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Bipolar Disorder and Addiction – Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depressive disorder, is a serious condition characterized by severe mood swings, behavioral changes, and energy levels. In a manner analogous to substance abuse, bipolar disorder poses a threat to an individual’s well-being and safety. People with bipolar disorder have a much higher rate of relationship problems, economic instability, and accidental injury. People with bipolar disorder also have a much higher rate of suicide than the general population. All of these problems associated with bipolar disorder are equally true of people with substance abuse issues and addiction. When the two conditions are combines, the problems are exponentially compounded.
That fact is, more than half of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder also suffered from some form of addiction. The rate of addiction for people with bipolar disorder is far above the rest of the population. The symptoms of bipolar disorder will compel people to self-medicate with whatever is available and many people with bipolar have never been properly diagnosed. They are not even aware of what is fueling their mood swings and behavioral problems. While people with bipolar disorder appear to use and become addicted to the same substance as anyone else, alcohol is by far the most commonly abused substance for those with this condition.
It would seem that the painful symptoms of bipolar disorder, the mood swings, sleeplessness, depression, lead people to medicate with whatever is at hand. Alcohol is available just about anywhere and thus it makes for an easy self-treatment even if that treatment provides only the most temporary relief. The insidious problem with this is that scientists have shown that alcohol may actually trigger the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Therefore, those who display these symptoms and attempt to treat them with alcohol may actually be triggering the symptoms with alcohol This produces the cycle of addiction in a form that is far more intense than more common addiction issues.
In years past, bipolar disorder and chemical addiction were treated a separate problems. Doctors would only treat someone for one or the other. The belief was that if one issue was properly treated, the other would naturally either come under control or disappear altogether. Addiction treatment professionals and doctors who treat bipolar disorder now understand that the two condition are often coextensive and that dual diagnosis requires dual treatment. There are now treatment programs which focus directly on caring for people with both bipolar disorder and addiction. These programs utilize a collaborative system of doctors, counselors, and psychologists to manage the symptoms of both problems. Medical interventions, complete with drugs specifically designed to manage bipolar disorder, are combined with group therapy, individual counseling, and long-term treatment programs to ensure that the patient is put into a system of recovery which takes both bipolar disorder and addiction into account.
There are challenges to treating people with this dual diagnosis. Since the symptoms of bipolar disorder often look the same as those of addiction proper, it can be difficult for professionals to diagnose bipolar in people who are in a traditional drug and alcohol treatment context. Too often it is up to the patient to seek the extra help. However, since the dual diagnosis has gained recognition in the medical establishment at large and in addiction treatment programs in particular, professionals are increasingly able to see the signs of both problems in a people as they come into addition treatment. Though it is still a difficult set of problems to diagnose and treat, treatment has improved considerably with increased awareness and attention.
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