I know how difficult life can be for people who suffer from bipolar disorder. Some of my most loved family members and friends have struggled with this disease their whole lives. They are good people with kind hearts and strong minds, but bipolar has pulled them into a cyclone of personal abuse, including drug and alcohol addiction.
However, I’ve seen most of these people fight for their lives through these problems and emerge as new, positive, and happy people. Yes, some of them still struggle, but they are going through a problem that most people will never experience.
If you or someone you love is suffering from these co-occurring disorders, it is imperative that you understand the need to treat both concerns at the same time and never let one go while treating only the other. I and other addiction specialists like me believe that treating these two diseases can only be done properly if they are both addressed and treated at the same period during rehabilitation and recovery.
Bipolar Disorder And Addiction Are Common Bedfellows
Few people really understand how prevalent bipolar and addiction are together. Sadly, this means they are rarely treated at the same time if at all, leading to obvious struggles with rehabilitation. Sometimes this diagnosis failure is due to people being afraid to admit they have a problem because they feel the sting of addiction or mental health stigma.
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Don’t let that stigma hold you back. Only by being honest with yourself and assessing your situation can you recover in a healthy and constructive manner. Please understand that in this, you are not alone. Statistics by the American Journal of Managed Care indicate just how common the problem of co-occurring, dual diagnosis is:
- 56% of people with bipolar disorder have experienced addiction
- 46% of those with dual diagnosis either abuse or are addicted to alcohol
- 41% abuse or are addicted to drugs
The reasons for this connection are complex and will be discussed in more depth, but for right now, it is important that you know that you are not alone in your problems. There are millions of people just like you across the nation, and like them, I know that you can get the help you need to get the life you deserve.
The Stages Of Bipolar Disorder And How They Contribute To Addiction
While most people understand that “mania” and “depression” are prominent in bipolar disorder, there is actually a third intermediary stage called “hypomania.” Understanding how your body moves through these stages can help you understand why addiction is so common in people with bipolar disorder.
It can also give you the strength you need to identify why you are using and what you can do to stop. We’re going to start with the “positive” end of bipolar disorder: mania. I put quotes around “positive” because mania can be just as destructive as depression.
Symptoms of mania include:
- Feeling incredibly powerful and able to take on the world
- Staying awake for hours working in excitement
- Irrational and impulsive behavior
- Inability to stop talking
- Optimism mixed with pessimism
During this stage, you’re likely to use drugs because you feel so excited about life and also impulsive. Those symptoms and behaviors will decrease during hypomania, which is the more “controlled” level of positivism. It is during this stage that you may feel controlled enough to want to turn to drug rehab, as it is often the most honest of all the stages of bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, the pendulum swing of bipolar disorder will eventually take you into depression. It is here that your negative emotions will be at their strongest. These feelings can last for just a few hours or for several days. Drug using during this stage is common in order to self-medicate the following symptoms:
- Self-loathing beliefs
- Suicidal thoughts or action
- Lack of energy
- Lack of hunger (or increased hunger)
- Self-isolation or alienation
While you’ve undoubtedly gone through these stages many times in your life, you also know that your episodes aren’t always so extreme in one direction. Often, you’ve felt suicidal while suffering from racing thoughts and manic energy. These moments are called “mixed episodes” and it is common to see many people struggle through these difficult periods by embracing addiction.
However, it is possible to beat both your addiction and your bipolar disorder by treating the coinciding issues at the exact same time. This process is called dual diagnosis and it’s something that we embrace here at Turning Point. We believe that you can’t heal either disorder fully unless you heal both at once. Later, treatment will be discussed in greater detail.
Treating Both Can Be Challenging
There are many challenges you are going to face when treating both bipolar disorder and addiction. I can’t downplay that aspect or lie to you about how hard it will feel. However, I can offer you hope by letting you know that it is possible. At Turning Point, we’ve seen it happen dozens of times and every time is a blessing.
However, you should understand the challenges you will face to help give you a better understanding of what you’re up against. For example, drug or alcohol use may help you trigger manic or depressive episodes, which can compel you to keep using or to behave in self-destructive ways.
Using alcohol and drugs when you are bipolar upsets your mind’s chemical imbalance even further. When you have bipolar disorder, your body suffers from highly abnormal and varying levels of serotonin and dopamine. These chemicals are responsible for creating positive and negative emotions.
As a result, your mind will struggle to process these chemicals and emotions in a healthy way. Adding alcohol and drugs into the mix (two substances that drastically decrease and increase those chemical levels) will make your manic and depressive episodes more extreme. Quitting cold turkey, however, to deal with your bipolar disorder will only cause even more problems. That’s why dual diagnosis treatment is needed.
Your Treatment Options
Any successful course of rehabilitation from bipolar and addiction takes the path known as dual diagnosis– literally meaning you have been given two diagnoses that affect one another. Essentially, treatment for dual diagnosis is a two-pronged attack that heals both your mental health issue (in this case bipolar disorder) while simultaneously addressing and healing your addiction. The treatment identifies the causes of your bipolar disorder and assesses the way in which it contributes to your addiction.
As a result, you will be treated in a clinical session for bipolar disorder by:
- Receiving assessment from a team of psychologist and addiction counselors
- Evaluation as to the intensity of your bipolar disorder
- Medical treatment to help limit your symptoms (including prescription medications)
- Behavioral modifications to help limit your bipolar symptoms
- Treatment in a peer support group of people who suffer from the same problems
Many of these treatments also work on healing your addiction by gauging where your addiction stems from and how it can be eliminated. Other addiction treatment methods you are likely to experience with dual diagnosis include:
- Medically-supervised detoxification
- Individual and group therapy sessions
- Lessons for dealing with cravings and relapse
- Aftercare treatment to help integrate you back into the community
- Behavioral-adjustment techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy
The latter two treatment options are designed to help teach you coping methods for eliminating your impulse to use drugs. They encourage the creation of a healthier and more constructive series of activities that help you manage the emotional turmoil caused by recovering from bipolar disorder and addiction.
The Effectiveness Of Dual Diagnosis Treatment
A study performed at the Harvard Medical School illustrates the amazing efficiency of dual diagnosis for bipolar disorder and addiction. The study involved 62 different people and found that utilizing dual diagnosis therapy over traditional drug counseling doubled their success rate. Though this is a somewhat simplified description of the advanced stats, it generally held up across the board.
That is why we specialize in dual diagnosis at Turning Point. There’s simply no better way that you can recover from the diseases of bipolar disorder while also battling addiction. It remains the most effective treatment option because it targets, isolates, and treats every aspect of your addiction on a holistic level.
Turn To Us For Your Treatment
Here at Turning Point, we offer you and people like you access to the kind of dual diagnosis treatment you need to live a happy, healthy, and normal life. Don’t let addiction and bipolar pull you down. We can (and will) help you. Contact us today to take your first step towards recovery.