Inside the Criminal Mind

Understanding the dark side of human conduct

amazing similarities: Cluster B pd behaviors and alcoholic behaviors

This is very interesting to me, because my mother (now deceased) had been formally diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, but I believe she also displayed traits of narcissistic pd, a few traits of antisocial pd, and several traits of obsessive-compulsive pd. My mother wasn't a drinker until her late 30's or so, but she'd had Cluster B pd traits plus the ocpd traits her whole life.

The traits and behaviors you describe as being common to active alcoholics and "dry drunk"/recovering alcoholics is uncannily similar to the traits and behaviors of the Cluster B personality disorders, plus obsessive-compulsive pd (which is in Cluster C, per the DSM-IV)

What I'd be interested to know is, are there any studies that show which areas of the brain become damaged due to alcoholism, and whether those particular areas show the same kinds of damage in the brains of those with Cluster B personality disorders?

If it turns out that the same areas of the brain are affected in the same way, I suppose it could be that those who become alcoholics already had one or more Cluster B personality disorders to begin with, that made them so miserable that they began self-medicating with alcohol. I guess the trick would be to find those with borderline pd who have never touched alcohol or other recreational drugs, to use as test subjects. And to find those who are alcoholics who were considered "non-personality-disordered" or "normal" before becoming alcoholics... so, like, finding some "pure" bpds, and some "pure" alcoholics, and comparing their brains.

Any thoughts on the similarity of the negative, destructive, dysfunctional behaviors of Cluster B pds and alcoholics?

Re: Cluster B and alcoholics

I absolutely agree with this. I have recently "escaped" a relationship with an alcoholic who displayed all the thinking in this article and many many cluster B traits. It is in researching articles like this that I was able to see clearly myself what was happening. I think they go hand in hand and I think long term use of alcohol does change personality. But I also think it's very possible cluster B is there all along and potentially the cause of the alcoholism.
Sadly the outcome is the same. You can't support or help anyone who won't take responsibility for themselves or try to help themselves.

My dad

You know, my dad has been an alcoholic since before I was born, and I'm about to turn 30. I've seen him maintain this problematic, authoritarian style thinking his whole life. But not just that but the errors you point out too, especially the blaming, minimizing, and justifications. And I honestly don't think he see's the errors in his thinking at all. It's not confabulation but it's like... even in the face of evidence proving him or his thoughts wrong, he still maintains and stands by them.

A year passes like nothing...!

I posted my original comment a year ago, and so far I haven't turned up any neurological research studies that specifically compare the brain functioning (or impaired areas of brain functioning) between alcoholics and those with borderline pd, to see if there are shared areas of dysfunction in the brain structure or chemistry.

It just seems logical that if the behaviors of these two disorders are similar, then there would be similar types and areas of brain malfunctioning, and perhaps that could lead to better, more effective treatment for both disorders.

Here's hoping that some enterprising neurological research student or research foundation will eventually want to do a study on this.

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Stanton Samenow, Ph.D.,is a clinical psychologist practicing in Alexandria, Virginia and author of Inside the Criminal Mind.

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