How Will My Bipolar Diagnosis Affect My Recovery?

bipolar diagnosis

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that involves emotional swings in mood and energy levels. In a recent study, research showed that approximately 60% of people with bipolar disorder either use or used substances. However, the reason why there is a relationship between bipolar disorder and substance use is unknown, though substance abuse will aggravate symptoms of bipolar disorder. Additionally, those with no mental health disorder history or dormant symptoms of bipolar disorder can grow to exhibit the symptoms due to substance use.

Both bipolar disorder and substance use can cause severe risks to your health if not properly treated or diagnosed. Additionally, if you manage recovery from a substance use disorder, you will also want to address any mental health issue, including bipolar disorder, appropriately. Understanding what triggers your mental health disorders and substance use disorders is essential to maintaining balance and overall well-being in recovery.

The Link Between Bipolar and Substance Use

Determining the increased rate of substance use and dependency on chemicals among those diagnosed with bipolar disorder is not that simple. Often, people might use substances to self-medicate to manage symptoms that come with bipolar disorder. Therefore, the symptoms of bipolar disorder could trigger you to want to use substances. However, drinking or using other substances will likely trigger feelings of:

  • Anxiety
  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Irritability

Age, Gender, and Brain Chemistry

Age and gender could influence the relationship between bipolar disorder and substance use. Young males are more likely to use substances compared to other demographic groups. Further, research shows that younger men take more risks and succumb to self-destructive urges than women and older men. Such behaviors could further support the prevalence of substance use and bipolar disorder among those in these demographics.

Clinical research also suggests that brain chemistry may influence bipolar disorder and substance use. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, people with bipolar disorder have higher levels of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin. These chemicals influence your body’s functions, including sleep, metabolism, appetite, and your body’s response to stress. If these chemicals are not balanced, this can affect your mood and emotions and ultimately cause you to use substances to cope.

Diagnosis and Co-Occurring Diagnosis

The symptoms of bipolar disorders often resemble the signs of substance use and dependency. Each can cause you to experience an elevated mood and energy. Additionally, going through a depressive episode resembles going through withdrawal. A diagnosis from a qualified professional is vital to determining the relationship between your bipolar disorder and substance use. Further, diagnosis for bipolar disorder takes time and proper assessment to determine because the disorder can be classified and diagnosed under four different types, which are:

  • Bipolar I
  • Bipolar II
  • Cyclothymic Disorder
  • Bipolar Disorder Unspecified

Additionally, if your substance use has a co-occurring bipolar disorder, then you need the help of someone trained in making a dual diagnosis. Since symptoms can overlap, seeking an experienced professional is the best way to get a proper diagnosis because someone with experience can distinguish between the varying symptoms of each.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use

While you might view your bipolar disorder and substance use disorder as two separate disorders that require separate treatment, co-occurring disorders require managing both disorders at once. The treatment approach is an integrated treatment process that will involve therapy, medication, or both. You can also get treatment through inpatient or outpatient rehab. Medications for treating bipolar and substance use disorders that are co-occurring include:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Lithium
  • Benzodiazepines

While medication is helpful, taking any medication should be approved and monitored by your doctor and therapist as some of the medications listed above can be very addictive. Depending on the diagnosis, you may or may not require medication.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is an effective type of talk therapy that will simultaneously help you manage your substance use and bipolar disorder. This form of therapy is successful in addressing thoughts and feelings that you experience as a result of these disorders. Examining your thoughts and feelings that lead to elevated moods and emotions helps you better understand your actions and how they are triggered.

Practicing CBT is a great and natural way to help you prepare for cravings and episodes so you can manage your behavior. CBT also provides you with tools that you can practice at home to help you manage your emotions. Such tools include:

  • Mindfulness
  • Meditation
  • Yoga or exercise
  • Breathwork
  • Journaling

Managing recovery is a lifelong process that benefits from a thorough evaluation of your mental health, including any family history of mental health or substance use disorder. If you are managing or just now discovering that you might have another underlying condition concerning either a mental or substance use disorder, then the time to seek help is now. At Choice House, we provide qualified staff and resources to accurately deal with bipolar disorder and substance use complexities. Our team will continually work with you to ensure that your treatment plan remains effective; this includes utilizing both conventional and alternative approaches to treatment. Since a dual diagnosis can be complex to treat, we believe that a one-size-fits-all approach will not benefit most individuals with a dual diagnosis. Choice House is a dedicated treatment center staffed by experts who understand what it takes to helps those with a co-occurring disorder get well again. For confidence in care, reach out to Choice House today by calling us at (720) 577-4422.

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