Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental health condition characterized by periods of extreme high and low moods. This disorder can be challenging to both diagnose and treat due to the complex, changing emotions that sufferers experience. This becomes even more challenging when this person has a co-occurring substance use disorder alongside this mental illness. Often, the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder and addiction is an integrative approach that addresses both conditions.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
A person with bipolar disorder experiences dramatic shifts in their mood, energy level, and thought processes. This mental illness is divided into three categories: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder. Each of these conditions has similar symptoms, but they differ in how long each episode of depression or mania lasts. Generally, signs of bipolar disorder include:
- Depression: Periods of intense sadness, low mood or energy, hopelessness, lack of motivation, little interest in activities, and difficulty concentrating.
- Mania: Periods of irritability, high energy, insomnia, racing thoughts, risk-taking behavior, and loss of appetite.
The duration of each episode can vary from a few days to several weeks. To diagnose bipolar disorder, providers look for a pattern of symptoms over time. This helps to eliminate other possible explanations, like depressive disorders. It also ensures accurate treatment for the person’s mental health condition.
Bipolar and Substance Use Disorders
According to a research analysis published in the Journal of Affective Disorders, bipolar disorder and substance use disorders commonly co-occur. In fact, 42% of those with this mental health condition also struggled with alcohol use disorder, and 17% misused illicit drugs. There are two leading theories as to why this happens.
The first is that those with bipolar disorder use substances as an attempt to self-medicate. Managing symptoms requires professional support, and those who try to do this alone are more likely to turn to unhealthy coping strategies like drugs or alcohol.
The second theory is that these disorders affect similar brain functions, like impulse control, motivation, and reward systems. Both bipolar disorder and substance use disorders impact a person’s impulse control, making them more likely to develop one or both of these conditions.
How is Bipolar Treated?
Effective treatment for co-occurring bipolar and substance use disorders requires an integrative approach. Often, this process includes a combination of medication, individual therapy, group therapy, and psychoeducation.
Evidence-based therapeutic interventions, like cognitive-behavioral therapy, help those with a dual diagnosis learn to manage their symptoms and behaviors while addressing underlying issues.
It is recommended that those with severe bipolar disorder seek stabilization at an accredited mental health facility before pursuing treatment for co-occurring substance use disorders.
Dual-Capable Treatment Programming
Lakeside-Milam is considered a dual-capable facility. We help those who have achieved stabilization for conditions like bipolar disorder to find sobriety.
Our treatment programs are staffed by experienced, compassionate team members who are experts in the resolution of alcohol use disorder and drug addiction.