According to SAMHSA, people with bipolar disorder have a 30 percent to more than 50 percent chance of developing a substance use disorder sometime in their life. Bipolar disorder is a type of mental health disorder that causes people’s moods to change. The extent of the change is related to the severity of the condition. However, whether a person has mild or more severe bipolar disorder symptoms, anyone with bipolar disorder does have an increased risk of substance misuse and addiction.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder used to be called manic depression because of how a person cycles from manic or elevated moods to depressed moods. This condition is usually characterized by changes in mood from one end of the mood spectrum to the other.
To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, one must have at least a single distinct mood change. For example, while most people will alternate between periods of manic and depressed moods, someone could still be diagnosed with bipolar disorder if they continue to experience manic episodes.
The Science Behind Bipolar Disorder
There are an estimated 7 million adults who have bipolar disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Research into this mental health condition has determined different types of bipolar disorder based on where a person falls on the bipolar spectrum.
For example, someone might exhibit more depressive symptoms rather than manic symptoms. As such, they would be classified as being more on the depressive side of the bipolar spectrum.
In addition, there are changes that occur in the brain that can be directly related to this condition. For instance, when someone is experiencing a manic episode, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine levels can be elevated.
Dopamine is considered a “feel good” neurotransmitter. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that affects mood, sexuality, appetite, sleep patterns, and anxiety. Nerophinphrine is responsible for increasing focus, alertness, attention, and arousal.
Furthermore, as the levels of these neurotransmitters are depleted, the person will begin to cycle towards the depressive side of the spectrum. They will start to notice they feel sad and depressed.
It is worth noting that people’s moods do not rapidly switch from one to the other. Instead, they can go for weeks or even months in one state before transitioning back to the other.
Bipolar Disorder Symptoms and Signs
Besides mood changes, other symptoms are associated with bipolar disorder. For instance, energy levels and mental functioning alternate depending on where the person is currently on the spectrum.
Manic Episode Symptoms and Signs
- Extremely Happy and Upbeat
- Increased Energy
- Racing Thoughts
- Engaging in Risky Behaviors
- Excessive Talking
- Reduced Appetite
- Jumping from One Task to the Next
Depressive Episode Symptoms and Signs
- Lack of Energy
- Very Quite and Withdrawn
- Problems Focusing and Concentrating
- Not Finding Pleasure in Activities They Enjoy
- Increased Appetite
- Thoughts of Self-Harm
Some people can also experience mixed symptoms during an episode. For instance, someone experiencing a manic episode can suddenly feel worried or worthless for no apparent reason.
Coping Mechanisms for Bi-Polar Disorder
One of the most common coping mechanisms people will use to deal with bipolar disorder is self-medicating. They will turn to alcohol and drugs to help regulate their episodes to make them feel more “normal.”
For example, someone experiencing a manic episode may drink or use a depressant to help regulate the episode. However, other people may use drugs that enhance the mania to reach a more intense state of euphorias, such as using cocaine or opioids. Conversely, stimulants could be used when someone is experiencing a depressive episode to help elevate their mood and normalize it.
Another coping mechanism some people use is taking prescription medications to help regulate their mood. Two of the most common drugs used to treat bipolar disorder are benzodiazepines (benzos) and Z-drugs.
Unfortunately, benzos can be habit-forming and lead to further self-medication and addiction. While pharmaceuticals market Z-drugs as non-habit-forming, recent research has uncovered that long-term use of Z-drugs can lead to misuse, dependency, and addiction.
So, even when prescribed medication to treat bipolar disorder, there is still a risk of misuse and addiction. As such, it is crucial to take any prescribed medication as directed.
Finding Help For Bipolar Disorder
Psychotherapy is one of the more common treatments for bipolar disorder symptoms. However, when someone has developed a co-occurring disorder where they are misusing substances, seeking help should include treatment programs that address both substance use and bipolar disorders.
Get Help For Bipolar Disorder and Addiction in Orange County, CA
When you have bipolar disorder and have turned to substances to self-regulate your condition, it is easy to become addicted to them. Taking the first steps to address your addiction can be scary. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, CA, we are here for you each step of the way as you get help for your bipolar disorder and addiction.
We offer customized treatment programs for co-occurring disorders that allow you to work on your bipolar disorder and substance use disorder at a comfortable pace. We want to ensure you get the proper care and support while healing your body, mind, and spirit at our IMS and JCAHO-accredited treatment center that provides a family-style environment.
To learn more about our bipolar disorder and addiction treatment program or to start the intake process, please visit our admissions page today.
Addiction is a life-changing disease that affects every aspect of daily life. Determining when your use of drugs or alcohol becomes an addiction is a nuanced and difficult question to answer that depends on a number of factors. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we understand the unique approach necessary to make the most of one’s time in recovery, and the various ways in which addiction can manifest and affect your life. We are committed to creating a personalized treatment plan with therapeutic programs that address your needs in detox and recovery. We believe in the transformative potential of professional recovery, helping you not just embrace new grounding strategies to combat urges and cravings, but also addressing the myriad of other effects addiction has had on your life. We will help you rebuild relationships and balance stresses as you work toward sobriety. For more information, call us at (949) 426-7962.