Learn About the Symptoms and Best Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (long referred to as manic depressive disorder) is a brain condition that results from a chemical imbalance that shifts human behavior and normal day-to-day functionality to unhealthy and sometimes harmful levels.

This disorder is exhibited through alterations in mood, activity and energy levels. These shifts can vacillate between two opposing spectrums: a manic state and a depressed state. Depending on the individual and the severity of the disorder, the duration of mania or depression can vary.

Bipolar disorder can also present itself through time-predictable cycles (days, weeks, months, years) or it can be brought on by stressful or traumatic events. Some people with bipolar disorder have minimal periods of mania, known as hypomanic episodes, which makes the diagnosis of this disorder more challenging. Other individuals have more magnified periods of mania.

A manic state is accompanied by quick, spontaneous, elated or animated behaviors, while depression is the antithesis: slow, sad or hopeless.

Origins of Bipolar Disorder and Who Is At Risk

60 Percent Bipolar Disorder Had Substance Abuse Issue - The Treatment CenterNumerous studies have been conducted over the years in an effort to uncover the link between bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Statistics show an overwhelming connection between the two, as people with bipolar disorder often resort to alcohol or drug use as a means to self-medicate and minimize their symptoms.

According to findings from the National Institute of Health, 80 percent of those diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the study also had a family history of the illness.

These factors can contribute or lead to the predisposition, development or existence of bipolar disorder:

  • Genetics
  • Family history
  • Brain abnormalities
  • Drug or alcohol addiction

Not only do genetics and family history play a role in a person developing the condition, but there are also indications that people who have specific genes have a higher risk of developing bipolar disorder. It is important to know a person’s family history: Those with a brother, sister or parent with bipolar disorder incur a higher incidence of developing the same condition.

The more instances that a person has of the above-referenced key risk factors, the higher his or her susceptibility in developing the disorder will be.

Substance Abuse Increases the Risk of Bipolar Disorder

Long-term drug or alcohol addiction alters brain and body chemistry at the cellular level. With the imbalance, brain function is negatively impacted, which affects a person’s ability to make sound life decisions. Self-perception, already on the decline, is on the perpetual hunt for gratification, providing more reason to continue the cycle of substance abuse. The longer a person is dependent on drugs or alcohol, the higher the risk will be in developing bipolar disorder.

For those already diagnosed with bipolar disorder, no matter its origin of development, drug and alcohol dependence exacerbates symptoms of this mental illness. During the depressive state, sadness or hopelessness can increase the desire for alcohol, heroin or oxycodone, for example, to help provide a numbing sensation to emotional pain.

Risky behaviors associated with the mania phase of bipolar disorder heighten the desire for drugs and alcohol as a pleasure-seeking mechanism. Bipolar disorder coupled with drug or alcohol addiction, untreated, can be a lethal combination.

Bipolar Disorder Untreated Puts the Patient and Others at Great Risk

The dangerous characteristics of manic depression are best represented in the wide swings of disposition that affect the inidividuals with the disorder and, in turn, how it affects those around them. In addition to the physiological and physical manifestations of the illness, environmental or situational circumstances can engage trauma, further igniting a bipolar episode. At a critical level, such episodes include bringing harm to oneself or someone else.

As a patient first begins treatment, it is important to remember that finding the right medication may take some time. Modifications may be required in the type of medication prescribed or corresponding dosage before finding the right match for the individual patient.

As this illness is, by nature, in constant flux, it is imperative that the patient begin treatment as soon as possible. Even those who have been treated for bipolar disorder require ongoing monitoring of their medication, behaviors and life skills to accurately assess their state, as hormonal changes and life adjustments can trigger bipolar episodes.

Overview of Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Since people with bipolar disorder fluctuate between mania and depression, there are different symptoms that emerge with each state.

Mania phase includes symptoms such as:

  • Moments of tremendous optimism and significant pessimism
  • Grandiose feelings
  • Rapid talking
  • Anger
  • Irritability
  • Excessive behavior (sex, gambling, shopping)
  • Little sleep, restlessness
  • Impaired judgment, irrational behavior
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Delusional behavior
  • Hallucinations

Depressive state includes symptoms such as:

  • Hopeless feelings
  • Discontent
  • Loss of interest in things that used to make the person happy
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in appetite (weight gain or loss)
  • Self-loathing
  • Suicidal thoughts

Mixed episodes include:

  • Mixture of mania and depression symptoms listed above

What’s the Best Treatment for Bipolar Disorder with Alcohol or Drug Abuse?

Alcohol Abuse In Men Double That Of Women - The Treatment CenterTo adequately address the various areas of personal livelihood affected by bipolar disorder with drug or alcohol addiction, a treatment and recovery program should be expansive. Skilled practitioners from many disciplines will need to concentrate on the physical, physiological and emotional elements of the dual diagnosis patient.

Spiritual healing methodologies should also be included to provide the patient with added tools and coping mechanisms needed to integrate back into society as a healthy and more balanced individual.

Some of the proven, best treatment modalities for bipolar disorder include:

  • Medication
    • Prescription
    • Alternative (doctor-approved herbal supplements)
  • Psychotherapy
    • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
    • Family-focused therapy
    • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy
    • Psychoeducation
  • Additional Counseling
    • Integrated group therapy (IGT)
  • Holistic Therapies
    • Meditation
    • Chiropractic care
    • Acupuncture
    • Exercise
  • Daily Log or Written Accounting of:
    • Medication taken
    • Diet
    • Exercise
    • Activities
    • Habits
    • Personal Interactions
    • Stressors

Because of the complexities in bipolar disorder that are often heightened when accompanied by substance abuse, patients must maintain ongoing communication with their physicians and therapists to ensure consistency in treatment. Changes to medication and/or life circumstances may require a reevaluation to help avoid relapse and manic or depressive episodes.

A Specialized Approach to Treating Bipolar Disorder with Alcohol or Drug Addiction

There are challenges associated with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder coupled with alcohol or drug addiction. To help alleviate the pain inherent in both conditions, The Treatment Center by The Recovery Village provides the specialized care needed to properly treat this diagnosis at its core while giving the patient a customized, clearly outlined path toward recovery.

If you’d like to learn more about how The Treatment Center by The Recovery Village can care for a loved one of yours who is suffering from bipolar disorder and addiction, call us anytime at (866) 295-6003. Our admissions counselors are standing by to answer your questions and concerns and help you take the next step.

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