Bipolar Disorder and Addiction
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In many cases, substance use disorder (SUD) can often be accompanied by a mental illness such as bipolar disorder. This is commonly known as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring condition. If a person has two or more co-occurring conditions, these symptoms must be diagnosed and treated individually.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a psychiatric disorder that can lead to severe swings between high and low moods. This disorder can also commonly be referred to as manic depression. 

In a bipolar episode, the term “manic” refers to the high, and the term “depressive” refers to the low. These episodes can affect a persons’ mood, sleep patterns, and the ability to interact with others. 

The term “bipolar” alludes to the two opposite “poles” of the globe and the two opposite spectrums of moods that someone suffering from bipolar disorder may experience. 

Individuals who have bipolar disorder will experience extreme highs and dark lows, often on the same day or in the same hour. In addition, people with bipolar disorder have proven significantly more likely to struggle with substance abuse/ addiction. If you or someone you know is suffering from bipolar disorder or an addiction issue, our trained professionals are here to help. 

A Closer Look at the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

When a person suffering from bipolar disorder enters a “manic” (high) phase, they can become overly irritable, seem irrational, and make impulsive or even reckless decisions. In addition, approximately half of bipolar patients also suffer hallucinations or delusions during a manic state. 

“Hypomania” refers to a more mild state of bipolar. Someone suffering from hypomania will probably not hallucinate, and their symptoms will hopefully not interfere with everyday life. 

A “depressive” (low) state refers to the dark, sometimes uncontrollable sadness that often accompanies depression. 

The random high and low swings that come with bipolar disorder do not often follow a set pattern. Someone struggling with bipolar disorder may experience mania (high) and depression (low) in the same brief period. Conversely, they may also ride a wave of mania or depression for days or weeks at a time without experiencing the other. 

Someone suffering from the manic aspect of bipolar disorder may also experience: 

  • Extreme mood swings-sometimes lasting a few minutes or as long as a week
  • Restlessness or sleeplessness
  • Excessive joy or happiness
  • Increase in impulsive or reckless behavior
  • The predilection to alcohol or drug use or abuse
  • Rapid or incomprehensible speech

Symptoms of depressive (low) stages of bipolar disorder may include:

  • Extreme or prolonged depression
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation
  • Extreme irritability
  • Changes in appetite that can lead to weight loss/gain
  • Loss of energy
  • Inability to complete normal daily tasks or interact socially
  • Struggling to concentrate or make decisions
  • Uncontrollable crying

How Bipolar Disorder Affects Daily Life

Many people who suffer from bipolar disorder may find it difficult to maintain healthy interpersonal relationships. This is largely due to the uncontrollable swings in emotion that may cause embarrassment or the desire to isolate. Because family members and loved ones mat not understand their disorder, it can often be difficult to connect with someone suffering from bipolar disorder. 

Bipolar disorder can also commonly interfere with one’s ability to function in a healthy way in a work or school environment. Wild swings in emotion, feelings of isolation, or social awkwardness can make it extremely difficult to perform in a classroom or workplace setting. This can lead to relational strain with co-workers, supervisors, teachers or peers. 

What is Addiction and How Does it Happen?

Addiction (also called substance use disorder) occurs when someone is unable to function normally without the use of a particular stimulus (in this case, drugs or alcohol). Simply put, those who suffer from addiction have an uncontrollable dependence on and desire for alcohol or drugs. 

Addiction can develop at different rates for different people. In general, though, addiction/dependence can occur with continued substance use for a four to six month period. This continued use builds up a “tolerance” and forces the user to consume more to achieve the same result. For example, if someone consumes alcohol every day for a week, eventually it will take more alcohol to achieve the same “buzzed” or drunk feeling. 

After developing a tolerance, individuals may then begin to consume more and more drugs or alcohol. Then, someone who has built up a tolerance may begin to abuse a specific substance.

This can happen with everything, from alcohol to prescription pain medication to all kinds of illegal drugs. In the instance of prescription pain medication abuse, overuse can lead to a tolerance that then forces someone to become addicted, use more than prescribed, or seek out means beyond prescription to acquire the drugs. 

Once dependency develops, individuals may begin to find it hard to function without the use of alcohol or drugs. This is such a common occurrence because these substances can literally alter the way your brain functions. 

The misuse or abuse of drugs and alcohol can lead to permanent alteration in brain function, which in turn leads to drastic changes in behavior. 

Different Types of Substance Abuse 

While there are many different types of addiction, the most commonly abused substances associated with bipolar or other mental health issues include:

  • Alcohol
  • Cocaine
  • Amphetamines
  • Prescription pain medications such as Oxycontin
  • Illegal synthetic opiates such as heroin

The use of these substances and many others can lead to addiction or dependency. While the use of alcohol or prescription drugs under the right circumstances can be healthy, there is a fine line between use and abuse. 

Sadly, many people who struggle with addiction may not even know that they are. Friends and family may also not know that a loved one is struggling with addiction, as often addicts become adept at hiding their behaviors. Those struggling with bipolar and addiction may swing so wildly between behaviors that it can be difficult to detect one or the other. 

Identifying Symptoms of Addiction

The signs, symptoms, and effects of substance use disorder can vary drastically depending on the type of substance being abused. However, there are many common signals that family and friends can look out for to identify an addiction.

A person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may:

  • Sneak away to use drugs/alcohol in private
  • Become very withdrawn or secretive
  • Demonstrate poor hygiene or appear disheveled
  • Have uncommon emotional outbursts
  • Exhibit behavioral changes or risky behaviors
  • Begin to develop financial problems
  • Spend excessive time with people who use/abuse alcohol/drugs
  • Acquire excessive drug paraphernalia 
  • Withdraw from relationships, jobs or school

Identifying and Treating Co-occurring Disorders

Sadly, many people who suffer from mental health disorders, such as bipolar disorder, also develop addictive behaviors. When someone experiences both addiction and a mental health disorder (such as bipolar), it means they have a dual diagnosis. Living with either addiction or bipolar disorder can be extremely difficult; living with both can be life-altering. 

It is important for family and loved ones to understand the effect of both disorders independently as well as the difficulty of experiencing both at once. In some cases, the stress or behavioral difficulty of bipolar disorder can lead someone to seek out self-medication through drugs or alcohol. 

For example, someone struggling with the difficulty of bipolar disorder may turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the excessive-high or low feelings. This self-medication can lead to tolerance and, in turn, addiction. 

Since co-occurring disorders can so negatively affect someone’s life and are so difficult to manage independently of one another, it is best to seek treatment that can speak to BOTH issues at ones. 

Sadly, if a person learns to manage the symptoms of addiction but not the co-occurring bipolar disorder, relapse may be unavoidable. 

What to Expect in Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction or bipolar disorder, there surely is an accompanying sense of uncertainty about what steps to take. The thought of beginning treatment can be very daunting. This is largely due to the unknown of what treatment may look like. This uncertainty can feel even more debilitating if someone is dealing with co-occurring disorders such as bipolar and addiction. 

If you or someone you love is dealing with a dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and addiction, it is important to seek treatment as soon as possible. It will surely be helpful to learn more about the treatment process and your options, which is why we are here to help!

The Detox Process

Detoxification is often the first step in the journey to substance abuse recovery. Detox is the process of ridding the body, over time, of the chemicals that cause addiction. While it is necessary to achieve recovery, it can be difficult, time-consuming, and even painful. The symptoms associated with detox can occur in varying degrees, but usually at least one or more are present.

However, some of the withdrawal symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Shakiness
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increase in appetite
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Irritability

Occasionally, these symptoms can be so severe as to require hospitalization or around the clock supervision. This is why medically supervised detox, at a facility like ours, is highly recommended. 

Other Treatment Options

With a complicated diagnosis such as bipolar disorder plus addiction, often a wide range of treatment options or therapies are needed-and we have them all at your disposal. They include, but are not limited to;

  1. Outpatient treatment: At our beautiful facility in Corona, California, we have every amenity and treatment option available to you. Our outpatient options involve being on-campus for a few hours a day or week to take advantage of everything from individual therapy, group classes, 12 step programs, and the like. 
  2. Inpatient Treatment: Occasionally, a difficult diagnosis may require someone to stay overnight for a week or longer on campus. Treatments we may purse while in an inpatient environment include medically supervised detox, around the clock observation, and intense personal therapy. 
  3. Group or Individual therapy: Counseling for mental health issues like bipolar, as well as addiction, has proven extremely successful-especially in conjunction with other treatments. At Daylight, we have a full gamut of group or individual therapy options to best suit your needs and level of comfort. 

Begin Your Journey to Freedom and Sobriety Today

If you or someone you love is suffering from bipolar disorder and/or a substance use problem, you may be feeling hopeless. It may seem daunting to begin treatment or to find the right program for you. Please know, our trained team of professionals is here to help.

Living with bipolar disorder or a substance abuse disorder can be extremely daunting, but you are never alone. At Daylight Recovery Services, we are ready and willing to help; however you may need it. From incredible on-campus amenities to simple but effective in-person therapy, we have everything you could need at our disposal. Do not hesitate to contact us today! Your journey to freedom and sobriety begins now!

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