Bipolar Disorder and Addiction: Finding Help Through Dual Diagnosis

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Bipolar Disorder Currently Affects Tens of Thousands Across the Nation

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that currently affects tens of thousands across the nation. Previously called manic depression because of the high-low symptoms, people with bipolar disorder suffer from extreme mood swings and they are either emotionally high or they are exceptionally depressed. Many people with bipolar disorder go undiagnosed, but for those who seek treatment, the disorder is often treated with medication, such as Lamictal, Lithium and Prozac.

Dual Diagnosis Is a Combination of a Mental Disorder and Addiction

For those that either go undiagnosed or who refuse to comply with treatment, they often turn to illicit drugs to self-medicate. More than half of the people that suffer from bipolar disorder turn to substance abuse. These people have a dual diagnosis, which is a combination of a mental disorder and addiction. These individuals require a separate kind of treatment, where the mental disorder and the addiction are treated simultaneously in order to be effective.

It is Common for Those With Bipolar Disorder to Get Hooked on Drugs or Alcohol

It is common for those with bipolar disorder or any other mental health issue to get hooked on drugs or alcohol, because they seek anything that with help them cope with the emotional rollercoaster they live with. In truth, the substances only compound the problem. Bipolar disorder is a result of an imbalance in the brain of chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. These are the chemicals that affect how the body reacts to stress, appetite, metabolism, and sleep patterns.

When Drugs Enter the Picture, These Basic Processes Become Sporadic and Unpredictable

When drugs start to enter the picture, these basic processes become sporadic and unpredictable, making the emotional swings more frequent and more severe. For those with bipolar disorder, they might believe that the substances are helping them stabilize, but the opposite is true. It is very important that those around someone with a dual diagnosis understand both conditions in order to obtain the help they need.

Substance Abuse Treatment Has Advanced Considerably

Substance abuse treatment has advanced considerably and now many options for addiction treatment are available for dual diagnosis clients. This is one of the many reasons why a thorough assessment must be completed prior to developing an individual treatment plan. Mental health disorders and addiction were once treated independently, often at separate facilities. Clients with apparent mental health issues went to supporting facilities that handled issues like bipolar disorder. Those who clearly had addictions went to inpatient treatment.

Treatment Includes a Number of Approaches

Recently, integrated treatment has become more prominent, as it includes a number of various approaches that include:
• Psychotherapy
• Counseling sessions
• Dual diagnosis support groups
• Family counseling
• Holistic therapy

Dual Diagnosis Clients Require Long Term Support

Integrated treatment allows all care to be provided at just one facility and includes a team of caregivers that have a full understanding of dual diagnosis. Medication to manage bipolar disorder may be given in a setting where others are battling the same problems. Addiction treatment professionals are aware of the many challenges they face treating dual diagnosis clients but find great success by treating co-occurring disorders together, instead of segregating clients and treating both conditions independently. Dual diagnosis clients require long term support by professionals that have a full understanding of co-occurring disorders.

Treatment Plans Have to Be Individualized Based on the Diagnosis

A comprehensive treatment plan and an experienced treatment team will make the world of difference in any client’s success. A full range of options are available as part of the individualized treatment plan. Since there is no one type of dual diagnosis program that works for every client, plans have to be individualized based on the diagnosis. While some may find success treating both conditions independently, an increasing number of clients agree that treatment addressing both conditions was the best option for becoming sober.

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