During treatment and recovery from addiction to alcohol or drugs, it’s not uncommon for people to discover they’ve been suffering from an untreated mental health issue, such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or bipolar disorder.
A dual diagnosis, sometimes referred to as co-occurring disorders, is the presence of both the disease of addiction combined with a mental health disorder.
It is not always clear which problem develops first, but research has proven that each condition magnifies and complicates the symptoms of the other.
Frequently, people with a dual diagnosis will use alcohol and drugs to dull or numb the painful symptoms associated with each condition. This type of self-medicating can be incredibly destructive and unhealthy.
At Pure Recovery, we understand that lasting healing can only take place when both disorders are individually treated with a scientific, evidence-based approach to recovery.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Once referred to as manic-depressive disorder, Bipolar Disorder (BD) is characterized by dramatic shifts in a person’s moods, going from extreme episodes of depression that are preceded or followed by episodes of intense mania.
In both cases, the symptoms are often overwhelming and leave a person suffering from bipolar incapable of functioning normally on a day-to-day basis.
The Most Commonly Diagnosed Types of the Condition are Bipolar I and II
When diagnosing Bipolar I, a person must have suffered an episode of severe mania that lasts a week or longer.
When a person experiences less severe episodes of hypomania, the diagnosis is Bipolar II.
It’s not uncommon for a person suffering an extreme manic episode to experience the symptoms of delusions or hallucinations, and these are often misdiagnosed as having schizophrenia.
Researchers have so far been unable to pinpoint one specific cause of bipolar disorder. Scientists believe a number of factors can lead to the condition, such as genetics, a stressful or traumatic life event, along with changes in brain function and structure.
Who Suffers From Bipolar Disorder?
Despite misunderstandings about the condition, along with the stigma associated with mental health issues in general, bipolar disorder is more common than the general public realizes.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) estimates that nearly 4.5 percent of adults in the United States deal with bipolar disorder at some point in their lives.
Women and men are equally affected by the mental health disorder, with the first symptoms appearing, on average, in early adulthood, around the age of 25.
Bipolar disorder is not only limited to adults either.
Children and teenagers can develop bipolar, with symptoms of mania manifesting as bouts of rage, irritable frenzy or destructive outbursts rather than euphoria or delusions like adults with bipolar disorder experience.
What are 4 Different Types of Bipolar Disorder?
There are four different types bipolar diagnoses.
In each case, the symptoms of the disorder may vary slightly, resulting in unique challenges for a person coping with the condition.
1. Bipolar I
Bipolar I (sometimes referred to as manic depressionor manic-depressive disorder) is diagnosed when a person experiences one or more episodes of mania. It may or may not be combined with a depressive episode, that lasts a week or longer.
It’s common for Bipolar I symptoms to appear for people in their teens or early 20s and rarely for anyone over the age of 50.
2. Bipolar II
Bipolar II is characterized by one or more episodes of depression, along with one manic phase, that might include some stability between episodes.
The “highs” associated with Bipolar II are not typically as intense as with Bipolar I and sometimes go unnoticed, leading to a misdiagnosis of depression.
Similar to Bipolar I, symptoms develop early in life and rarely develop as they get older.
3. Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
Bipolar Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (NOS) is the diagnosis when the symptoms of bipolar don’t appear to follow a typical pattern.
For example, with Bipolar Disorder NOS, a person might experience swings between manic episodes and have seemingly few symptoms of depression.
Cyclothymia (also known as cyclothymic disorder) is considered a low-grade type of bipolar disorder because of the milder episodes of depression and mania that are present on and off for at least two years.
Cyclothymia is a mild form of bipolar disorder that affects men and women equally, but it impacts less than 1 percent of the population in the United States.
What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?
The symptoms of bipolar disorder are often difficult to diagnose because of the varying ways the mental health condition appear in different people.
In addition, the symptoms can be entirely different depending on whether a person is experiencing a manic or depressive episode.
Symptoms of bipolar depression usually include some of following:
- Fatigue, exhaustion, and an increased need to sleep
- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt or hopelessness
- Inability to concentrate or focus and trouble making decisions
- Drug or alcohol dependence or misuse
- Suicidal thoughts or tendencies, also known as suicidal ideations
Symptoms of a manic episode can include some of the following:
- Increased energy levels and sleeping very little, if at all
- Acting jittery, restless and impulsive
- Racing thoughts and rapid fire speaking, accompanied by difficulty communicating
- Expressing grandiose thoughts or feeling exhilarated in odd situations
- Acting out in a high-risk way, such as having unprotected sex with strangers or going on drug or alcohol benders
How are Bipolar Disorders Treated?
A diagnosis for bipolar disorder will likely include a physical exam, not because the condition shows up in blood work or imaging, but to rule out any other illnesses or medications that may be causing related side effects.
Proper treatment for bipolar disorder takes an integrated approach to helping a person recognize and manage their symptoms.
Many psychiatrists will prescribe mood stabilizers such as Lithium, Abilify, or Lamictal, although it’s necessary to combine these medications with behavioral therapy for successfully managing the symptoms.
At Pure Recovery, clients recovering from a dual diagnosis of addiction and bipolar disorder are treated with scientific, evidence-based approaches that can include:
- Counseling with board certified, licensed therapists
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Medications, such as mood stabilizers and antidepressants
- Trauma therapy
- Meditation and Mindfulness instruction
- Holistic lifestyle approaches that include proper nutrition, a regular exercise regimen and other activities that stimulate the body and mind
As mentioned earlier, when a person experiences a mental health issue, like bipolar disorder, combined with an addiction to drugs or alcohol, it can be difficult to know which condition appeared first.
For recovery to be successful, a proper dual diagnosis treatment program will work on healing both conditions in tandem. Not all treatment facilities are capable of treating both mental health and addiction.
Pure Recovery’s Approach to Bipolar Disorder Treatment
Pure Recovery’s integrated cognitive neuroscience approach is uniquely qualified to address both issues of addiction and mental illness simultaneously, and our clinical team is comprised of the best professionals in the fields of addiction, psychiatry and clinical psychology.
Each of our clients at Pure Recovery receives a customized treatment plan created to specifically address their individual needs and challenges related to bipolar disorder and drug or alcohol dependence.