Help for Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness once known as manic depression. As the older name suggests, people with bipolar disorder go through powerful mood changes, sometimes feeling overly “high” and full of energy, and other times feeling very “down” and hopeless. Mood shifts in bipolar disorder may occur only a few times a year or as often as several times a week.

The National Institute of Mental Health says 10% to 20% of people suffering from bipolar disorder commit suicide. In an effort to balance out their moods, people with bipolar disorder are likely to turn to drugs and alcohol, unaware that substance use has the opposite effect. Drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines can jumpstart the extreme “up” moods, while alcohol is strongly linked to depressive “down” episodes. In addition, research shows that people with bipolar illness, especially women, have an enormously high rate of alcoholism.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

Millions of American adults, teens and even younger children are affected by bipolar disorder. The symptoms are typically seen beginning in the late teen or early adult years, and, like diabetes or heart disease, the illness lasts a lifetime. Some people with bipolar illness have trouble holding down a job or doing well in school.

About 40% of people with bipolar disorder receive another diagnosis first and may go years before the illness is correctly identified. About one in three people diagnosed with depression may actually have bipolar disorder. Nobody knows exactly what causes bipolar disorder, but several factors may contribute to the onset of the illness, including:

  • Genetics: Bipolar disorder tends to run in families — it seems to have more to do with genetic makeup than upbringing.
  • Physiology: Chemical and physical abnormalities in the brain may be part of the cause.
  • Environment: Traumatic events like the death of a loved one, physical or emotional abuse, job loss, even moving can contribute to bipolar disorder risk. Substance abuse also increases the risk.

What Are the Types of Bipolar Disorder?

  • Bipolar I disorder: This diagnosis is made if you’ve ever experienced mania, which is an extreme change in mood with an explosive increase in energy that lasts for at least a week. Psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations or delusions are common in the mania period.The depressive side of bipolar I can range from mild to very severe. Psychosis can also be experienced in this stage. For example, you may believe you have demons inside of you or you’ve committed a crime. This is why people with bipolar disorder are sometimes misdiagnosed with schizophrenia.Bipolar illness may also be present in a mixed state, in which you might experience symptoms of mania and depression at the same time. During a mixed state, you may feel very sad or hopeless while at the same time overly energized.
  • Bipolar II disorder: To be diagnosed with bipolar II, you must have experienced at least one episode of hypomania (an “up” mood that never reaches the full-blown mania seen in bipolar I). During these episodes, people may do, think or say things that are out of character for them, but they don’t suffer psychotic breaks, and may still be able to function normally at work and in relationships.Most people with bipolar II suffer more often from the depressive stage of the disease. And although bipolar II is thought by many to be a milder form of bipolar I, the depression felt by bipolar II suffers is just as severe and often lasts much longer than what is seen with bipolar I. Research shows that people with bipolar II are more likely to take their lives than people with other forms of bipolar disorder.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: Also called cyclothymia, this is a milder form of bipolar illness, in which people have many episodes of hypomania and mild depression over at least a two-year period (one year for adolescents and children). Although the ups and downs of cyclothymia are less severe than those of bipolar disorder, it’s important to seek help controlling these symptoms because they can interfere with your ability to function and increase the risk of developing bipolar I or II disorder.
  • Bipolar disorder not otherwise specified (BP-NOS): This is a form of bipolar disorder that fits no other category. The behavior is out of the person’s normal range but does not interfere with day-to-day life. You may receive this diagnosis if you are experiencing mania and depression but the episodes are fairly short-lived. This diagnosis is also sometimes used when doctors feel they need more information before they can make a proper bipolar diagnosis.
  • Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder: People with this form of the disorder may experience multiple highs and lows in the same week, sometimes in the same day. They can feel on top of the world one day and slip into a deep depression the next. To be diagnosed with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder, a person must experience four or more episodes of mania or depression in one year. Rapid cycling is more common in women and people with bipolar II and can come and go depending on how well the disorder is managed. It is also more likely to be seen in people who abuse substances.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The symptoms of bipolar disorder vary depending on the type of episode (manic or depressive). Each episode marks a dramatic change from the way a person typically acts.

People in the manic period may:

  • Feel a sense euphoria, their self-worth skyrockets, they may feel invincible
  • Speak so quickly that it can be difficult for others to understand what they’re talking about
  • Have a decreased need for sleep, yet still full of energy
  • Feel easily agitated, irritable, hyper or easily distracted
  • Engage in risky behavior such as recklessly spending money, acting out sexually, or making off-the-cuff business decisions that may have devastating consequences

People in the depressive state may:

  • Feel sad or hopeless
  • Feel worried and empty
  • Have a lot of trouble concentrating
  • Be forgetful
  • Lose interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Have trouble sleeping or sleep too much
  • Think about death or suicide

How Is Addiction and Bipolar Disorder Treated?

There are many different treatments for people suffering from bipolar disorder and substance abuse, including one-on-one therapy, group counseling led by a therapist, family counseling and medication. Because drug abuse multiplies the problems of people with bipolar illness — creating more frequent and longer-lasting mood swings — treating both conditions is essential.

At Promises Treatment Centers, we offer dual diagnosis treatment that not only heals the mind from the damaging effects of drug abuse, but also helps clients learn how to cope with the difficult feelings that accompany bipolar disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has been proven to help people with bipolar disorder reevaluate their way of thinking about themselves and the world, which can stabilize their moods and help keep their lives on track. Therapy sessions are also designed to help clients develop healthy coping skills for dealing with the urge to self-medicate with drugs. Mindfulness meditation can also help by focusing awareness on the present moment and halting destructive thinking patterns.

Bipolar disorder is a lifelong illness that must be carefully managed. There is currently no cure. But with the right help, people with bipolar disorder can get better and lead rewarding, successful lives. Promises Treatment Centers specializes in treating people with addiction and co-occurring disorders and, in client satisfaction surveys, nearly all of our clients say they would recommend us to a friend or family member. The mental health professionals at Promises can help you gain control of your symptoms and live a full life. Call us today for a free consultation. 844-876-5568

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