Personality disorders have a complicated relationship with substances. A number of people diagnosed with personality disorders also have a co-occurring substance use disorder. So, it’s important to talk about mental health and cannabis. Following legalizing of cannabis in Canada the stigma associated with cannabis as well as mental illness has been decreasing, but we still have a long way to go. The way we are going to get there is through having honest conversations about mental health and cannabis.
We talked to Grey about their experience with Cannabis use and Borderline Personality and what works for them. But first, let’s talk a bit more about personality disorders and what they are.
Personality Disorders affect between 6% and 15% of the population. The most common personality disorders are obsessive-compulsive (7.7%), avoidant (6.6%), paranoid (5.6%), and borderline (5.4%).
What is a personality disorder?
Our personality is our way of thinking, feeling and behaving that makes us different from others. An individual’s personality is influenced by experiences, environment, and inherited characteristics. Typically, a person’s personality stays consistent over time.
According to the American Psychiatric Association, “a personality disorder is a way of thinking, feeling and behaving that deviates from the expectations of the culture, causes distress or problems functioning, and lasts over time.” Personality disorders affect at least two of these areas; way of thinking about oneself and others, way of responding emotionally, way of relating to other people, way of controlling one’s behaviour.
There are 10 specific types of personality disorders. Learn more about the different personality disorders at Psychiatry.org
Characteristics of Borderline Personality Disorder
According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th edition (DSM-V), to be diagnosed with this personality disorder, a person must have at least five of the following:
Traditional Treatment for Borderline Personality Disorder
Treatment for personality disorders often focuses on a combination of prescription medication, therapy, such as dialectical behavioural therapy (DBT), and psychoeducation. Psychoeducation typically includes teaching the individual and family members about the illness, treatment and ways of coping.
Grey’s Experience with Cannabis and Borderline Personality Disorder
I was diagnosed by a psychologist when I was 18, but since it was so close to my 19th birthday he decided he didn’t want to prescribe me anything as I would be ageing out of his care in a matter of months.
He suggested dialectic behavioural therapy (DBT) as the first treatment method, but, at the time, I was angry at mental health professionals so I didn’t want to pursue it. This anger stemmed from the fact that many therapists broke my doctor/patient confidentiality when it didn’t need to be because I wasn’t a danger to myself or others.
Intentions Behind Cannabis Use
Impacts of Cannabis Use
Cannabis is the only thing that can keep my mental health stable and at a “regular” functioning human level. So, I use cannabis every day. The last time I went a day without smoking weed, I had a breakdown at work over something so small in the grand scheme of things
It helps regulate my mood and keep my head from screaming at me. My BPD was so bad before I started becoming a regular cannabis user. I would lash out when I was mildly upset, I was a very controlling person, and just generally not pleasant to be around – and I was blind to it.
After I started using cannabis I was able to be more introspective. It was easier to think about why I react the way I do, how it hurts others, and what I can do when I’m in those situations to change it. It helped immensely, and I feel like I’m truly a better person because cannabis allowed me to expand my mindset.
Some people may experience challenges with mental health symptoms when using cannabis, particularly if they are taking other prescription medication. It’s important to be cautious about consuming cannabis to monitor drug interactions. Grey isn’t taking any prescription for their mental health so they do not have these concerns. They also don’t personally notice any negative impacts to their symptoms as a result of cannabis use.
Grey is also diabetic and using cannabis helps to stimulate their appetite so they are able to eat consistently enough to manage their diabetes.
Using Cannabis for Managing BPD Symptoms
There are numerous ways of consuming cannabis that can be helpful in managing symptoms associated with borderline personality disorder. The most common consumption methods are smoking, using tinctures, or consuming edibles.
Grey tends to smoke cannabis daily as well as use edibles. They love Miss Envy’s Better Than.. chocolates. “I went for a walk while the chocolates were in effect in the rain. They made me feel grounded and light at the same time. I was just vibing and enjoying the earth.”
Of course, the most effective consumption method is going to vary between individuals. If you’re concerned about the possible negative impacts of THC on mental health symptoms, consider starting with CBD.
Learn more about CBD and how to determine the most effective dose.
Advice from Grey on Cannabis Use and BPD
What advice would you give to others with a similar diagnosis if they’re considering using cannabis as a means to manage their symptoms?
Start slow. I abused it before I got to a good relationship with it. I wouldn’t do anything unless I was stoned out of my mind, and it was getting me into trouble. During quarantine, I was able to have more time to reflect and become more comfortable in my own mind. I didn’t even realize I had reduced my weed intake until I looked back.
Final Thoughts on Cannabis and Borderline Personality Disorder
As Grey mentioned it’s important to use cannabis with intention. It’s important to acknowledge that those with complex mental health conditions, such as personality disorders, are at higher risk for abusing substances. Therefore, it’s essential to pay extra attention to your use as well as be thoughtful about your intentions.
As humans we want to feel good so it makes sense that we would want to self-medicate when we are not feeling our best. That mentality does not have to be problematic if we are thoughtful and intentional.
In many cases, cannabis use may allow people to manage their symptoms without the use of prescription medication. And people are seeing positive results when used in conjunction with therapy.