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According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder is a brain condition that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. There are four types of bipolar disorder, but each is categorized by the presence of both high and low moods—called depression or mania.
During a manic episode people may gravitate toward feelings of irritation or euphoria—sometimes both at the same time. Other dimensions of mania include sleeplessness and talkativeness. They may also indulge in extreme pleasure-seeking or risk-taking behaviors.
Often in the disarray of these highs, people don’t realize what they are doing and end up causing a lot of harm.
Manic symptoms: Reckless behaviors, fast thoughts, rapid speech, extreme irritability, inflated self-esteem or grandiosity, needing less sleep, poor judgement.
Depressive symptoms: Fatigue, sleep or appetite changes, feelings of guilt, difficulty concentrating, thoughts of suicide or death.
With depression, people lose their ability to function on a day-to-day basis. Depression can make it so that even the most minute decisions turn into debilitating moments of uncertainty.
People may begin obsessing over thoughts of self-doubt or even self-harm. The depressive lows of bipolar disorder are a real cause for concern for those with the condition.
One of the most dangerous dimensions of bipolar disorder occur when someone experiences mixed episodes. People in a mixed episode will experience a combination of mania and depression. Somebody might have suicidal feelings and apathy mixed with pressured speech and a loss of sleep. People in this situation may seek out drugs or alcohol to deal with the symptoms, but it is a temporary solution to a long-term problem.
The National Institute of Mental Health further reports that at least 25 to 50 percent of patients with bipolar disorder attempt suicide at least once. Bipolar disorder is a serious issue that people need to seek out treatment for. It is not something to take lightly.
In 2014, the US reported that 9.8 million adults had a serious mental illness
When someone gets diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he or she will need to seek out treatment. If left untreated the recurrent, cyclical depressive and manic episodes will render an individual helpless and unstable.
The medications that people take to combat bipolar disorder are generally mood stabilizers. Some of these mood stabilizers are known to cause uncomfortable symptoms, which can inhibit people from using them. A lot of people have a negative bias about psychiatric medications, whether that be from the media or wherever.
Some people with bipolar disorder feel as though they will lose aspects of their personality by taking the medications. They feel as though the manic, exuberant person they were during their highs will go away. While that is true, mood stabilizers will help a person express all the nuances of his or her personality more fluidly as they become stabilized.
As Julia Fast of the BP (bipolar) Magazine explains, “Medications reveal the real person. Psych meds are not meth, vicodin or pot. They do not put you in an alternative reality. They do not work on the same brain chemicals.”
Treating bipolar disorder isn’t a matter of handing somebody medication and hoping they heal. People will need to seek out the care of a therapist, educate themselves about the illness, develop a healthy lifestyle and lean on a support system.
What Causes Bipolar Disorder?
For the most part, bipolar disorder stems from a wide variety of issues. The three most common, overlapping issues that play a role in someone developing bipolar disorder are biology, genetics and trauma.
Biology: People with bipolar disorder generally have an imbalance of certain neurotransmitters. Without these neurotransmitters the brain isn’t able to function to the degree that it needs to.
Genetics: Bipolar disorder often runs in families. If someone’s parent or sibling has a disorder, they are much likelier to develop the addiction.
Trauma: Trauma in the form of abuse, whether that includes sexual, physical or wartime experiences, can contribute someone developing the disorder if he or she is predisposed to it. Additionally, substance abuse can trigger an episode of bipolar disorder, however, it does not cause the disorder.
Roughly 18 % of US adults have a mental illness
As with the case in drug addiction, bipolar addiction has no cure. Fortunately, there are a lot of proven therapeutic methods to help offset the effects of the disease and treatment methodologies. In order to fully confront the disease, people need to have personalized treatment that can mold and adjust according to a person as they grow and adjust.
People with bipolar disorder in recovery need to pay special attention to the stressors that come in life. They will have to apply the skills they learn in treatment to deal with the various pressures that arise. Though there is no cure, there is treatment. People can live happy, successful lives with bipolar disorder in recovery. It is attainable.
The best thing you can do in any situation where you have a mental disorder is to learn as much as you can about it. Educating yourself can go a long way in combatting it. Education, mixed with treatment provides the antidote and recipe for success. You deserve it.
What is a Co-Occurring Disorder?
When someone suffers from bipolar disorder, or any mental health impairment for that matter, and addiction, it is called a co-occurring disorder. People with co-occurring disorders need special care and not every facility will know how to deal with the specifications necessary. For instance, someone going through a bipolar depression in treatment may not have the motivation or energy to complete group therapy. Or, they could be going through a manic episode, which will make the treatment sessions ineffective.
To handle a patient with bipolar disorder, every member of the treatment team needs to have a background in mental health care along with addiction. They need to create a treatment plan that effectively targets and helps a person who has deals with bipolar disorder. One of the best treatment plans for someone with a co-occurring disorder is an integrative treatment plan.
An integrated treatment plan is a rehabilitation program that offers the complete package of medical, therapeutic and holistic resources to help clients heal physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
The integrated treatment program will include medical detox, evaluation, diagnosis, treatment plan, personal therapy, group therapy, family therapy and aftercare. These programs are designed to teach the client about their mental health issues and integrate them with other people who have similar problems.
Can You Develop Bipolar Disorder Using Drugs?
Though you can’t develop bipolar disorder from using drugs, the effects of using drugs can mirror the psychiatric symptoms associated with the illness. For people who have a predisposition toward bipolar disorder, doing drugs can cause a chain reaction that results in the onset of the disease.
However, for people who do not have a predisposition toward bipolar disorder, they can’t develop it by using drugs. What’s often challenging for addiction professionals is that the symptoms of bipolar disorder are similar to those of drug or alcohol abuse. Often, people have a hard time situating where exactly the boundaries of bipolar are and where the addiction begins.
Why You Shouldn’t Try to Detox by Yourself
If you find yourself in the grips of addiction and bipolar disorder, you may feel a lot of fear. People going through this situation might feel afraid of the withdrawal symptoms associated with detox. They may have heard the agonizing stories of people going through the pain and discomfort and believe that it’s not worth it. Or, they feel like they can do it all alone and they’d rather not try and detox in a facility.
Trying to quit drugs or alcohol cold turkey is dangerous and even life threatening. For alcohol and benzodiazepines specifically, people can find themselves having lethal seizures if they do not receive medical attention during their detox period. With medical detoxification, people are provided medical attention and medication to deal with the various symptoms associated with detox.
The detox period will take anywhere from 3 to 14 days to complete. The staff at the treatment center will do everything they can to ensure your utmost comfort and peace during the whole process. After detox, the individual will be prepared to go through with the therapeutic dimension of treatment. Overall, learning how to deal with bipolar disorder encompasses a lot of self-awareness and education. In treatment, individuals will learn this with others who are going through similar issues.
In 2015, an estimated 2.1 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 in the United States had at least one major depressive episode in the past year with severe impairment.
According to the American Journal of Managed Care, about 56 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder who participated in a national study had experienced drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime.
People who deal with bipolar disorder experience intense mood swings—especially if they aren’t on medications—and often they chose to deal with it by using drugs.
For example, somebody who experiences extreme anxiety while dealing with bipolar disorder might choose to turn toward Xanax in order to deal with the symptoms. Whereas they started using Xanax to relieve their symptoms, they can easily wind up addicted to Xanax and rewire their brains in ways that make them have to deal with another debilitating disease: addiction.
Self-medicating is a slippery slope toward addiction because people with bipolar disorder are already in a vulnerable position due to their disease.
People might also self-medicate because they buy into the myth that their personality will change when they take the prescribed medication. Medication is hard to get used to for anybody. The misconception is that your moods are your personality. That’s not the case. Someone’s mood doesn’t impact their personality.
Bipolar disorder might make someone have different moods, but it doesn’t change their personality. A person’s personality is a reflection of their experiences, upbringing, beliefs and genetics. It in no way is it tied to someone’s mood.
What Are Some Common Drugs People Use to Self-Medicate?
Bipolar disorder is a stress related disease. People who live with this condition often feel an inordinate amount of stress compared to the rest of the population. Accordingly, alcohol is often used as a coping mechanism to deal with the disorder. Alcohol is a depressant that produces feelings of calm for those who use it.
Naturally, people who experience the symptoms of bipolar disorder—especially those unmedicated—will gravitate toward alcohol in order to deal with the stress bipolar causes. Uppers, specifically Cocaine, is another substance commonly abused by those with this disorder.
During a depressive episode people lack energy and feel lethargic, so uppers present a way to get rid of those feelings, have energy and become euphoric. While manic, somebody might want to take an upper to extend his or her highs.
Since bipolar disorder works is a mood disorder and drugs impact mood, it’s only natural that people who experience this disease will try and seek out drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Unfortunately, those who seek out drugs in order to deal with their moods run the risk of developing an addiction.
It’s easy to see why people start experimenting with alcohol to deal with their symptoms of bipolar disorder and move to using it frequently when they see that it seems to provide a solution to the problem.