Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar disorder is a mental condition defined by extreme mood swings that range from depression to mania, often cycling from one to the other very quickly with no warning. While in a manic phase, high energy and racing thoughts may lead to outrageous behavior and poor judgment. Symptoms of bipolar aren't limited to mood, however, as the disorder also affects sleep, appetite, memory and self-esteem, and some cases is linked to high blood pressure, migraines other medical conditions.

The disorder affects people differently and the mood swings aren't always so dramatic. For some people, depression is more prominent while the manic phase may be much more subtle and difficult to recognize.
Bipolar disorder is strongly linked with substance abuse, these conditions are often occurring simultaneously. Studies indicate that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to become dependent on alcohol and drugs, often after casual use.

When chemical dependency and a mental disorder such as bipolar diagnosis occur at the same time, the condition is known as a co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis. Treatment is thus more challenging because it is difficult for treatment professionals to know which came first – the addiction or the bipolar disorder; or even to identify which symptoms may come from which affliction.
It isn’t uncommon for people with bipolar disorder to use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate in an attempt to feel better. Using drugs or alcohol this way can lead to tolerance and eventual addiction as increasing doses of the substance are required to dull the bipolar symptoms. This is a vicious cycle, as hopelessness, anxiety, depression and social withdrawal are associated with both disorders.

Sometimes, use of drugs and alcohol bring on symptoms of bipolar disorder. For example, speed, methamphetamine and cocaine can mimic the symptoms of the manic phase, with heavy use sometimes leading to psychosis followed by severe depression. On the other hand, marijuana, alcohol and heroin are depressants that can mimic the depressive phase of bipolar disorder. It is sometimes difficult to distinguish the symptoms of alcohol or drug abuse from those of bipolar disorder.

Quitting drugs and alcohol is often difficult, but dealing with two disorders at the same time is the calling for experienced addiction specialists. Addiction treatment for alcohol or drugs often takes longer when two issues are involved, but it’s critical to seek help as soon as possible. Neither problem will get better by itself, but with quality treatment, a return to a satisfying, emotionally more stable life is within reach.

Effective treatment includes a thorough medical evaluation that reveals biochemical imbalances and nutritional deficiencies. Proper diet combined with supplements such as vitamins, minerals and amino acids help restore a healthy balance. Biochemical restoration is one of the key success factors for the necessary psychotherapeutic interventions which address and alleviate both disorders.

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