When dealing with an alcohol or drug addiction, many drug addicts and alcoholics also struggle with a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis, also known as a co-occurring disorder, involves a concurrent presence of both of a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. Studies have found that those who struggle with a mental health disorder are more likely to use addictive substances. Different types of mental health disorders are linked more closely with different substances.
This article will take a look at how a bipolar II disorder comes hand in hand with addictions. The most common substance abused is either cocaine or alcohol. It all depends on the phase that the addicts are in. A struggle with both a bipolar II disorder and addiction is much more common than you’d think. Studies show that 35% to 60% of bipolar individuals also struggle with a substance use disorder.
Understanding the role that these two disorders have is crucial in getting sober. To get and remain sober, both disorders must be treated at the same time. If not, patients are much more likely to relapse. If you struggle with a bipolar disorder, you must find a treatment center that specializes in this area.
What Is a Bipolar Disorder?
There are many different types of bipolar disorders. In this article, we’ll focus solely on the bipolar II disorder. This disorder is much more prevalent than you’d think. It affects about 2.5% of the general U.S. population, or about 6 million people.
Unlike healthy individuals, a person diagnosed with a bipolar 2 disorder will experience a rapid cycling of emotions. Their emotions fluctuate between hypomanic episodes and depressive episodes. Hypomanic episodes are often referred to as the ‘highs’ and depressive episodes are often referred to as the ‘lows’. The differences between these two phases is like night and day. You can usually see quite a clear difference.
The uncontrollable and extreme moods often come with bouts of energy. Bipolar individuals often have difficulties controlling their own emotions and actions. They can feel emotions at different ends of the spectrum within moments. For example, they may feel depressed for long periods of time for no reason at all.
In general, bipolar 2 disorder can be difficult to diagnose. At times, it is confused with depression. To be diagnosed with this mental illness, patients must meet the following requirements:
- Have depressive episodes that last a minimum of two weeks
- Have hypomanic episodes at least once a year
The hypomanic episodes may not happen within the same timeframe. In comparison, bipolar I disorder often have more pronounced symptoms. As a result, it’s much easier to diagnose.
Individuals struggling with a bipolar II disorder often lead normal lives. It can be difficult to even determine if a person struggles with a bipolar II disorder at times. Since the symptoms are so hard to diagnose, many people often overlook them. These symptoms are usually only most noticeable to loved ones that interact with the affected individual on a daily basis.
Other Statistics and Facts About Bipolar II Disorder and a Dual Diagnosis
- Up to 45% of bipolar individuals will also struggle with alcohol abuse
- 64% of bipolar individuals “self-medicate” with marijuana
Drug and alcohol are commonly used for self-medication. While they may treat the symptoms temporarily, they may also worsen one’s position and situation. It’s best to avoid drug abuse when dealing with a bipolar disorder. The drugs will only make your mind more chaotic and hectic.
Drugs and alcohol can also cause heightened moods and emotional instability. Emotional instability can interfere with a patient’s ability to follow the treatment protocol at the rehab centers. Abstain from drugs or alcohol when dealing with mental disorders. This is the same for other disorders, like an eating disorder or an anxiety disorder. This will give you the best shot at succeeding with an addiction treatment.
Signs and Symptoms of a Bipolar II Disorder
Many people are at a loss of whether they are just moody or whether they struggle with a bipolar disorder. The most accurate way of determining whether you also struggle with a bipolar disorder is to speak with a counselor. The counselors can provide more insight and information on this area.
At most recovery centers, the mental health condition will be assessed using a variety of tools. The two most popular assessment tools that screen for adult bipolar disorder include:
- the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV (SCID); and,
- the Schedule for Affective Disorders and Schizophrenia (SADS)
These assessments look at both mental health and addiction. They’ll also pair the mental health condition with the severity and length of the drug use. It lets the rehab facility know which areas to focus treatment on.
Although a professional assessment is best, take a look at the signs and symptoms of the two phases of bipolar disorders. This will give you some idea as to whether this mental health issue may pertain to your situation.
Hypomanic episodes are also known as the ‘highs’ of bipolar disorder. This phase is defined and characterized as experiencing elevated feelings. Those who are in the midst of a hypomanic episode will usually:
- Believe that they can accomplish a lot of things at once
- Feel as if they have a lot of energy
- Be more likely to engage in risky activities
- Feel agitated or moody, and be more likely to snap at others
- Feel as if their own thoughts are running through their minds
- Be overly talkative
Hypomanic episodes usually last for at least 4 days. These individuals will act as if they are taking stimulants. They often have a lot of energy. To combat this, some bipolar individuals will turn to alcohol to dampen their senses. However, too much alcohol can lead to alcohol abuse. Bipolar individuals who experience many hypomanic episodes often turn to alcohol to the point where they may struggle with alcoholism.
How to Treat a Dual Diagnosis Involving Addiction and a Bipolar 2 Disorder
To treat addiction and mental health disorders, many inpatient and outpatient rehab centers will rely on medications. The prescription drugs aim to restore brain chemistry balance that resulted from these co-occurring mental health disorders. The most common medications used to treat both addiction and a bipolar II disorder include:
The type of medication recommended will depend on the severity of the episodes. It will also depend on one’s drug of choice, as well as the length and severity of the drug abuse. Most treatment centers recommend inpatient medical detox. This allows medical professionals to keep watch of the patients at all times. The dose of each medication can, then, be customized to fit the needs of each patient.
Behavioral Therapy and Counseling
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
- Group therapy
- Individual psychotherapy, also known as talk therapy or counselling
The right type of therapy can make a world of a difference to one’s treatment. Many patients will try out different types of therapies to find one that works for them. It’s important to note that various techniques will fit different personalities. You should consider switching counselors or therapists if you find that the treatment isn’t really working for you.
Many patients will try out other types of behavioral therapies and counseling in conjunction with the ones listed above. For example, motivational interviewing (MI) and Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) are both popular options.