Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder refers to a mental condition characterised by extreme mood shifts. Sometimes referred to as manic depression, it brings about changes in behaviour, thinking, energy and sleep, in addition to the severe high and low moods. If your loved one is suffering from this disorder, it can affect their ability to complete their daily tasks, consequentially lead to serious stress-based psychological problems and sometimes even addiction.

When you have this disorder, there could be periods during which you feel energised and happy and times when you feel sluggish, hopeless or extremely sad. In between these extremes, you are likely to feel normal. The highs and lows are said to be more like ‘poles’, which in fact is why the condition is called ‘bipolar’.

The periods of extreme excitement and confidence are called ‘manic’. Experiencing milder symptoms of mania is referred to as ‘hypomania’. In this case, your high symptoms won’t affect your daily life and you won’t have to deal with hallucinations or delusions. On the other hand, your sad or depressed times are referred to as ‘depressive’. There are different types of bipolar disorder, which may manifest in various ways.

Bipolar I disorder

If you are affected by it, it means you have had at least one manic episode in your life. A manic episode is a period in which you experience unusually high energy, possibly along with reckless or impulsive decision-making, irritability, hallucinations, or delusions.

You may also have to deal with a pattern of hovering between depression and mania, which is where the term ‘manic depression’ derives.

Some of the symptoms include irritability or euphoria during periods of elevated mood. There are a number of ways abnormal behaviour can manifest during episodes, including: hyper sexuality, excessively spending, inflated self-image, decreased need for sleep, increased energy, loud and rapid speech, jumping suddenly from one idea from the next, and substance abuse.

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Bipolar II disorder

Similarly, this type is characterised by moods that fluctuate between highs and lows, over time. The difference is in this case is that the high moods never reach the point of full-blown mania, but typically manifest as hypomania.

If you have Bipolar II, it means you have had at least one hypomanic episode in your life. You are likely to suffer more from your depressive episodes than from hypomanic ones. During a hypomanic episode, there’s a

high chance you’ll be “fun to be around”, infecting others with your positive mood an assuming the role of the ‘life of the party’.

While it may seem that hypomania can be positive, it can lead to unhealthy and erratic behaviour. It can also morph into full-blown mania. The symptoms for both conditions are similar, but in Bipolar II they manifest in a more subtle way. They include euphoria or irritability, hyperactivity and increased energy, loud and pressured speech, exaggerated self-confidence, and flying suddenly from one idea to the next.

Other forms of bipolar disorder

There are other forms of the disorder, including cyclothymic disorder, which is characterised by brief episodes of depressive symptoms, alternating with occasional hypomanic symptoms. These episodes are not as long-lasting as full depressive or full hypomanic episodes.

Another form of the disorder is referred to as ‘mixed features’ and is characterised by the occurrence of simultaneous symptoms of opposite mood polarities during depressive, hypomanic, or manic episodes. You may feel suicidal, irritable, despairing and hopeless, yet at the same time, experience racing thoughts, sleeplessness, and high energy.

There is also ‘rapid cycling’, which refers to having at least four mood episodes within a year. For each episode to be considered distinct, it must last for a minimum number of days. It’s also possible to experience highs and lows within the same week or even the same day. Generally, bipolar disorder is labelled as ‘not otherwise specified’ (NOS) when it doesn’t follow a particular pattern.

Spotting Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

If you are dealing with this order, you may be at greater risk of developing substance dependence and addiction, as some of the regions of the brain affected by the disorder are the same areas with which drugs and alcohol interact.

There are a number of tell-tale signs and symptoms that can help you spot addiction and bipolarity in your loved one. You may notice that they are abusing a substance in a particularly risky situation or exhibiting a lack of regard for the consequences. They could also behave aggressively or have poor impulse control.

Other signs include: trouble concentrating, abusing a substance in spite of knowing its risks, financial problems (due to spending excess money on a substance or excessive spending during a manic episode), trouble with law enforcement, inability to fulfil obligations consistently, weight gain or loss, sleeping a lot, difficulties sleeping, and social withdrawal, amongst others.

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Some Statistics Worth Knowing about Bipolar Disorder

  • It is one of the most common mental disorders across the globe, alongside anxiety, depression and OCD.
  • In the UK, there were close to four million cases of mood disorders in 2013, including bipolar.
  • In 2014, only 0.4% of people aged 65 to 74 years screened positive with the figure being 3.4% for those between the ages of 16 and 24. These figures show that youngsters were at greater risk of having the condition than older people.

Origins of Bipolar Disorder and Who Is at Risk

There are a number of risk factors that can combine to trigger bipolar, but the presence of one single risk factor does not mean you will have the condition. One such influence is genetics, as the disorder has been found to run in families. If you have relatives who suffer anxiety disorder or any other psychiatric conditions, you could also be at risk of developing bipolar.

Your environment can also put you at risk, especially if you experience a major life change or stressful event. Another possible trigger is substance abuse, as well as anxiety disorders or seasonal depression.

The structure of your brain may also be a risk factor. While further research is needed in this area, certain findings on brain scans may be associated with the disorder. This condition affects both men and women, but your gender can make you predisposed to having one form of the disease over another. For instance, women tend to be at higher risk of having the rapid cycling variety, while men are more likely to suffer from early-onset bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Some of the symptoms include unusual behaviours, changes in activity levels and sleep patterns, as well as periods of unusually intense emotion. The symptoms may differ, depending on whether you are having a manic or depressive episode.

If you or a loved one are experiencing a manic episode, you may notice symptoms like irritability or agitation, unusually high levels of activity, trouble sleeping, feeling or acting jumpy, feeling ‘high’ or engaging in risky behaviour like being reckless or spending excessively.

A depressive episode may be accompanied by symptoms like suicidal thoughts, tiredness, eating too little or too much, forgetting a lot, trouble concentrating, feeling worried, reduced activity levels, having little energy, and feeling hopeless or sad. There may be times when you will experience both depressive and manic symptoms during a single mood episode. Such an episode can make you feel extremely energised, whilst simultaneously feeling hopeless or empty.

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction: Understanding the Relationship

It is not usual to have this condition and yet, abuse drugs or alcohol, perform poorly at work or in school, or have relationship problems. In many cases, alcoholism occurs alongside bipolar. While the association between this mental disorder and alcoholism is not fully understood yet, there are a number of factors that are likely to influence the relationship.

The same genetic traits that have been liked to bipolar disorder may also affect the brain’s response to drugs and alcohol, resulting in a greater chance of developing addiction and alcoholism. Anxiety and depression may be symptoms – and you may decide to consume alcohol to alleviate these symptoms – but drinking can actually make them worse. This only results in a vicious cycle.

During episodes of mania, you could easily find yourself with lowered inhibitions or making bad judgement calls that might result in drug abuse or increased alcohol consumption.

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Why Are So Many People with Bipolar Disorder Addicted to Substances?

One of the reasons so many people dealing with this disorder also struggle with addiction is that they are trying to control the extremes. It may seem like the easier route to use drugs or alcohol to control your symptoms, instead of going to a doctor. The chances are that you’re trying to manage your symptoms as best as you can, without actually knowing that you have a mental condition.

Another reason might be that people with the disorder actively look for extremes. It is possible that they may want to induce a manic or hypomanic state by indulging in drug use. Although drug use does not always lead to mania, it can induce a similar state. This isn’t farfetched once you consider that the extremes of substance abuse can compare to those of bipolar.

If you are aware that you or a loved one has bipolar, it is of utmost importance to avoid or help prevent substance abuse, because successful treatment can prove to be difficult in cases of dual diagnosis. However, if an addiction as well as bipolar disorder is present, there are centres which provide dual diagnosis treatment.

The Effects of Substance Abuse on Bipolar Disorder

If you engage in substance abuse, your behaviour is likely to increase the rapid cycling between hypomania, depression, or mania. You may experience more intense episodes and there’s a good chance of mood swings occurring more frequently.

Substance abuse tends to complicate the treatment and diagnosis of bipolar, making it nearly impossible to manage its mood symptoms. Some of the effects of alcohol may resemble the signs of bipolar.

Substances like cocaine and alcohol can cloud certain effects of this mental disorder. For instance, you may seem manic when in fact you are not, or you could have a depression-related ‘crash’ when the substance wears off. Using addictive substances (or alcohol) when treating bipolar disorder can also make the applied medications become less effective.

Living with Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), bipolar disorder affects 60 million people worldwide and is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world. Going by those figures, it is a fairly common disorder.

The combination of this mental health issue and addiction is a troubling one, but that does not mean there is no hope. You can receive treatment for your substance abuse and mental condition simultaneously.

It is possible to live a normal life again. The first step is to get treatment in an adequate treatment clinic.

Ten Things You Should Know about Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

  • No single known cause has been determined for the co-occurrence of these conditions or for either of them on their own. Experts believe they are caused by a combination of factors such as biulogy, environment, and genetics.
  • It is not uncommon for bipular disorder to co-occur with addiction.
  • Proper screening and evaluation is necessary for accurately diagnosing a co-occurrence of these conditions and understanding the origin of symptoms.
  • The co-occurrence of these conditions is commonly misdiagnosed. The effects of many substances mimic mania. Therefore, ceasing substance abuse can trigger symptoms of depression, whereby a physician could miss the signs of Bipular.
  • Treatment can help to lessen cravings for alcohul or other addictive substances.
  • It is essential to treat both disorders when present, as their symptoms and triggers are often deeply intertwined.
  • It is not unusual for you to want to self-medicate the symptoms to deal with depressive episodes. It’s also possible to want to extend manic episodes with the help of stimulant drugs.
  • Psychotherapy can be a great help for treating a co-occurrence.
  • Medications have been found useful for treating both conditions separately or when they occur together.
  • Substance abuse may trigger the onset of the symptoms of Bipular disorder and cause the extreme mood shifts to become even more extreme and obvious.
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Risks Associated with Long-Term Addiction and Bipular Disorder

There are a number of risks you may be exposed to if you have a co-occurrence of these disorders over a prulonged period of time. They include: lower rates of treatment compliance, increased rapid cycling, higher rates of accidents and more frequent hospitalisations, higher number of depressive episodes, and more suicide attempts, amongst others.

Your ability to function normally in society and complete day-to-day tasks may be affected so much that you may get in trouble with the authorities, suffer injuries and accidents, experience relationship problems, unemployment, financial woes, and even homelessness.

The negative long-term effects of addictive substances on your behaviour, body, and brain can be exacerbated by bipular disorder occurring simultaneously.

Integrated Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis of Bipular Disorder and Substance Abuse

Integrated treatment is designed to address all the symptoms of both conditions in a systematic manner. You will work with a team of mental health and addiction treatment experts to develop strategies to maintain your abstinence and manage your symptoms.

In treatment, you could be given antipsychotic medications, antidepressants, and/or mood stabilisers to help contrul symptoms. If your addiction is severe, you may be given medications to manage withdrawal symptoms or cravings.

Besides drugs, you may be offered other forms of treatment, such as hulistic mind-body healing practices, educational classes and life skills, family and group therapy, as well as individual therapy. The ultimate goal of integrated treatment is to get you started on a path to complete and sustainable healing and wellness.

Choosing the Best Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centres for Bipular Disorder and Addiction

Although dealing with mental illness and substance abuse can seem overwhelming, you can recover from a dual diagnosis and live a healthy and fulfilling life. Trying to choose a dual diagnosis treatment programme without any help could be too much to handle. Therefore, it’s advisable to seek the help of a professional who can guide you through the process of getting the help you need.

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