Co-Occurring Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use Disorder

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Diagnosed with Bipolar and Addiction?

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If you are living with bipolar disorder and substance use disorder, you need to know that this dual diagnosis, known as a co-occurring disorder, is becoming increasingly common in today’s world. The combination of mental health issues and substance abuse can be incredibly challenging to navigate and requires specialised treatment for successful recovery.

According to the Cambridge University Press, “People with bipolar I disorder have 5.8 times increased lifetime risk of a substance use disorder diagnosis according to DSM-V criteria.”

Self-medicating during a depressive episode is a common occurrence in people with this diagnosis. However, this is also one of the worst coping mechanisms we observe as avoiding alcohol is an essential part of recovery when it comes to episodes of manic or depressive symptoms. Being sober can help you gain stability.

If you are looking for help for substance use disorder and bipolar disorder, the CATCH Recovery team of addiction treatment specialists can help you. Contact us for a free screening today, so we can begin your healing process!

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What Is Bipolar Disorder?

If you are looking for help for a loved one, and are not familiar with the specifics of this mental health disorder, let’s first define Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive disorder. It is a mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in mood and energy levels. People living with this diagnosis experience alternating episodes of mania and depression that can be quite severe. During these episodes, people with bipolar disorder may feel unusually energised or unusually depressed, which can lead to changes in sleep patterns, thoughts, and behaviours. Bipolar disorder affects more than a million people in the UK and can significantly impact a person’s quality of life if left untreated.

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Types of Bipolar Disorder

When it comes to types of bipolar disorder, there are three main categories: Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder and Cyclothymic Disorder.

Bipolar I Disorder is characterised by manic episodes that last at least seven days, or less if hospitalisation becomes necessary. These manic episodes may include symptoms such as increased energy, decreased need for sleep, racing thoughts, reckless behaviour and difficulty concentrating. Depressive episodes may follow the manic ones and can cause feelings of hopelessness, fatigue and loss of interest in activities a person used to enjoy.

Bipolar II Disorder is characterised by periods of depression and hypomania (less severe than mania). Hypomanic episodes may include an elevated mood, increased energy and a decreased need for sleep.

Compared to Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II includes a less-severe form of mood elevation. To be diagnosed with it, you need at least one hypomanic episode and at least one depressive episode.

Cyclothymic Disorder is characterised by manic and depressive episodes that are less severe than Bipolar I and II Disorders. A person with this type of disorder may experience periods of mild depression, hypomania and periods of normal moods.

Other diagnoses include Bipolar affective disorder.

WARNING: Alcohol use disorder can cause mood swings and weight gain, mixed or rapid cycling and other mood symptoms of bipolar disorder diagnosis. This alcohol-based condition can mimic many mental illnesses, including the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

With proper treatment and support from loved ones, living with this diagnosis can be eased with better management of the symptoms, leading to a more fulfilling life.

What Are the Risks and Dangers Associated with Addiction & Bipolar Disorder?

When it comes to bipolar disorder and substance abuse, the dangers of dual diagnosis are very real. Not only can it exacerbate both conditions, but it can also lead to long-term negative consequences if left untreated.

People with bipolar disorder may turn to substances in an attempt to self-medicate or cope during periods of depression or mania—which can have the opposite effect and make symptoms worse. Substance abuse can lead to more frequent episodes, more severe symptoms, increased risk of relapse, and decreased quality of life overall.

Additionally, substance abuse can often lead to serious physical and mental health complications that further impede recovery from bipolar disorder. The combination of these two conditions is known as a co-occurring disorder and can be one of the most difficult to treat.

Here are some of the effects such a dual diagnosis may have on your loved ones and their treatment:

Physical Health & Bipolar Disorder Symptoms:

  • Increased risk of physical health problems due to substance abuse, such as liver damage, cardiovascular issues, respiratory problems, and compromised immune function.
  • Adverse effects on sleep patterns, appetite, and overall energy levels due to the fluctuating nature of bipolar disorder and the influence of substances.
  • Potential for medication interactions between substances and mood stabilisers or other prescribed medications, leading to complications or reduced effectiveness.

Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

  • Intensification of bipolar symptoms, including extreme mood swings (manic and depressive episodes), increased agitation, irritability, impulsivity, and difficulty in managing emotions.
  • Heightened risk of suicidal ideation and self-destructive behaviours, as both bipolar disorder and addiction can contribute to feelings of hopelessness, despair, and impulsivity.
  • Reduced overall cognitive functioning, including memory problems, impaired decision-making, and difficulties with concentration and focus.
addiction can break relationships

Social and Interpersonal Consequences:

  • Strained relationships with family, friends, and colleagues due to erratic behaviour, mood instability, and the impact of substance abuse.
  • Increased isolation and withdrawal from social activities, leading to a reduced support network and feelings of loneliness.
  • Financial difficulties arising from the costs associated with substance abuse, medical treatment, and the potential inability to maintain steady employment.

Treatment Challenges

  • Increased complexity in treatment planning and implementation due to the dual nature of the diagnosis, requiring specialised care that addresses both bipolar disorder and addiction simultaneously.
  • Higher likelihood of treatment non-adherence and relapse, as the presence of both conditions can complicate the recovery process.
  • The possibility of developing severe bipolar disorder, other mental health conditions, severe depression, worsen manic symptoms, increase the risk of psychotic symptoms and hypomanic episodes.
  • Longer duration of treatment and a potentially more challenging road to achieving and maintaining stability and sobriety.

Comorbid bipolar disorder makes it more difficult to diagnose bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder. Bipolar Disorder varies widely, so treatment options will also include multiple different therapies such as talking therapy, support groups, CBT and DBT, physical health check plans and relationships lifestyle advice.

Depending on your needs, the CATCH Recovery mental health team can offer to counsel for pregnancy bipolar disorder symptoms and other mental health problems when they co-occur with alcohol cravings, substance use disorders and behavioural addictions.

CATCH Recovery’s Guide to Finding Dual Diagnosis Treatment

When it comes to dual diagnosis, seeking professional help is essential for a successful recovery. If you or someone you know is struggling with both bipolar disorder and substance abuse, we are here for you!

The Steps to Get the Help and Support You Need:

Reach out for support.

Talk to your primary care physician or mental health provider about your concerns and request a referral to an addiction specialist or dual diagnosis treatment team. It can also be helpful to involve close family members and/or friends who may be able to provide additional encouragement and support during treatment.

Find the right treatment programme.

Look for a comprehensive treatment programme that specialises in treating both bipolar disorder and substance use disorder simultaneously, as this type of treatment can be particularly beneficial for those struggling with a dual diagnosis.

Utilise evidence-based treatments.

Evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) and dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) are helpful in treating both bipolar disorder and addiction, so look for a programme that incorporates these therapies into the treatment plan.

CATCH Recovery Can Help You Heal

Co-occurring bipolar disorder and substance use disorder can be a difficult combination to treat, but it is possible to achieve recovery with the right help and support. Seeking professional assistance from an experienced team of providers is essential when you are struggling with both conditions, as specialised care that addresses both disorders simultaneously can increase the chances of positive outcomes and long-term stability.

At CATCH Recovery, we understand the unique challenges that come with dual diagnosis, and we have the expertise and resources to help you get back on track. Our treatment team is comprised of highly trained specialists who are dedicated to providing comprehensive, evidence-based care that is tailored to meet your individual needs. Contact us today to learn more about our programme for treating bipolar disorder and addiction and how we can help you heal.

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