World Bipolar Day: Managing Bipolar Disorder in Recovery

Many individuals struggle with bipolar disorder. Of those individuals, many may also develop substance use disorder (SUD). Furthermore, those with SUD are at an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder.

March 30th is World Bipolar Day. In addition to spreading awareness, it is crucial to educate people on how they can manage bipolar disorder while in addiction recovery. Managing SUD and co-occurring disorders can be challenging. Fortunately, there are many ways to cope with bipolar symptoms and maintain recovery. One way is through dual diagnosis treatment, which can teach you healthier ways to cope with symptoms of co-occurring disorders and abstain from substance use. 

If you are self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to cope with bipolar disorder symptoms, consider treatment immediately. Excessive substance use can worsen your symptoms, cause other mental health disorders, and wreak havoc on your well-being. Take measures to care for your bipolar disorder and SUD by seeking dual-diagnosis treatment today. 

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes bipolar disorder as "a mental illness that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks." 

There are three different kinds of bipolar disorder, categorized by the NIMH in the following ways:

Bipolar I

This type is described as "manic episodes that last at least 7 days" or "manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care." Conversely, depressive episodes typically last two weeks, and it is possible to experience depression and mania simultaneously. 

Bipolar II

This disorder is characterized by patterns of "depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes." The NIMH distinguishes this form by noting that hypomanic episodes are less severe than the manic episodes of bipolar I. 

Cyclothymic Disorder

This last disorder is characterized by cyclic and "recurrent hypomanic and depressive symptoms." However, the symptoms are not strong enough to count as either hypomanic or depressive episodes, as they don't last as long or become as severe. This disorder is nonetheless disruptive to daily life.

It is also possible for individuals to exhibit symptoms that do not align with these types of bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder does require a medical diagnosis. However, there are signs you can be on the lookout for to know whether you might need to seek a proper diagnosis and treatment.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder indicators typically vary depending on the category of symptoms. For example, mania is exhibited by sleeping less, increased energy, and racing thoughts. Hypomania presents similarly but is less intense. 

Depressive symptoms vary as well. Individuals typically experience trouble sleeping or otherwise disturbed sleeping patterns. People may also lose interest in hobbies and enjoyable activities and feel hopeless or have thoughts of suicide. 

Discuss concerns with your medical provider if you recognize any of these signs and symptoms within yourself or a loved one. Then, upon further evaluation, they can make an official diagnosis and get you the treatment necessary for managing bipolar symptoms. 

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use

Many mental conditions co-occur alongside a behavioral addiction and SUD. Research indicates that most people struggling with SUD also experience other mental health conditions. In fact, according to a national survey conducted in 2019 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 9.5 million Americans had a diagnosed mental illness and concurrent SUD. This is described as co-occurring disorders and, as mentioned, benefits from a dual diagnosis. 

In some cases, people with bipolar disorder may turn to substance use to cope with their symptoms. This can lead to dependency, chronic health problems, and the development of other mental health conditions. In other cases, bipolar symptoms develop due to chronic substance use and chemical alterations in the brain.

Understanding the connection between SUD and other mental health conditions is crucial. It helps you understand the root cause of significant issues and learn productive ways to cope with your symptoms. 

People must seek treatment for all co-occurring disorders to recover from SUD. That includes a condition like bipolar disorder. When you experience co-occurring disorders, symptoms of all conditions can exacerbate each other. You can begin a treatment program tailored to your individual needs. That program should consider every condition you are struggling with, such as bipolar disorder, and treat it simultaneously with SUD. 

You Can Live a Life of Recovery Today

Unfortunately, bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that can not be cured. However, it can be managed effectively. According to the NIMH, the most effective treatment for bipolar disorder typically consists of medication and psychotherapy. 

Medication is used to help manage symptoms. Individuals also struggling with SUD may need to take an alternative approach depending on the prescriptions. However, medication-assisted treatment (MAT) can help if your bipolar disorder requires medication to manage symptoms. 

Talk therapy is effective at helping individuals change the way they think and act. For example, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and changing harmful thoughts and behaviors. This is effective for addictive habits and mental illness symptoms.

You may be in a place where you have left a treatment program and are nervous about managing bipolar disorder while in recovery. Prioritize attending weekly therapy sessions, attending group meetings, and discussing triggers or cravings with members of your support network. Recovery and managing your SUD and bipolar disorder are possible. For further help and support, call NorthStar Transitions today. 

March 30th is World Bipolar Day, and what better way to acknowledge it than by educating yourself about bipolar disorder and recovery? The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) characterizes bipolar disorder as a mental health condition that causes shifts in mood, energy, and the ability to function day-to-day. Unfortunately, some people may turn to substance use to cope with symptoms of bipolar disorder, especially if they have not sought treatment. Doing so can lead to dependency, SUD, and the development of other chronic conditions. A dual diagnosis program can treat both conditions and teach you how to manage your bipolar disorder throughout recovery. To start your path to recovery today, call NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400

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