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 use disorder started. Some of them reported experiencing BPD initially and then going on to substance use disorder. 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.