It is not uncommon for alcoholism and borderline personality disorder (BPD) to go hand-in-hand (click here to read my article on the relationship between alcoholism and childhood trauma). Those suffering from both alcoholism and BPD are particularly likely to have problems controlling their impulsivity.
The reason for this is the twin effects of alcoholism and BPD :
– ALCOHOLISM makes it harder for those who suffer from it delay gratification when intoxicated
– BPD is linked to those who suffer from it having difficulties with inhibitory control
These findings were reflected in a research study carried out by the psychologist Rubio, at the University of Madrid. The study involved nearly 350 participants and the results were as follows :
GROUP ONE – ALCOHOLICS WITHOUT BPD :
These participants had a much greater inability to delay gratification when compared to healthy controls. For example, they preferred to drink ‘now’ rather than feel better later (ie not have a hangover). Relapse rates amongst such individuals were found to be high.
GROUP TWO – ALCOHOLICS WITH BPD :
These participants were found to have a lack of inhibitory control over their thoughts and actions : once they started to drink, they found it very difficult to stop.
We can infer from these results that in the sub-group of alcoholics with BPD, their alcoholism may be secondary to their lack of inhibitory control, whereas in alcoholics without BPD, their alcoholism is more likely to be due to their inability to delay gratification.
TREATMENT IMPLICATIONS :
The above further implies that alcoholics with BPD may benefit from treatment for their alcoholism that differs from treatment given to alcoholics without BPD ; specifically, it is now thought that alcoholics with BPD may benefit most from therapy which helps them to develop greater behavioural control – such therapy can involve medication and/or psychotherapy.
NOTE : Regularly drinking to excess is often due to an ultimately counter-productive coping mechanism known as ‘DISSOCIATION.’ Click here to read my article on this.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).