Bipolar Disorder and Addiction
Bipolar disorder, once known as manic depression, is a mental health disorder characterized by extreme mood swings. These include emotional highs (mania/hypomania) and lows (depression). It is a lifelong condition where episodes of mood swings can occur rarely or several times a year.
Types of Bipolar Disorder
There are several types of bipolar disorder that are characterized by the types of unpredictable mood swings and behaviors a person may experience. Some forms of bipolar disorder include:
Bipolar I Disorder
This form of bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic shifts between mania and depression. These swings are the most sudden and severe among types of bipolar disorder. Mood swings can impair a person’s ability to function and typically last at least two weeks. In many cases, individuals must be hospitalized to protect their safety.
Bipolar II Disorder
Fluctuations in mood are less severe in this form of bipolar disorder. Depressive episodes may last longer and a person may shift into periods of hypomania, which are less severe episodes of mania. It can be easier to function with bipolar II disorder, but it can still interfere with a person’s ability to manage responsibilities and obligations.
While this form of the disorder is also marked with periods of hypomania and depression, the swings are not as extreme and do not last as long (compared to bipolar I and II).
This form of bipolar disorder is characterized by numerous rapidly-shifting phases of depression and mania. The depression phase of this is more extreme than other forms of depression. Those with rapid-cycling bipolar disorder are more like to engage in self-destructive behavior or experience suicide attempts.
There are other forms of bipolar disorder with varying features. For example, some may experience symptoms of depression and mania at the same time. This can cause a person to feel despair, sadness, and lower levels of self-esteem while simultaneously feeling more energized, restless, and appetite loss.
Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder is characterized by drastic mood swings that are more dramatic than what a person would normally experience. While it is possible for these mood shifts to follow patterns, they generally are unpredictable and not controllable. Symptoms generally fall into one of two categories: depressive or manic.
Depressive symptoms may include:
- Low energy levels
- Feelings of despair or hopelessness
- Negative feelings of self-worth
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
- Self-destructive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
Manic symptoms may include:
- Poor judgement
- Racing thoughts
- Feelings of grandness
- Impulsive behaviors
- Loss of appetite
- Angry outbursts
- High levels of energy or enthusiasm
- Rapid speech
Some people may exhibit signs of hypomania instead of mania. This can cause a person to exhibit behaviors such as increased productivity, elevated energy levels, and more outgoing behavior.
Signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder can vary greatly from person to person. What causes bipolar disorder is largely unknown, but there are some factors that appear to increase a person’s risk for developing it. Studies show that those with family members who suffer with a severe mood disorder are more likely to develop one themselves. It also appears that people who with chemical deficiencies or imbalances in the brain are more predisposed to the development of bipolar symptoms.
Bipolar disorder can be difficult to identify, especially if the person is abusing drugs or alcohol as well. Substance abuse and bipolar disorder can produce similar symptoms making it harder to distinguish between the two; however, substance abuse generally intensifies symptoms of the disorder.
Many people with bipolar disorder begin using drugs or alcohol as a means of self-medication. Substances are sometimes used in an attempt to regulate changes in mood and energy levels. While this may provide temporary relief, it generally exacerbates symptoms of both the bipolar disorder and the side effects of the substances used. This can worsen a person’s mental health condition and lead to complications that require intensive care.
Dual-diagnosis treatment is imperative for those who struggle with addiction and bipolar disorder. Many who have bipolar disorder struggle with feelings of being misunderstood and isolated. The disorder itself can cause a negative impact on many aspects of a person’s life, but with the added influence of substance abuse, it can worsen exponentially.
Addiction and bipolar disorder rarely improve on their own without professional help. It is not uncommon for bipolar disorder to go undiagnosed for years and for it to not be addressed until a person is in treatment for addiction. Because it is an extremely complex condition, it is important to take advantage of dual-diagnosis treatment in order to address physical, psychological, emotional, and neurological needs simultaneously. This can help a person recover more thoroughly from addiction and also provide them with resources to prevent relapse in the future through the introduction of healthy coping mechanisms.
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