Bipolar disorder is a depressive illness that drastically affects ones mood, energy, thinking, behavior and overall brain functioning. Those with bipolar experience two extreme (and polar opposites) types of “episodes.” During a manic episode, an individual is overly happy, upbeat and cheerful or in some cases, hostile. During a depressive episode, an individual is severely depressed and painfully anxious. These “episodes” can last for days, weeks, or months at a time. The shift from one extreme to another disrupts everyday life, making it difficult to hold a job, keep up in school, maintain relationships, and live a normal life.
There is a direct link between bipolar disorder and addiction. While some believe the combination is genetic, others believe one can cause the other and vice versa. I am going to focus on bipolar and addiction as co-occurring disorders, going into detail on how they are similar.
The Vicious Cycle
Did you know that those with bipolar disorder are twice as likely to have addiction problems? When someone with bipolar is having a depressive episode, the feelings of depression, anxiety and irritability are overbearing. During this episode, common side effects include lack of concentration, loss of interest in hobbies, increased tiredness, lack of self worth and weight loss and gain. To cope with and numb these symptoms, many will self medicate with drugs and alcohol. This type of self-medicating and self-destruction creates a vicious and never-ending cycle that is extremely challenging to overcome without proper treatment.
Likewise, when someone is having a manic episode, they are likely to experience an elevated mood, abnormally high self-esteem, impulsive decision-making, racing thoughts, a short attention span, extreme talkativeness, preoccupation with individual agenda/goal and a decreased need for sleep. During a manic episode, people do things they would never imagine themselves doing. It is during this type of episode that many bipolar alcoholics are at an increased risk for relapse because they feel as though they are bigger than life and can control or master their drinking/using. Upon coming out of this type of episode, there is a lot regret and embarrassment as well as a great deal of shame. In an attempt to justify ones behavior and actions that were vastly out of character, many will turn to alcohol and drugs.
The Importance of Seeking Treatment at a Dual-Diagnosis Facility
If you or a loved has bipolar and struggles with addiction, seeking treatment at a dual-diagnosis facility is critical. Treating both conditions is essential because if one goes untreated, it is impossible to treat the other. Until the drugs and alcohol are out of ones system completely, there is no way to distinguish which symptoms are drug induced and which are a symptom of one’s bipolar disorder. Once the body is detoxified of all drugs and alcohol, a doctor will be able to determine the best route to take for recovery, which will include treating both diseases at their core. Treatment centers such as Hotel California By the Sea specialize in dual-diagnosis treatment, acknowledging the strong correlation between one’s addiction and mental health conditions.