Bipolar disorder is a mental illness characterized by emotion shifts that are large, rapid, unexpected, or somehow unusual. For people with bipolar disorder, emotions seem to overwhelm them unexpectedly, and they may feel very little control over how they feel in any given day, or how they react to the circumstances that infuse their everyday life.
Experts are not quite sure how bipolar disorder develops, but they suspect that genetics might play a role. As the National Institute of Mental Health points out, children with a parent or sibling who has bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the illness than children who do not have a relative with the disorder. Genetics are likely to play a role.
While people with bipolar disorder might feel betrayed by genes and buffeted by addiction, there are solutions. Finding them means learning more about how bipolar works and what it can do. A good place to start is to understand what separates bipolar mania from bipolar depression.
People with bipolar disorder often benefit from a therapy that involves both medication and talk therapy. The medications help to soothe unbalanced chemical signals in the brain, and that could help to reduce the number of emotional shifts that happen and/or reduce the severity of the shift symptoms people feel.
Those people who have an addiction as well as bipolar disorder need a slightly different form of treatment. They have two disorders at the same time, and those disorders need different types of care. A program that addresses co-occurring disorders can handle those demands.
In such a program, therapists work to deal with both the addiction and the bipolar disorder at the same time. The entire team knows what the two conditions are and how they work, and every therapy is designed to provide people with tools they can use to treat both of these very different types of issues.
For example, in a traditional addiction program, therapists help their clients to understand drug abuse relapse risks. Those might include people, situations, or places. For people with bipolar disorder, those relapse risks could be signs of mania or signs of depression. With that awareness, people can learn the importance of keeping bipolar symptoms under control, so they will not be tempted to lean on drugs for self-medication.
In addition, in a therapy program, clinicians can help people to develop healthy behaviors that might work to head off a bipolar shift. Those might involve:
- Getting the right amount of sleep each night
- Eating on a set schedule
- Exercising regularly
- Setting aside time for meditation
- Finding nurturing hobbies
All of these commonsense, reasonable steps can lead to better overall mental health. That could make bipolar symptoms less likely to appear.
While the connection between bipolar disorder and addiction has been identified, not all treatment programs offer this kind of support for dual diagnoses. As a result, families must do their homework and ask about these issues. Only then will they be able to find and utilize the right program for the person they love. During therapy, that family should stay involved, too, and make sure that the treatment is progressing as it should.
With the help of a loving family and the right program, people with bipolar disorder can get better. People do it every day.