Bipolar and addiction often go hand in hand, so if you want to commit to rehab, it can be helpful to know if you should be treated for bipolar disorder at the same time. However, the most well-known symptom of bipolar is mood swings, which everyone experiences from time to time. This is one reason why 69% of people with bipolar disorder are misdiagnosed at least once before receiving a correct diagnosis.
For the estimated 2.8% of U.S. adults who had bipolar in the last 12 months, an accurate diagnosis can be key to getting effective treatment. Understanding what bipolar disorder is and how bipolar symptoms differ from non-bipolar mood swings can help you determine when you need help and find the best place to get assistance.
What is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that’s characterized by swings between depressive episodes and manic or hypomanic episodes. These swings impact a person’s energy and activity levels. The symptoms can also make it difficult to maintain relationships and carry out daily tasks.
People diagnosed with bipolar disorder have different experiences with the condition. The type of episodes and their frequency of occurence can vary widely. Bipolar disorder is broken up into three types based on these differences: bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder and cyclothymic disorder.
The exact cause of bipolar disorder isn’t known, but it’s believed to be a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Symptoms are triggered by stress in people with a genetic predisposition to the disease. Triggers can include trauma and abuse, the death of a loved one, divorce or becoming a parent. In teens, bullying, peer pressure and academic pressure can be stressors, as can the body changes and influx of hormones that come with puberty.
When Do Mood Swings Cross the Line Into Becoming Signs of Bipolar Disorder?
The difference between bipolar and non-bipolar mood swings comes down to the length and intensity of the mood swings. For non-bipolar people, a mood can last for hours or even days. However, bipolar mood episodes can last for weeks or months.
There are three varieties of bipolar mood episodes.
Manic episodes are the high mood swings. During a manic episode, you can be easily distracted, productive, upbeat and euphoric. People often have little need for sleep and can be reckless. To be classed as a bipolar manic episode, this mood must last for at least one week.
Hypomania has the same symptoms as a manic episode; however, these symptoms aren’t as severe. They’re less likely to cause problems at school or work and only need to last four days to count as a bipolar episode.
Depressive episodes are marked by a lack of energy, feelings of guilt or hopelessness, self-doubt and difficulty concentrating. Many people have trouble sleeping or sleep excessively during depressive episodes. In bipolar disorder, depressive episodes last at least two weeks.
Links Between Bipolar and Addiction
Addiction to drugs or alcohol is common among people with bipolar disorder. Studies have found that as many as 61% of people with bipolar I disorder had a lifetime history of drug or alcohol use disorder. For those with bipolar II disorder, the figure is 48%.
There are two theories as to why there is such a strong link between bipolar and addiction. The first is that many people with bipolar disorder self-medicate to manage their mood episodes, leading to dependence on alcohol or drugs. It’s also believed that for some people, drug use is the stressor that triggers the condition.
Either way, recreational drug use can trigger mood episodes. This means treating addiction can be an essential part of controlling the condition. Inpatient treatment for bipolar disorder can help people find other ways to manage their symptoms without using alcohol or recreational drugs.
Should You Just Try To Take Care of It Yourself?
There are many effective treatments for bipolar disorder, so there’s no need to manage your symptoms by yourself. Psychiatrists can prescribe medications, including mood stabilizers, antidepressants and antipsychotics, to help manage bipolar.
Generally therapy is used in conjunction with medication. With cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), you can learn to think and react differently to situations and cope with symptoms. Therapists also help people stabilize their mood by developing routines for sleep, exercise, nutrition and other activities.
Although outpatient treatment is more common for the disorder, bipolar treatment centers can help people with severe mood episodes. They receive medical supervision until their moods are stabilized. Inpatient treatment is also useful for people treating bipolar and addiction at the same time.
Although there’s no cure for bipolar disorder, treatment can help mood episodes appear less frequently and reduce the severity when they do appear. This can help you function on a day-to-day basis, as well as prevent self-injury.
Could Your Symptoms Be a Sign of Something Else?
One of the reasons bipolar disorder is commonly misdiagnosed is because mood swings can be symptoms of many other conditions. Mental health conditions that have similar symptoms to bipolar include borderline personality disorder, schizoaffective disorder, unipolar depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder.
Brain chemical imbalances and hormone disorders, such as hyper- and hypothyroidism, can also induce mood swings. Some autoimmunity conditions, including multiple sclerosis, and conditions that affect the brain, such as stroke, can lead to bipolar-like symptoms.
There are also recreational and prescription drugs that can lead to altered mood states. The effects of stimulants, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, can mimic manic states. Likewise, depressants, such as alcohol and valium, mimic depressive states. This is why many doctors will delay diagnosing bipolar disorder in someone with an addiction. Waiting until the drugs or alcohol are out of their body can give a more accurate picture of a person’s mental health and allow doctors to determine if the symptoms are caused by bipolar disorder or substance use disorder.
Should You Seek Help for Bipolar Depression?
You don’t have to have a particular condition to seek help. If you’re concerned about your mental health and it’s impacting your life, you should speak to a professional. Mental health professionals at Restore can ask questions and give you an accurate diagnosis. Then they can develop a treatment plan to help you build a better life. If you or a loved one are ready to get control of bipolar disorder, contact the professionals at Restore today.