Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Treatment

The emotional extremities of bipolar disorder can be deeply painful experiences that disrupt your ability to live a productive and fulfilling life. Not only can the inherent instability of the illness interfere with your sense of self and your quality of life, but it can also be profoundly damaging to your interpersonal relationships, threatening the vital social networks essential to emotional well-being. This is particularly true when bipolar disorder is accompanied by addiction.

If you or your loved one is struggling with substance addiction and co-occurring bipolar disorder, we invite you to contact us at any time to learn more about your treatment options.

Extremity of Emotion

Bipolar disorder is a type of mood disorder characterized by sustained emotional shifts that cause significant distress and impair normal function. However, bipolar disorder is not a single disorder, but an umbrella term that encompasses several distinct conditions, each with their own unique qualities. These include:

Bipolar I Disorder

People with bipolar I disorder experience at least one manic episode that lasts for a minimum of seven days, or manic symptoms severe enough to warrant immediate hospitalization. While some people also experience depressive episodes, typically lasting at least two weeks, or episodes of depression with mixed features (experiencing depression and mania simultaneously), these symptoms are not necessary for a bipolar I diagnosis.

Bipolar II Disorder

Bipolar II disorder is defined by switching between depressive and hypomanic episodes. People with this type of bipolar disorder never experience full-blown mania, but often experience longer and more severe depressive episodes than people with bipolar I disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia)

Defined by experiencing several periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms over a period of at least two years, cyclothymic disorder is generally considered the mildest of bipolar conditions, as symptoms do not meet the diagnostic criteria for depression or hypomania. Despite this, it can cause significant distress and deeply interfere with daily function.

Other Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders

Experiencing bipolar symptoms that do not fit into the categories listed above is referred to as Other Specific or Unspecified Bipolar disorder.

The exact causes of bipolar disorder are not fully understood, but hereditary factors are known to be at play in some cases. It is also believed that traumatic events may trigger the emergence of bipolar disorder in those who are predisposed for the condition.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is articulated through a variety of symptoms that may vary in quality and severity.

Symptoms of Depression:

  • Persistent sadness, hopelessness, or helplessness
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep disruptions
  • Changes in appetite
  • Anger, irritability, or agitation
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Physical aches and pains

Symptoms of Mania and Hypomania:

  • Feelings of elation or euphoria
  • Reduced need for sleep
  • Excessive energy
  • Rapid speech
  • Increased confidence
  • Grandiose thoughts
  • Lowered inhibitions and increased risk-taking
  • Irritability, anger, and aggression

While mania and hypomania are similar, mania is a more pronounced and disruptive than hypomania. However, this does not mean that bipolar I disorder is necessarily more distressing than bipolar II disorder; in fact, people with bipolar II disorder are at higher risk for suicide than people with bipolar I disorder due to the mood switching that defines the condition.

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

All forms of bipolar disorder heighten the risk of developing a substance use disorder for a number of complex and oven overlapping reasons. Like all people who experience mental health disorders, people with bipolar disorder may seek emotional refuge in drugs as a way of coping with distress, protecting themselves against disturbing thoughts and feelings, or ostensibly improving function. In some cases, drug use includes the use of prescription medications, such as benzodiazepines, which are sometimes prescribed to ease bipolar symptoms. However, drugs can severely worsen symptoms of bipolar disorder, setting off a cycle of suffering and use that is difficult to break without professional intervention.

Simultaneously, the lowered inhibitions and increased risk-taking experienced by many during manic, hypomanic, or mixed episodes decrease the ability or desire to self-regulate or engage in risk-reducing behaviors. As such, you may be more willing to try drugs, consume more drugs at higher quantities, and take drugs with greater frequency than you would otherwise. This can either initiate or aggravate drug addiction.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that requires treatment by trained medical professionals. With proper care, people with bipolar disorder can often restore stability and experience long-term remission of symptoms. When bipolar disorder is combined with drug addiction, however, dual diagnosis treatment is essential to recovery.

Dual diagnosis treatment is focused on both your primary psychiatric diagnosis and your addiction simultaneously to create freedom from both emotional and behavioral distress and chemical dependency. By incorporating modern, evidence-based therapies, dual diagnosis treatment allows you to address the full scope of your needs to restore health and optimize outcomes. The most effective therapeutic modalities for bipolar disorder and addiction include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Psychodynamic Therapy
  • Experiential Therapy
  • Holistic Therapies
  • 12-step support groups

Pharmacological therapies are almost always recommended for people struggling with bipolar disorder. A highly trained psychiatrist can work with you to create a personalized treatment plan that includes an effective, well-tolerated medication plan.

Dual diagnosis treatment gives you the opportunity to explore your experiences of bipolar disorder and how it has informed your drug addiction in order to gain a deeper understanding of your unique situation. In addition to vital personal insight, you also develop concrete, healthy strategies for coping with bipolar symptoms, stressors, and cravings to help you regain control over your life. Engaging in the therapeutic process can be profoundly empowering, and can enhance your sense of self-determination and autonomy.

For many people with bipolar disorder, seeking treatment at a facility that offers dedicated family programming is a crucial part of the healing process. With the support of compassionate clinicians, you can begin to repair any damage to your relationships with loved ones, and your family members come to have a better understanding of what you are going through. Together, you can discover avenues towards healing that honor each person’s individual needs and nurture your bond as a family.

If you would like more information about drug addiction and bipolar disorder, or have any questions about dual diagnosis treatment, we encourage you to contact us. We are always available to help you find the help you need to attain emotional tranquility and freedom from addiction.