Bipolar Disorders and Addiction
About Bipolar Disorders and Addiction
Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that can present as extreme mood swings but is actually much more serious. Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder are not able to maintain proper chemical balance within their brains, causing them to become unstable, swinging from manic to depressive within weeks of each other. Beyond just mood changes, their emotions become erratic and their ability to make concrete, appropriate or even safe judgment for themselves is lost. Bipolar disorder is marked by extreme changes in emotional and physical states, swinging from manic, hyperactive periods of sleeplessness and impulsivity to a depressed state where they may not be able to care for themselves at all. As one might imagine, the ability to keep a job long-term or nurture healthy relationships becomes impossible without medical intervention. Bipolar disorder and addiction is quite common as individuals seek escape from their struggle to balance body chemicals.
People suffering from bipolar disorder and addiction will go from a low, depressed, state to a high in a relatively short time, weeks or even days in some cases and depend on the exact nature of their disorder. The nature of these episodes can vary greatly from one person to another but one thing is sure, it will be extreme and will have long-term damaging effects on someone’s ability to live and perform normally. Unsurprisingly, being bipolar makes you more likely to become addicted to illicit drugs. Drugs and alcohol usually make things worse but we don’t fully understand why people suffering from bipolar disorder have more chances to become addicts. Each individual experiences these extreme mood swings differently, some staying manic for much longer periods of time, and depressed for short episodes.
Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Categories
Because of the differences in depressive mood disorders such as bipolar, there are three categories of bipolar disorder. These three are described as:
Bipolar I: this is the most severe form of bipolarity. Mood swings happen suddenly and are extremely severe. Depressive episodes usually last 1 to 2 weeks. Individuals have to be hospitalized in order to remain safe.
Bipolar II: fluctuations between different emotional states are less extreme. This is a less severe form of bipolar disorder but it can still interfere with your usual daily activities. You might feel depressed for a longer time and then experience hypomania, which is milder than mania.
Cyclothymia: episodes of depression are usually milder and followed by hypomania. These episodes are also shorter and less profound than for people who are bipolar I or II.
Rapid-Cycling: the cycles will be even shorter and the mood will fluctuate even more rapidly compared to regular bipolarity.
Mixed features: depression and mania can be experienced at the same time.
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Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Facts
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms and Common Signs
Around 2.6% of the population in the United States have suffered from this disorder within a one year period. The majority of these cases is considered to be rather severe. Several major variations of this illness do exist. Detecting the symptoms of bipolar disorder and addiction is not always easy. The mood swings can look like the highs and lows experienced when an individual is intoxicated or during withdrawal periods. There are two main types of symptoms: manic and depressive.
The most common manic symptoms are the following:
- Having a lot of enthusiasm and energy
- Impulsive behavior (which can lead to shopping sprees, binge eating, substance abuse…)
- Taking unnecessary risks (sex, driving…)
- Losing appetite and not being able to sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Speaking rapidly and changing topic frequently
- Bad judgement
- Being irritable or on edge
And here are some of the depressive symptoms that you will be able to notice:
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling hopeless
- Having Low-energy
- Having no appetite or eating too much
- Altered sleep patterns
- Inability to focus
- Memory issues
- Suicidal thoughts (and in some cases suicide attempts)
Bipolar Disorder Recovery and Treatment
This is a complex psychiatric condition, especially when coupled with substance abuse and it depends on the stage of drug addiction the patient is at. Drug or alcohol abuse can increase the intensity of these highs and lows. In this case, it is hard to determine if the episodes are chemically or psychologically induced. The treatments used range from Motivational Interviewing to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, but also Solution-focused therapy and other trauma therapies like EMDR. Medication therapy can also help you to keep the symptoms under control. Mood stabilizers, anticonvulsant drugs, antipsychotic medications and other medications are the main categories of drugs used to treat patients suffering from both bipolar disorder and addiction.