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BPD and Drugs: A Volatile Mix in Teens

October 29, 2014


Are you getting burned out by your teen’s rapid mood swings? Do you feel like you’re always walking on eggshells with your teen? You’re not alone, many parents with teens who are struggling with borderline personality disorder (BPD) feel this way. 

What Exactly is BPD?

BPD is a mental disorder, which causes a rapid shift in mood and personality that negatively affects one’s sense of self and their relations to other people.  

Since teens with BPD are still developing, it’s often difficult for them to control the intensity of their emotions. This often leads to reckless behavior including substance abuse. 

What Are the Signs of BPD and Drug Use?

Teens often experience high irritability, stress, anxiety and major depression as a result of their BPD. Without proper therapy, teens will often engage in substance abuse as a way to deal with or escape the consequences of their erratic behavior.   

If you have a child who is struggling with BPD and drug abuse, you may have noticed some of the following signs:

Recurring physical fights

• Impulsive anger/aggressiveness

• Chronic feelings of emptiness

• Efforts to avoid abandonment (e.g. clinginess)

• Engaging in unstable or toxic relationships

• Dangerous impulsivity (e.g. shoplifting, reckless driving, sexual promiscuity)

• Self-harm through self-injury (e.g. cutting or burning)

• Suicidal attempts (e.g. trying to overdose on pills) 

Since teens with BPD often ping-pong between feelings that things are “all good” or “all bad”, their relationships with friends, family and loved ones can be chaotic.   

If things are good, teens with BPD can become fearful of abandonment and clingy; but if things are bad, they may devalue their relationships and become more avoidant. However, there is hope. 

Help for Borderline Personality Disorder

While BPD and drug abuse can be a volatile mix in teens, both conditions are treatable. With the right diagnosis and treatment, symptoms can subside. Studies show that approximately 66 to 85 percent of adolescents with BPD no longer have the symptoms after two years.  

Early intervention and treatment is crucial when helping teens overcome borderline personality disorder and substance abuse. 

Treating BPD and Substance Abuse

A proper drug or alcohol detox may be necessary along with dialectal behavioral therapy (DBT). Although research for BPD in teens is ongoing, DBT has been shown to be effective. This method often includes but is not limited to:  

• Balancing one’s emotions and focusing on more positivity 

• Developing a sense of self and relating to others 

• Being open, honest and accepting of one’s feelings without judgment  

• Developing helpful ways to reduce distress and prevent chaos  

• Improving behavior by discovering healthy ways to deal with stress 

If your teen is struggling with borderline personality disorder and drug or alcohol abuse, help is available. We suggest you seek help from licensed psychologists or therapists who have years of experience treating teens with BPD and drug abuse problems.   

Depending on the severity of their conditions, your teen may need to receive help at a residential treatment center for teens. 



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