Everyday life comes with a wide range of different feelings and emotions. There are happy feelings, sad feelings, angry moments and peaceful ones, times of courage and times of fear, and other normal mood swings that occur when we experience and react to the ups and downs of daily life.
But some people experience extreme mood shifts and drastic changes in their mental state that are caused by a chronic brain disorder called bipolar disorder. Although bipolar disorder is a serious mental illness, it’s often misunderstood, and consequently, often misdiagnosed.
However, as our comprehension of the human brain progresses, so too does our knowledge of mental disorders, and while there is no cure for this illness, we do know how to treat bipolar disorder and substance abuse so that patients can control their symptoms and live a stable and productive life. Early treatment and diagnosis are important, and recognizing the signs and symptoms when you see them could save someone you love.
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder used to be called manic depression because a person suffering from it will experience periods of deep depression and times of extreme high-energy called mania. But every person is unique, and while some experience more periods of mania, others suffer more from depression, and others still experience equal amounts of both. Similarly, the severity, intensity, and persistence of symptoms will vary from patient to patient.
In America, the National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that 2.9 percent of the population is affected with bipolar disorder. It presents equally in men and women, and while the average age of onset is 25 years old, it can affect people of all ages. Under the umbrella of bipolar disorder, there are three main subcategories:
- Bipolar I, which is usually characterized by alternating episodes of mania and depression lasting more than one week and two weeks respectively. Some people also experience hypomania, which is a less extreme mania.
- Bipolar II, where patients suffer from episodes of depression and hypomania.
- Cyclothymic disorder, which is a milder form of bipolar disorder wherein people experience frequent and rapid shifts between episodes of depression and hypomania, but rarely experiences major depressive or manic episodes.
Family, friends, and patients often ask what causes bipolar disorder and substance abuse, and although there is no single cause that’s been positively identified, we do know that genetics, brain structure, and stress are all contributing factors.
We also know that part of the reason bipolar disorder has remained so mysterious and been so misunderstood is because it often presents with other co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety, attention deficit hyperactivity, post-traumatic stress, and social phobias, as well as physical diseases like thyroid problems, migraines, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. It is still unclear why bipolar disorder is so often seen in conjunction with these other issues, and if there’s any cause-and-effect relationship between the disorders, their treatments, and bipolar disorder.
The Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse
Another reason bipolar disorder and substance abuse was historically so difficult to diagnose is because most of the symptoms of mania and the symptoms of depression are so conflicting and contradictory. For instance, depression and mania can both have physical and emotional side effects that are completely different from one another.
- Lack of energy, lethargy, increased need for sleep
- Extreme sadness
- Loss of interest in regular activities
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
- Irritability and restlessness
- Increased energy and decreased need for sleep
- Pleasure-seeking behavior and feelings of euphoria
- Goal-oriented behavior and the desire for success
- Feelings of grandiosity and invincibility
Bipolar disorder combines a variety of these effects, and symptoms will vary depending on the episode the patient is experiencing. When not properly treated or controlled, classic bipolar disorder symptoms include:
- Destructive and dangerous behavior
- High-risk activities including sexual indiscretions and foolish business investments
- Irresponsible spending
- Poor decision making
In extreme cases, self-harm behavior, suicide, psychosis, and hallucinations can also be signs of bipolar disorder. And although substance abuse disorders are not necessarily symptoms, people suffering from bipolar disorder will often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol in an attempt to control their moods, so substance abuse can also be a warning sign of bipolar disorder.
Controlling Bipolar Disorder
The treatment for bipolar disorder and substance abuse includes medication, psychotherapy, self-care, and having a reliable support network that includes friends, family, qualified psychiatrists, and healthcare professionals. However, early diagnosis and prompt treatment are also beneficial, and provide the best chance of successfully managing symptoms. Consistent use of medication is also important, and the continued use of medication and therapy even when a patient feels better.
Untreated bipolar disorder can become progressively worse, and patients can become a danger to themselves and others. People dealing with bipolar disorder do sometimes require periods of hospitalization during severe episodes of mania or depression. But research into bipolar disorder is ongoing and new information is being discovered all the time, which will hopefully result in the most effective ways possible of managing symptoms.
If you suspect a friend or loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder and substance abuse, seek advice from a medical professional or mental healthcare practitioner. People suffering from this illness don’t often recognize how extreme their moods and behaviors are, so it can be difficult for them to identify a problem. It can be especially difficult when someone is experiencing the feelings of elation associated with mania, but treatment is imperative because severe depression may follow, and symptoms could worsen.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms yourself, or suspect that you might be suffering from bipolar disorder, get in touch with us today. It is crucial that you get the treatment you need as soon as possible. You will thank yourself for it.
For more information, support, and educational materials, check with the National Alliance on Mental Illness or the National Institute of Mental Health. Please call us at 888-345-7505 today to schedule an evaluation with a qualified professional, or to seek assistance about a loved one you think might be suffering from bipolar disorder.