Bipolar disorder, also formerly known as “manic depression,” can pose a serious threat to your emotional, psychological and physical health, and you may suffer from the disease without even knowing you have it due to the difficulty in recognizing and differentiating symptoms from naturally occurring moods and feelings and the length of symptoms. When bipolar disorder co-occurs with a substance use disorder, it can be even more difficult to differentiate symptoms and diagnose either condition, prolonging your suffering, diagnosis and treatment.
This serious disease is primarily characterized by the alternation between two intense and distinct moods — one of high-energy and euphoria and the other of lethargy and depression. Each of the individual episodes in a bipolar disorder may be long-lasting, adding to the difficulty of diagnosis. Alternately, you may experience periods where you have both manic and depressive symptoms simultaneously. The severity of symptoms often leads sufferers to self-medication, and you may find yourself turning to drugs or alcohol to manage symptoms, though drug and alcohol use adds new symptoms and can sometimes bring on otherwise dormant ones.
If you struggle with drugs and alcohol and suspect you have bipolar disorder — or if you have a previous diagnosis for bipolar disorder — a medically-supervised detox followed by addiction treatment and therapy will be crucial to addressing both your substance use and mental health issues and protecting your emotional, psychological and physical well-being.
SYMPTOMS OF BIPOLAR DISORDER
Bipolar consists of four main types of episodes — mania, hypomania, depression and mixed episodes — each characterized by a different set of core symptoms.
A manic state is often easily recognizable, as it includes many observable and unmistakeable characteristics. These characteristics often include:
- rapid speech
- large and intense feelings
- alternating, intense optimism and pessimism
- delusional behavior
Hypomania includes many of the same symptoms as mania, but the symptoms will present themselves with lesser severity than a manic episode. While you will still experience many emotions at a high intensity, you will most likely find yourself able to perform most if not all of your normal responsibilities well. For this reason, even if you are experiencing a hypomanic episode, you may not realize you have a bipolar disorder.
A depressed state has many defining characteristics including generalized sadness and despair. This condition also includes many tell-tale symptoms including:
- feelings of hopelessness
- loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities
- excessive fatigue
- loss of appetite
- negative views of oneself
- suicidal ideation
If you suffer from bipolar disorder, you may also experience mixed episodes where features of both mania or hypomania and depression present themselves. You may feel overwhelming sadness, for example, while at the same time, you experience your thoughts racing. The difficulty, stress and pressure associated with managing this intense mix of emotions may lead to self-medication through drugs or alcohol which not only leave the underlying mental health disorder untreated but also adds a new dimension of negative symptoms to manage and the risk of creating a substance use disorder.
THE CHALLENGES OF TREATING BIPOLAR DISORDER AND ADDICTION
Treating bipolar disorder can be a significant challenge for many reasons. Because the individual episodes of a bipolar disorder can last a long time — months and even years — it can be difficult to recognize and even diagnose the condition. This is especially true if you experience lengthy periods of hypomania during which you may be very high-functioning and productive.
If you start to experience more severe symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, you may try to self-medicate those symptoms to cope. Self-medicating — whether through drugs or alcohol or other risky behaviors — not only adds additional negative symptoms which you must manage, but also opens the door to more serious health problems and addiction, and these factors can further delay your bipolar diagnosis and treatment. In every case, drug and alcohol abuse will aggravate your bipolar symptoms and worsen your overall condition.
For these reasons, if you think you may suffer from bipolar disorder, and you are also struggling with drugs or alcohol, you will need a medically-supervised detox. A medically-supervised detox will ensure that you have ended your dependency on your drug of choice and that you have no traces of drugs left in your body. Unless you have been previously diagnosed, it is only at this point that you can confirm your underlying mental health diagnosis — whether it is bipolar or another condition — and begin receiving appropriate treatment.
WHY YOU NEED AN INDIVIDUALIZED, HOLISTIC APPROACH TO TREAT BIPOLAR DISORDER AND ADDICTION
An individualized, holistic approach to addiction recovery gives you your best chance of long-term sobriety. When you treat all of the individual aspects which contributed to your drug use — current stress, past trauma and social and personal factors — you can begin to address the underlying causes for your use and ultimately eliminate your need for drugs. After you have controlled, isolated and eliminated your addiction, you can begin to see what if any symptoms remain and diagnose mental health issues if present.
When you have a co-occurring disorder, such as bipolar disorder, it becomes even more critical to adequately address your addiction problem, because drug and alcohol use can both mask and heighten symptoms resulting from another disorder, and you will be unable to focus on your mental health while still suffering from symptoms of addiction. These complications make it impossible to treat any mental health issues while you are still using. Further, you can expect the same benefits from an individualized and holistic approach to treating a mental health disorder as you would from your addiction treatment.
Call Serenity Oaks Wellness Center today at844-720-6847 to learn more about how a compassion-based approach to addiction treatment with a co-occurring disorder can help you overcome all of your struggles and begin living a whole and healthy life again.