You may recognize the term “dual diagnosis” or “co-occurring disorder.”
Both of these phrases refer to a person having both a mental disorder and a substance abuse disorder concurrently. One common dual diagnosis is bipolar disorder and addiction. Bipolar disorder used to be most commonly referred to as “manic depression.” Persons afflicted with this mental disorder experience extreme highs and lows. These individuals go through intense mood episodes that fall into four categories: mania, hypomania, depression, and mixed episodes. Each of these categories is acute and overwhelms the person completely, interfering with every facet of their life.
According to statistics presented in the American Journal of Managed Care, about 56 percent of individuals with bipolar who participated in a national study had experienced drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime.
Why is it so common for a person who is suffering from a psychiatric disorder to also have a problem with drugs and/or alcohol? The simplest explanation is that individuals coping with a disorder, such as bipolar disorder, tend to self-medicate. This means that in order to feel better and in an attempt to manage their symptoms, they use drugs and alcohol. Not everyone who is affected by bipolar disorder is being properly medicated by a professional, and sometimes those who are still seek further relief through self-medication. While symptoms might seem temporarily relieved, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) notes that drinking and using drugs may trigger depressed or manic moods in someone with bipolar disorder.
Fortunately, addiction and mental health specialists have begun addressing bipolar disorder and addiction together.
Treatment has become integrated, whereas for many decades, these comorbid conditions were treated separately, with very little success. Many treatment centers now offer individuals dual diagnosis support and specialized treatment plans. These treatment plans often incorporate drug and alcohol education and psycho-education, addiction counseling, and relapse prevention planning with clinical methods such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), individual psychotherapy, and psychiatric medication management. While bipolar disorder and addiction together can pose serious difficulties for an individual, resources are available to help these individuals live their lives to the fullest. If you or a loved one think you might be suffering from a co-occurring disorder, please reach out to someone who can help.
Bipolar disorder. (2014, March 21). Retrieved December 2016, from The National Institute of Mental Health.
M.A. Hirschfeld, MD, R., & A. Vornik, MSc, L. (2005). Bipolar disorder. American Journal of Managed Care, 11(Understanding Bipolar Disorder: Impact on Patients, Providers, and Empoyers 3 Suppl), .
Mental and substance use disorders. Retrieved December 2016, from Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.