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Human beings are naturally wired with strong emotions. In fact, the way we feel impacts how we go through our day. If we feel good, our energy tends to be high and we are usually more productive. If we feel bad, we tend to have lower energy and we get less done. For some people, these differing moods can be especially sharp. The highs can be euphoric and careless, and the lows can be debilitating. Society once called this “manic depression.” Today, this condition is known as bipolar disorder. We are often asked questions around the disorder, such as:
- What is bipolar disorder?
- What are the symptoms?
- How do we spot risk factors?
- How do alcohol or substance use affect people who are bipolar?
- Who can I turn to for help?
What Is Bipolar Disorder?
Bipolar disorder is a mental condition that causes abnormal changes in mood and energy levels. These shifts can affect concentration, focus, and ability to complete tasks. Some patients describe these periods as manic (or “up,”) and depressive (or “down.”) In an “up” period, feelings of elation, high energy, and jumpiness are common. In a “down” period, patients may feel depressed, hopeless, and lethargic. There are three stages of bipolar disorder. They are:
- Bipolar I Disorder – Manic periods last 7 days or more, or by manic symptoms that require hospitalization.
- Biploar II Disorder – A pattern of depressive and hypomanic, or less severe manic episodes.
- Cyclothymia – periods of less severe hypomanic and depressive symptoms that last for 1-2 years
Bipolar disorder can be diagnosed as early as adolescence. Other common age groups include young adults and new mothers. Symptoms can change in severity throughout the patient’s life. However, treatment is generally recommended for the rest of the patient’s life.
What Are The Symptoms?
Symptoms for bipolar disorder vary depending on which episode the patient is in. For the manic episode, the patient may experience:
- Feeling “up” or elated
- Decreased sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Trying to do many things at once
- Fast or erratic speech patterns
- Engaging in high risk behavior, such as substance use or heavy drinking
- Feelings of invincibility
During the depressive episodes, patients may experience:
- Feelings of deep sadness or depression
- Slowed down or lethargic
- Difficulty falling asleep, or sleeping too long
- Forgetfulness, or difficulty speaking
- Increased appetite or weight gain
- Loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
- Thoughts of self harm or suicide
In some cases, patients can experience a mix of manic and depressive feelings in the same episode. This is called a mixed features episode. An example of this can be feelings of high energy, while feeling hopeless or very sad. Patients with Bipolar II or Hypomania can experience less severe symptoms but follow the same behavioral patterns. Fortunately, proper treatment by care teams such as ours can help patients live normal, productive lives.
How Can We Spot Risk Factors?
Scientists are still learning what exactly causes bipolar disorder. Some theories suggest altered chemical makeup of the brain could be the cause. Other studies have found genetic links to bipolar disorder. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms, speak to a care provider. Be sure to let your provider know if you have a family history of bipolar disorder. Also let your provider know if you have excessively used alcohol or drugs.
How Do Alcohol Or Substance Use Affect Bipolar Disorder?
Patients with bipolar disorder often live with either AUD or SUD as well. Scientists are still studying exactly how these conditions are linked. However, we do know that SUD occurs in at least 40% of patients with bipolar I or II. Alcohol and cannabis are the two most common substances used by patients with bipolar disorder. Sometimes, patients start substance use after they have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. In other cases, patients are diagnosed with bipolar disorder during treatment for SUD.
Diagnosis And Treatment Options
Bipolar disorder is diagnosed through a medical exam and tests to rule out other conditions. Patients will also go through a mental health screening in most cases. Providers may ask about family history, as bipolar disorder has been shown to have genetic links. For patients in treatment for SUD, this condition may be diagnosed during treatment. If you are entering treatment for SUD and have already been diagnosed, be sure to tell your intake coordinator. They will need to know about any medications you are currently taking.
Bipolar disorder is treated through a combination of medication and psychotherapy. For patients on bipolar medication, it is important to take the medication exactly as directed. Patients should not stop taking their medication unless directed to do so by a physician. For patients in treatment for SUD, your care team will let you know if any adjustments should be made. Any interruption in medication can cause the condition to worsen. Report any unusual or unpleasant side effects to your doctor so they can adjust as needed.
Psychotherapy, or “talk therapy,” helps patients pinpoint symptoms and behaviors of bipolar disorder. Therapists work with patients in individual and group settings to learn coping strategies and helpful life skills. Many treatment plans also offer family therapy to help loved ones support and care for patients. Therapists may also work with patients to develop healthy dietary patterns and exercise programs. Patients who exercise regularly often develop better control of symptoms over time. Those who commit to ongoing treatment are usually able to live normal, fulfilling lives.
Who Can I Turn To For Help?
This is the process of cleansing your body of any substances. If you have not already gone through detox, please discuss your options with our admissions
Bipolar disorder is a serious condition, but it can be treated effectively. Our team specializes in treating bipolar disorder in patients with SUD. If you are living with these conditions, it is not your fault. Contact us either by phone at (770) 818-4325 or online. We accept most major insurance plans and can work with you to set up payment options that work for you. Let us help you live the fulfilling life you deserve!
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