bipolar disorder and addiction

A dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and addiction can have many challenging effects on those who suffer from these disorders. Both substance use disorder and bipolar disorder can impact daily life in very serious ways. They can also affect one’s physical health in severe ways. So, it’s important for individuals who suffer from these co-occurring disorders to seek help immediately.

Part of the process of getting help is learning what it really means to suffer from bipolar disorder and addiction. Developing a better understanding of what bipolar disorder is can help individuals to make an informed decision when it comes to getting treatment. Likewise, learning more about addiction, how it develops, and its effects on a person’s life can also prove to be quite beneficial.

Whether you are struggling with bipolar disorder and substance abuse or you know someone else who is, education will be the key to getting help and finding hope. 

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that causes individuals to experience abnormal shifts in mood. Those who suffer from bipolar disorder experience periods of mania or hypomania and periods of depression. 

Manic or hypomanic episodes are characterized by high levels of energy, excitement, elation, and irritability. Individuals may appear to be extremely and even unnaturally energized when experiencing a manic episode. Hypomania is a less severe form of mania; however, it is still a major sign of bipolar disorder. 

During episodes of depression, individuals tend to experience an intense decrease in energy. They may become extremely sad and show signs of indifference. Depressive periods may also cause individuals to feel hopeless and helpless.

Millions of adults suffer from this mental health disorder every year. Bipolar disorder can develop in later teen years, although it does occur in children. To diagnose this disorder, medical professionals examine a few components of a person’s life:

  • Genetics and familial mental health history
  • Environmental factors
  • Life experiences

Researchers have not found much on the brain structure and its role in the development of bipolar disorder. But here are some studies that show a slight difference in the sizing and structure of those who suffer from this mental health disorder.

Identifying the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

There are three main types of bipolar disorder, including Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, and Cyclothymic Disorder. While all of these disorders have various symptoms, some of the common symptoms that may indicate the presence of bipolar disorder include the following:

Symptoms of Mania

  • Extreme happiness
  • Lack of judgment; risky behavior
  • Increased silliness or giddiness
  • Abnormal and excessive irritability
  • Difficulty or inability to concentrate
  • Rapid speech; jumping from one topic to another
  • Lack of tiredness despite the inability to get enough sleep

Many times, individuals who are experiencing manic episodes engage in harmful or dangerous activities. This may include risky driving, unprotected sex, reckless spending, and much more.

Symptoms of Depression

  • Headaches
  • Stomachaches
  • Lack of energy
  • Anger or irritability
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Severe feelings of sadness
  • Difficulty or inability to concentrate
  • Increased or excessive amount of sleep
  • Changes in appetite (eating too much or not enough)

While experiencing a depressive episode, individuals may have many thoughts regarding death and/or suicide. Those who are going through a period of depression may also lose all interest in the things they normally enjoy.

How Bipolar Disorder Affects Daily Life

Due to the inconsistency in mood and emotions caused by bipolar disorder, many individuals who suffer from this disorder have difficulty maintaining healthy interpersonal relationships. Their family members may not fully understand what is happening; romantic partners may struggle to emotionally connect with them. As a result of these challenges, those who have bipolar disorder may suffer from feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Bipolar disorder may also interfere with an individual’s ability to perform well at work or in school. This can lead to problems with work superiors, coworkers, classmates, schoolwork, and job-related tasks.

What is Addiction and How Does it Develop?

Also called substance use disorder or substance dependence, addiction is a disorder that causes individuals to depend on substance use. Simply put, those who suffer from addiction have an uncontrollable dependence on and desire for alcohol or drugs. 

Addiction develops after an individual has used a substance for a while, developed a tolerance for it. For instance, if a person consumes alcohol regularly, he or she may begin to build a higher tolerance for the substance. This means that, after a while, it will take more alcohol in order to produce the effects that a smaller amount once produced. 

After tolerance develops, individuals may begin to abuse drugs or alcohol. So, a person who has an increased tolerance for prescription drugs may begin to use these medications excessively. The individual may start using these substances more often than the doctor has recommended. Or, the person may begin using prescription drugs without having a prescription.

Once substance misuse or abuse develops, individuals may begin to find it hard to function without the use of alcohol or drugs. This happens as a result of the way these substances alter the brain structure. Drug and alcohol misuse can cause an imbalance in the chemicals within the brain, causing people to lack judgment and the ability to control their substance use.

Types of Substance Use Disorder

There are many different types of addiction. Those who suffer from substance use and dependence may come to rely on any of the substances listed below:

The use of these and a host of other substances can lead to addiction. So, it is important for those who use these substances to seek help if they are dealing with a dependence issue.

However, in many cases, those who are developing substance use disorders do not realize what is happening in their lives. Their families may be unaware of the signs of addiction in their lives. This is why it’s important to learn more about the signs and symptoms of addiction. Learning more about these effects can help individuals to take action before the addiction problem intensifies.

Recognizing Symptoms of Addiction

The signs, symptoms, and effects of substance use disorder will vary depending on the type of substance a person uses. However, there are some typical signs that may indicate that an addiction is present.

A person who is addicted to drugs or alcohol may:

  • Drink/use drugs in private.
  • Become very secretive.
  • Show signs of poor hygiene.
  • Often appear to be disheveled.
  • Have unusual displays of emotion.
  • Engage in risky actions and other behavioral changes.
  • Show signs of financial problems
  • Spend more and more time with others who misuse alcohol or drugs.
  • Have various substance use paraphernalia (i.e. pill bottles, needles, etc.)
  • Spend more time alone, becoming distant from friends and family members.
  • Experience lifestyle changes (i.e. job loss, dropping out of school, homelessness, etc.)

Seeking Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

Unfortunately, many people who suffer from substance use disorders also have mental health disorders. When a person experiences, it means that he or she has a dual diagnosis. It can be difficult to live with one or the other; so having multiple disorders can be even more challenging. 

When it comes to struggling with the effects of co-occurring disorders, it’s important to understand their impact on a person’s life. In some cases, people may actually develop a substance use disorder as a result of their struggle with mental illness.

For example, a person who suffers from bipolar disorder may turn to alcohol use in order to cope with the emotional disturbances that occur with mental illness. After using alcohol in excess as a coping method, the individual might develop alcoholism.

In other situations, the development of mental illness and addiction may be unrelated. However, once both disorders are present, individuals may find that the two disorders affect one another. Substance use may intensify the effects of mental health disorders. Likewise, the symptoms of mental illness may cause substance use in a person’s life to increase.

Since co-occurring disorders can have such a serious impact on a person’s life, it’s best for individuals to seek help from a dual diagnosis treatment. Getting treatment from a dual diagnosis program is better than receiving the services of a program that focuses mainly on addiction or solely on mental health.

After all, if a person overcomes an addiction without learning how to manage the effects of mental illness, it is likely that the individual will relapse. Also, if a person receives treatment for mental health without getting help for addiction, the substance use disorder will remain in place.

What to Expect in Treatment for Dual Diagnoses

Many people who are considering getting help for addiction struggle with feelings of uncertainty. The thought of getting treatment for substance use may seem daunting or frightening to some. This is mainly because many individuals are unsure about what to expect when it comes to getting treatment. This uncertainty can be even more intense if an individual is suffering from co-occurring disorders.

But, if you are currently dealing with the effects of bipolar disorder and addiction, it’s important to get treatment right away. But, it may help to learn more about the treatment process so that you will feel more comfortable about beginning your journey to sobriety!

The Detox Process

Often the first step in the recovery journey, detoxification works to help individuals end substance use. When people who suffer from addiction end substance use, they experience symptoms of withdrawal. These symptoms may vary in occurrence and severity depending on the type of substance a person was using and how long the individual was using it.

However, some of the symptoms may include:

  • Headaches
  • Tremors
  • Shakiness
  • Agitation
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Cramping
  • Lack of appetite
  • Increase in appetite
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusions
  • Irritability

In some instances, withdrawal can even lead people to experience major effects, such as coma. Severe cases can even be life-threatening. So, it is best for individuals to receive professional assistance throughout this process. This is why detoxification is so important.

In a detox program, individuals can work through the withdrawal process without fear of the discomfort or life-threatening effects of withdrawal. Detox programs for addiction often use medications to help block many of the effects of substance abuse withdrawal. This allows people to focus on recovering from substance use disorder.

Inpatient Program

Many individuals who complete detox continue their treatment journey through inpatient treatment. Also known as residential treatment, inpatient rehab programs offer individuals an opportunity to work through the beginning stages of recovery in a safe environment.

Those who enroll in an inpatient program live at their rehab center for the duration of their treatment program. This enables them to focus on recovery without being impacted or affected by outside influences. It also provides people with daily access to professional and medical assistance should they need it. 

Residential care allows patients to receive hope and help in a setting that is drug- and alcohol-free. This may be exactly what many recovering individuals need as they start on the road to recovery from alcoholism or drug dependence.

Partial-Care Program

In a partial-care program for substance abuse, patients can get the care they need as they continue to overcome addiction. While partial-care programs are not as intensive as residential care, they are certainly still effective.

These programs offer individuals the opportunity to receive treatment without living at their rehab facility. Still, these programs require people to attend treatment and therapy sessions for several hours every week. 

In some ways, partial-care programs act as a bridge between inpatient rehab and outpatient treatment. This type of program can be thought of as a way for people to safely transition from the intensive nature of a residential program to an outpatient program.

Outpatient Care Program

Outpatient programs for addiction do not require people to live at a treatment center. Instead, individuals can continue to live at home while attending treatment and therapy sessions throughout the week. 

A program that is on an outpatient basis may work best for a person who has already gone through an inpatient program. This is due to the fact that this type of treatment program is less structured and may not provide enough security for those who have more severe cases of addiction.

However, it is important to note that, while they are not as intensive as partial-care or inpatient programs, outpatient rehab programs are still quite effective and helpful. They strive to offer people the resources they need in order to remain free from addiction.

Therapy for Co-Occurring Disorders

Another component of the treatment process is therapy. Every program you enter throughout your recovery will include different types of therapy. These therapeutic approaches offer varying benefits and advantages to those who are engaged in them. From relapse prevention skills to interpersonal growth, our therapy services can help to provide you with the resources you need. 

Learning more about the various types of therapy you can expect in treatment can help you to feel more comfortable and informed about the treatment process. 

There are two main types of therapy for addiction: group therapy and individual therapy. While in a group therapy session, you will gather with other individuals who are on the road to recovery. Along with these like-minded peers and a professional therapist, you can discuss your experiences on the road to recovery. 

Group therapy engages individuals in a support-based system, allowing people to gain encouragement and guidance. Spending time with others who are on the same journey can offer varying perspectives and various levels of insight.

Individual therapy is different from group therapy in that it involves one individual and one therapist. This one-on-one structure allows individuals to speak more freely about their experiences. It also offers an environment where people can discover and deal with the underlying causes of their addictions.

Finally, there is the option of family therapy. This type of therapy offers families the opportunity to heal from the effects of their loved ones’ substance use.

Begin Your Journey to Freedom and Sobriety Today

If you have been suffering from a mental health disorder and a substance use problem, you may be feeling hopeless. You may find it hard to get the help and support you need. The necessary resources may seem inaccessible to you. But, please know that there is hope for you, regardless of the challenges you are experiencing right now.

Living with bipolar disorder and addiction comes with its obstacles and can bring about life-altering effects. This is why it is so important for those who suffer from co-occurring disorders to seek help from a professional treatment facility.

Here at North Jersey Recovery Center, we offer services that we believe will help you find your way to freedom. Overcoming substance abuse is not easy. But, with the right tools and resources, you can become truly free from the effects of addiction. 

So, if you’ve been searching for a treatment center where you can safely work to end addiction in your life, reach out to us. Find the strength and support you need right here at North Jersey Recovery Center today! Our professional and understanding team is ready to help you as you move toward a life beyond alcoholism and drug dependence.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Laura Riley

Laura-Riley-Cropped-Profile-150x150Laura Riley, MA, LCADC, CCS is an Administrator with North Jersey Recovery Center.