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Choosing the Best Bipolar Disorder Treatment Centers

The occasional up and down moods typical of everyday life pale in comparison to the extreme mood changes that accompany bipolar disorder conditions.

During episodes of mania and depression, it’s no surprise that someone would want to relieve or ward off overwhelming feelings and moods. Unfortunately, drug addiction and bipolar disorder can go hand in hand because of the immediate symptom-relief that drugs can provide. And while using drugs may go a long way towards relieving distressing symptoms in the present, you may actually be feeding the very same brain mechanisms that make bipolar disorder so overwhelming.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Someone suffering from bipolar disorder experiences noticeable mood swings that in many cases makes it difficult to function normally. You may feel exceptionally upbeat for a week or two, then sink into feelings of utter despair the following week. It’s not uncommon for these changes in mood to impair a person’s ability to hold down a job or maintain long-term relationships.

Periods in which feelings are upbeat are called the manic stages of bipolar, while the down times occur during depression stages.

Manic periods can be incredibly upbeat, to the point where you may do things you’d never think of doing, like dancing in the middle of a store or disrobing in front of a group of friends. Depression periods can be equally unpredictable with feelings of hopelessness, low self-esteem and in some instances, even thoughts of suicide may cross your mind.

As moods can fluctuate between these two extreme states, some people may experience more depressive moods than others and vice versa. The Mayo Clinic website lists three general categories of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar 1: One or more manic episodes lasting a minimum of seven days
  • Bipolar 2: One major depressive episode lasting at least two weeks
  • Cyclothymic: A mix of manic and depressive symptoms on a daily basis that lasts seven days

Whether you’re in the midst of a manic episode or feel one coming on, the feelings of recklessness that so often accompany manic states makes drugs and alcohol seem like no big deal. During periods of overwhelming sadness, the thought of a “feel-good” pill makes all the sense in the world considering how terrible conditions seem at the moment.

Manic & Depressive Symptoms

Symptoms associated with manic episodes can vary depending on the person, so not everyone will feel elation or joy. The same applies for depressive symptoms.

Manic Symptoms:

  • Reckless behavior
  • Racing thoughts, rapid speech
  • Increased energy levels
  • Exaggerated optimism
  • Irritability
  • Over-inflated sense of self-importance
  • Sleeping less or not at all

Depressive Symptoms:

  • Feelings of fatigue
  • Changes in appetite and/or sleep patterns
  • Feelings of worthlessness, crying spells
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Isolation, social withdrawal
  • Anxiety

Manic Episodes

People who suffer from bipolar disorder and drug addiction actually battle against a dual diagnosis or two disorders since drug addiction is also classified as a chronic condition. On top of the severe mood swings encountered with bipolar symptoms, the classic addiction triggers that drive a person to use drugs or alcohol are at work whenever a mood or symptom starts to overwhelm you.

For some people, a manic episode can keep you up all night long for days on end and make it impossible to sleep peacefully or rest at all. And while popping a tranquilizer pill or consuming large amounts of alcohol may do the trick, over time the body starts to need these substances in order to get a good night’s rest. This process is known as self-medicating. For someone with bipolar disorder, it quickly leads down the path to drug addiction.

Manic periods can also bring about feelings of extreme elation and a sense of power that’s hard to let go of, especially when a manic episode starts to wane. In an attempt to prolong these feelings, you may seek out drugs that help to keep the “high” going. Interestingly enough, this type of manic episode can actually act as one of addiction’s triggers by prompting a person to maintain or prolong a high. In effect, prolonging the high actually reinforces a person’s manic state. After a while, the brain and the body start to associate manic episodes with drug use; and so the bipolar disorder and the addiction become one.

Depressive Episodes

Bipolar disorder conditions and drug addiction are like fire and gasoline, as one condition fuels the symptoms of the other.

On average, people with bipolar disorder are four times more likely to have a substance abuse problem, according to an article from the American Journal of Managed Care.

No one wants to feel depressed any longer than absolutely necessary. Feelings of despair can in fact be so overwhelming that any solution is preferable to staying in the current state. All it takes is one positive experience with cocaine or a stimulant drug to make you remember how easily and quickly these painful feelings fade after using. Even sedatives or downers can at least numb the depressive symptoms to the point where life seems bearable for a while.

Just like with manic symptoms, depressive episodes may leave a person looking for ways to self-medicate. And just like with manic symptoms, the mind and body come to depend on these quick-fix solutions to relieve feelings of stress and hurt. With repeated drug use, the mind and the body start to crave the high that follows from using cocaine or taking a stimulant drug. In the same manner, the body starts to crave the calming effects produced by sedatives to the point where depression symptoms become worse in the absence of a pill.

Even during periods of stability, when emotions remain at an even keel, self-medicating may take the form of trying to ward off a depressive episode as you feel your mood start to shift.

While this solution may work the first few times, it won’t be long before you’ll have to take more stimulant drugs or ingest more cocaine to get the same effect. In the process, both conditions – bipolar disorder and addiction – become increasingly worse as more drugs are needed to ward off symptoms of depression. Meanwhile, these same symptoms are getting progressively worse with each episode.

Symptoms of Drug Abuse

The symptoms of drug addiction are as diverse as those associated with bipolar disorder. Symptom differences can also result from the type of drug used in terms of “uppers” versus “downers. The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists the following as the most common symptoms of drug abuse:

  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Loss of interest in enjoyable activities
  • Unusual sleep patterns
  • Changes in appetite
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • High energy levels

Treatment Effects

As bipolar disorder is a chronic, long-term condition requiring ongoing treatment, the condition becomes increasingly more difficult to treat in cases where a dual diagnosis involving drug addiction is present. What this means for the patient is:

  • Larger does of prescription treatment drugs
  • Side effects from prescription drugs
  • Health problems
  • Increased likelihood of not wanting to take medications

As symptoms related to bipolar grow increasingly stronger, higher dosages of standard treatment medications will be needed to produce the desired effects. Some may end up having to take two or more different medications in cases where anxiety or depressive symptoms intensify.

As drug addiction, in and of itself, is known for its damaging effects on the body and the brain, the potential for other health problems to develop increases as the addiction continues. The same can be said for the potential for other psychological disorders to develop as the brain’s overall health begins to deteriorate.

In effect, the brain’s ability to produce needed amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals is weakened by ongoing drug use.

Both stimulant and sedative drugs cause the brain to secrete large amounts of neurotransmitter chemicals to produce the expected effects of calm or wellbeing. With continued drug use, the brain becomes less able to secrete needed neurotransmitter chemicals. This condition leaves the door wide open for other psychological conditions to develop, such as anxiety disorders, major depression and even schizophrenia in extreme cases.

Treatment Options

People suffering from a combined bipolar-substance abuse condition are more likely to require hospitalization on a frequent basis as symptoms become increasingly worse. Over time, someone who starts out with a bipolar 1 diagnosis may start to experience cyclothymic episodes where mood changes become more extreme and more frequent.

After a while, it becomes difficult for your doctor to determine which symptoms are bipolar related and which ones result from drug use. At this point, medication treatment becomes a hit-and-miss, trial-and-error ordeal.

If you know someone suffering from bipolar and drug addiction or you yourself are battling these conditions, treating both conditions is essential. Treating the drug addiction allows the brain to heal from the damaging effects caused by ongoing drug use. As bipolar disorder in and of itself already takes a toll on the brain’s capacity, eliminating the effects of drug use becomes an absolute necessity for health and wellbeing to be possible.

Drug rehabilitation treatment centers are designed to treat both the addiction and the symptoms that accompany bipolar disorder. This involves using a holistic approach where treatment objectives work to heal the mind and the body as opposed to just the mind. As health problems, such as diabetes, heart disease and hypertension often develop from continued drug use, a holistic approach helps to restore the brain and the body together.

Once the drugs are out of the system, doctors can better pinpoint which symptoms are drug induced and which ones result from a person’s bipolar condition. This makes it easier for doctors to determine which medications will best treat a person’s bipolar condition. Drug rehabilitation centers also provide individual and group therapy treatment options. Therapy sessions are designed to help participants learn new ways to cope with overwhelming feelings and develop healthy coping skills for dealing with the desire to use drugs.

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