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Dual Diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Fluctuations in mood are a part of everyday life. Everyone has their ups and downs. However, those who have bipolar disorder experience heightened mood changes which can last for varying periods of time. These extreme highs and lows can have a negative impact on their life, especially in combination with addiction. When a person is affected by both addiction and a mental health disorder, it is referred to as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. Fortunately there are Malibu rehab facilities that are skilled in treating patients with a dual diagnosis to provide more effective and comprehensive care.

Having bipolar disorder can make recovery from addiction more challenging, but still possible. It is important for clients to understand how these two conditions are interrelated so that they can be more proactive and strategic in their recovery efforts.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

First it is important to have an understanding of what bipolar disorder is. Bipolar disorder was previously known as manic depression. It is characterized by extreme changes in mood. These two extremes are mania and depression.

  • Mania – the person feels very positive and optimistic. They may have excessive energy, be easily distracted, talk rapidly, have increased self-confidence, and take on many responsibilities.
  • Depression – the person feels very down and even hopeless with low self-esteem. They may lose interest in things they once enjoyed, sleep more often, and have suicidal thoughts.

Not everyone is affected exactly the same way. Some people’s highs and lows are not as extreme and they are better able to balance their thoughts and behaviors. During a manic period, the person may be very productive and optimistic, but this can quickly change to a depressive period where they are quite the opposite. Contributing factors include genetics and chemical imbalances in the brain.

How are Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use Connected?

Due to these extreme highs and lows, those with bipolar disorder may be more likely to try to self medicate. When they are in a depressed phase, they may use drugs or alcohol as a way to make themselves feel better or forget about their problems. In reality, the drugs or alcohol can make them feel even worse and can exacerbate symptoms. In addition, they can prove highly dangerous for those experiencing suicidal thoughts.

On the other hand, when a person is in a manic phase, they may also have a tendency to use drugs or alcohol but for other reasons. They may drink as a way to celebrate and socialize because they are feeling so optimistic. Drugs and alcohol can increase pleasurable feelings and over time change the brains reward system, which contributes to addiction. Impulsivity may lead them to substance use as well.

It is not always clear which comes first: substance misuse or bipolar disorder. It can be a vicious cycle. But what is evident is that the combination of these two conditions can have a negative impact on the person’s life. It can become difficult for them to control their substance use, especially if their bipolar disorder is not well managed.

Treating a Dual Diagnosis

Chapters Capistrano is one Malibu drug and alcohol rehab facility that offers dual diagnosis treatment. It is essential that clients treat both conditions simultaneously for more beneficial results. If one is treated separately from the other, it can be more difficult to coordinate care that encompasses the effects of both. With integrated treatment, clients learn how their bipolar disorder and addiction are related and better understand the triggers for each.

There are therapies and medications that can help clients manage symptoms and work through challenges in a healthier manner. They can deal with changes in mood, stressful situations, and other issues with options other than turning to drugs or alcohol. Family programs can help loved ones who have been affected and educate them on how to support recovery and create a healthier environment.

With professional treatment at a drug rehab, those with bipolar disorder and addiction can turn their life around. Through continued care and preventive measures they can reduce risk of relapse and more effectively manage both their bipolar disorder and substance use issues. Chapters Capistrano provides flexible approaches to treatment including dual diagnosis care, creating customized treatment plans tailored to each client’s individual needs. If you or a loved one has a mental health disorder and are struggling with a substance use, contact Chapters Capistrano today at 949-371-4198 to find out how we can help. It’s not too late to start a new chapter in your life and get your health and wellbeing under control.