Dual Diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

In the world of psychology and medicine, there are some conditions that may seem unrelated but actually go hand in hand. Substance abuse/addiction frequently occur with mental disorders. This is also known as a ‘dual diagnosis’. Dual diagnosis provides a clear link between mental disorders and substance addiction.

What Is A Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is exceptionally common when it comes to substance abuse and addiction. A dual diagnosis is considered to be the diagnosis of a substance addiction along with the diagnosis of a mental disorder. One example of this could be heroin addiction combined with bipolar disorder.

Dual diagnosis is so common with addiction because substance abuse and mental disorders go hand in hand. Up to 7.9 million Americans are diagnosed with both a substance addiction and a mental disorder in tandem.

Mental disorders are often a foundational cause of many addictions, specifically those that are left undiagnosed and untreated. These mental disorders could be as straightforward as a chemical imbalance an individual was born with, or something more complex like a childhood trauma that was left unidentified.

While dual diagnosis will present symptoms unique to both the mental disorder and the addiction individually, there are some symptoms that are specific to both conditions simultaneously.

These symptoms can include:

  • sudden changes in character or behavior
  • acting out, making risky decisions
  • desire to be alone, ignoring friends and family
  • loss of self-control with multiple substances, inability to say no
  • poor attendance at work or social functions
  • combining different drugs, risky behavior surrounding drug use
  • a constant need to be high
  • increased tolerance
  • sudden or severe symptoms of withdrawal

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What Exactly Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is often misrepresented as a sudden switch between happy and angry, or happy and sad, but it is not as simple as that. While bipolar disorder is categorized by sudden mood swings, these emotional highs and lows can have a whole spectrum of feelings associated with them.

Emotional highs can be described as:

  • euphoric
  • manic
  • extremely energetic
  • hyper
  • easily irritated

Emotional lows include:

  • depression
  • hopelessness
  • loss of interest in hobbies or friends
  • loss of energy

Manic depressive episodes can be detrimental to an individual’s life, disrupting sleep, work, judgement, mood, behavior, and motivation.

Mood swing episodes can occur as frequently as multiple times per year to only a few times in a lifetime. Between episodes some individuals may feel other emotional symptoms like depression or anxiety, and some may feel completely normal. While there is no cure for bipolar disorder, there are many coping mechanisms that can be taught by a counselor or therapist to help you live a life more in control of your symptoms.

Why Do Bipolar Disorder And Addiction Often Occur Simultaneously?

Bipolar disorder can often go hand in hand with substance abuse and addiction. Individuals who suffer from the symptoms of bipolar disorder are more likely to fall victim to the strongholds of substance abuse. Drug use is a way for individuals suffering from bipolar disorder to help them cope with the distress of manic and depressive mood swings.

The emotional highs and lows felt during an episode can be very traumatic. Individuals may feel thoughts of suicide, an inability to control their own thoughts, a euphoric high, crippling anxiety, and everything in between. Drugs can help to dull these thoughts and calm the mind, a numbness that is a welcome feeling in comparison to the constant mood swings.

Unfortunately, the dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and addiction can often be a dangerous cycle. Drug addiction can make the mood swings worse in some circumstances, or even trigger them more frequently. Once a tolerance is built, an individual will crave higher doses to help cope with the symptoms of their mood swings. This cycle will usually end in rehab or tragedy.

Treatment For Bipolar Disorder And Addiction

When treating a dual diagnosis in an individual, it is important to treat the symptoms of both conditions simultaneously. However, it is also important to recognize the differences in each condition, and where bipolar disorder ends and addiction begins. By recognizing these differences therapists are able to monitor the level of improvement or degradation as a response to therapy in each condition.

Treating Bipolar Disorder

Mental disorders such as bipolar disorders should be addressed by a professional psychiatrist, specifically one that is experienced in the diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder. Although the condition is not curable, it is possible to successfully manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder and live a pretty typical life. Managing the symptoms of bipolar disorder may include a drug regimen, regular therapy sessions, day treatment during episodes, and behavioral counseling to teach methods of coping with the symptoms.

Treating Substance Abuse and Addiction

Drug rehabilitation programs are the best way to treat addiction. There are many different types of programs across the country, and many facilities will offer drug-specific treatment for increased chances of a long-term recovery. The best addiction treatment programs will usually utilize a combination of modalities to treat the mental, physical, and emotional factors of addiction. In some cases, medication therapies may be used to help treat withdrawal symptoms resulting from chemical dependence on a drug.

Preventing Drug Abuse Associated With Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, along with many other mental disorders, is not talked about often. Many individuals diagnosed with the disorder do not speak about it or seek treatment for fear of being judged for having a mental disorder. Unfortunately this stigma can cause individuals to avoid getting the treatment they need to live a stable and healthy life.

Encouraging loved ones who are struggling with a mental disorder, or even just unusual emotional shifts, to talk about what they are feeling can help them feel supported and loved during episodes. Often individuals who feel powerless and alone are more likely to try to cope by using drugs. Allowing your loved one to be open and honest about their difficult days during episodes can help them to talk through their emotions and get a better grasp on where they are coming from.

You Are Never Alone

If you have experienced symptoms similar to the ones associated with bipolar disorder or addiction, you are not alone. Bipolar disorder is a commonly diagnosed mental disorder in the United States, and it is estimated that a significant number of cases go undiagnosed each year because individuals were scared or ashamed to admit their symptoms.

Addiction can affect anyone, especially when it comes to struggling with mental distress or trauma. The cycle of addiction can be potentially deadly, which is why it is important to seek out professional help when you are ready to begin your journey to recovery.

At RehabCenter.net, we have an around-the-clock team of addiction treatment specialists that are ready to help answer your questions about drug rehab. Searching for a treatment program that’s right for you can feel overwhelming, but our specialists can help. Contact us today.

Mayo Clinic - Bipolar Disorder

MedLinePlus.gov - Dual Diagnosis

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) - Dual Diagnosis

National Institute of Health - Bipolar Disorder

The British Journal of Psychiatry - Bipolar Disorder

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