As with many mental health disorders, bipolar personality disorder (BPD) is considered a condition that can disrupt an individual’s everyday life. People with bipolar disorder are also prone to co-morbidities such as substance addiction. What is the link behind these two conditions? Read to know more.
When you ask someone who is suffering from bipolar personality disorder, they would say that it brings them a sense of instability and an unshakeable wave of emotions. Imagine being in an extremely ‘overjoyed’ state for some days, only to find yourself depressed to the point of hopelessness in a couple more days. The pendulum swing of emotions can definitely bring someone to seek ways to cope, whether healthy or unhealthy.
Clear definition of bipolar personality disorder
All of us experience ups and downs. However, a person with bipolar personality disorder experiences manic and depressive episodes on alternating times.
Manic episodes are described as periods of disproportioned ‘happiness’, a burst of energy, and a sense that the individual can ‘take over the world’. Depressive episodes are described as feelings of hopelessness, guilt, shame, and other negative emotions that send the individual in a downward spiral. Mixed episodes are times where the person with BPD simultaneously experiences mania and depression.
Sometimes, the episodes can be so severe that people diagnosed with BPD have a hard time going through their daily routines. Here are the classifications of bipolar personality disorder:
- Bipolar I: Individuals with this condition may experience manic episodes for at least 7 days and depressive episodes for around 2 weeks. There are also occasional instances where the person experiences manic and depressive episodes at the same time.
- Bipolar II: This condition is described as mostly depressive episodes that occur alternatively with hypomanic episodes. This means that the person does not experience extreme feelings of mania, but rather a subtle version of it.
- Cyclothymia: Although not diagnostically fit to be considered bipolar disorder, this condition is described as feelings of mania and depression that can last up to 2 years.
Specified and Unspecified Bipolar and Related Disorders: Other conditions that do not meet the criteria but are related to characteristics of bipolar personality disorder.
The link between bipolar and addiction
People with mental health disorders, such as BPD, may present other problems that are called co-morbidities. There are many studies that show how bipolar and addiction are related, and many of them point to how one affects the other. Here are some facts you need to know about bipolar and addiction.
Majority of people with bipolar disorder have a history of substance use.
It is interesting to note that almost 60% of people with bipolar disorder have a history of substance use. Many patients who have been given the diagnosis for at least one of the conditions also presented symptoms of either bipolar and addiction. The people presented various case histories of how symptoms of the bipolar personality disorder and substance abuse started. Some of them reported experiencing BPD initially and then going on to substance abuse. Others only experienced manic and depressive episodes after taking substances.
People with BPD are prone to using substances as a mood stabilizer.
In other cases, bipolar and addiction are related as a means of coping. There are also studies that point to how some people abuse prescription drugs, take substances such as marijuana or alcohol to stabilize their mood swings. For example, a person with BPD may have manic episodes for several days that will make him or her feel out of control. They may end up using depressants such as alcohol or opiates to help them calm down.
Alternatively, they may also end up using stimulants during depressive states, such as Adderall, Cocaine, or Methamphetamines. This is one way that some people with BPD try to cope with the extreme swing of emotions.
Triggers for bipolar personality disorder
Substance abuse can also trigger symptoms of bipolar personality disorder.
Alternatively, some people who are genetically predisposed to BPD are known to show symptoms of this condition during substance use. In a study, it was shown that manic episodes often increase when people take substances such as marijuana. Psychosis and other related disorders are also aggravated during the use of similar substances. Since substances are known to alter the chemical composition of the brain especially when it comes to moods, state of mind, and energy states, people who don’t know symptoms of BPD may develop them after substance use.
Thus, it is possible that bipolar and addiction can be related with substance use as the trigger for both manic and depressive episodes.
Bipolar and addiction show similar genetic links.
In another study, it was proven that bipolar and addiction have a shared genetic etiology. This means that those people who take drugs, smoke, or use alcohol are both prone to having bipolar personality disorders as well. Mental health appears to both have genetic and environmental factors, and people who have family history of substance abuse and BPD should take extra precautions to avoid having one or both of the conditions.
It is helpful for medical professionals to look into family backgrounds of people diagnosed with bipolar and addiction disorders to determine what management options are effective.
If you or a loved one experiences symptoms both of substance use disorders and BPD, know that there is help available. Monarch Shores specializes in dual diagnosis treatments that can help people who have bipolar and addiction problems. To give you a clear picture, here are some of the steps you can take to seek help for bipolar and addiction.
Steps to treat my bipolar and addiction
Talk to a doctor or a rehabilitation specialist to get a referral.
The first step you need to take is to find medical assistance right away. If you have a regular physician, you may open up about your substance abuse problem or symptoms that you feel may be bipolar personality disorder. Alternatively, you can also consult a rehabilitation specialist to know your options about medical treatment in their facility.
Undergo a dual diagnosis treatment evaluation.
After a referral, you will be given an evaluation if you meet both the criteria for bipolar and addiction disorders. These evaluations will be done by a team of medical experts in order to provide you with a course of treatment that is appropriate for your condition. Evaluations include taking your case history, physical tests, and interviews that can help determine if you will be needing a drug detox inpatient program or an outpatient program.
Start you dual diagnosis management plan.
After a series of evaluations, you will be provided with a custom-made management plan for your dual diagnosis. It is important that treatment for both bipolar and addiction shouldn’t be isolated from one another, but rather integrated to see the best results. Depending on the recommendations and personal preferences, you may opt to go for medical treatments, individual counseling, group therapy, nutritional therapy, and implementation of health habits to help recover form symptoms of both conditions.
Find support from family, friends and other loved ones.
Another step you have to take is to share your journey with family, friends, and other loved ones who are supportive for your recovery. Often, people who get support from their community have better chances of improving their condition during and after the rehabilitation program. They can also serve as accountability partners in times where relapse is possible. Be open and honest with what you may be going through, and find people who won’t judge your condition.
A healthy lifestyle can help treat bipolar and addiction.
Bipolar and addiction are both mental health disorders, and both of them have genetic and environmental factors. Although it is challenging to deal with a dual diagnosis problem, this does not mean that all hope is lost. In fact, there are habits you can pick up to help you curb the symptoms of BPD and substance abuse at the same time:
- Have a healthy diet. It is recommended that people with BPD and substance abuse should avoid food with saturated fat, trans fat, and simple carbohydrates. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean meat are good sources of nutrients that help boost brain function and control energy levels. When the body is properly nourished, there is a less likelihood for relapse in substance abuse disorders.
- Exercise regularly. Another helpful habit to lessen symptoms of bipolar and addiction is through regular physical activity. Exercise helps naturally release brain chemicals such as dopamine and serotonin, being a mood stabilizer during depressive episodes. Alternatively, exercise also helps the body consume energy during manic episodes.
- Journal therapy. Individuals with bipolar disorder and substance abuse problems may often find themselves in situations where they can be impulsive. This can involve getting to risky behaviors such as having multiple partners, engaging in violent acts, or performing extreme stunts both for manic and depressive episodes. Journaling helps make sense of one’s emotions, and keeps track of patterns in mood changes as well. You can start journaling your thoughts daily as an outlet for your mood swings, and also your struggles and victories towards addiction recovery.
Dual diagnosis? Dual treatment is possible.
There is hope for people suffering with bipolar and addiction. Although dual diagnosis appears to be challenging, many people have recovered through taking the first step, seeking treatment, and being consistent with their goals.
Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.
Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.
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