiction and personality disorder may recognize that they need help only when their problems with other people or at work become an issue for them. Medications and therapy can help in addressing the mental health disorder as well as the addiction, which should be treated together.


The professionals at BRC Recovery offer you proven psychological treatment to address your mental health concerns. We also offer evidence-based therapeutic approaches to help you with your addiction.  At BRC Recovery, we help you work with you to heal your mind and your body while addressing the underlying issues that lead to your addiction. We bring you real change for your life, with proven treatment options that will empower you to recreate and reclaim your life.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we offer a safe, clean environment so you can continue receiving the highest quality of care. To learn more about our services and to get the help you need, please call BRC Recovery at 1-866-291-2676 to speak to our team.