Dual Diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

Serious Mental Condition

Bipolar disorder – also commonly known as manic-depressive disorder – is a serious mental condition characterized by extreme shifts in mood, behavior, and level of energy. These shifts range from extreme highs (mania) to intense lows (depressive) and can be incredibly difficult, or impossible, to keep under control without professional help.

Bipolar disorder – also commonly known as manic-depressive disorder – is a serious mental condition characterized by extreme shifts in mood, behavior, and level of energy.
Solitary Confinement of Addiction

People suffering from bipolar disorder can be successfully treated with a combination of psychotherapy and medication. However, complications arise when those with this serious mental disorder are also abusing substances, often in an attempt to self-medicate. An estimated 60-percent of all bipolar disorder patients suffer from addictions to drugs or alcohol. This can lead to a wide array of complications for the patient, as well as the mental health professional involved in the treatment process. Some of these complications include:

  • Trouble with initial diagnosis due to similarity in symptoms between the addict and those suffering from bipolar disorder
  • Compounding effects from the substance which make the symptoms of bipolar disorder more intense
  • Difficulty treating one disorder without treating both simultaneously
  • Poor treatment compliance
  • Longer and more frequent episodes
  • More frequent suicide or self-harm attempts

Complications in Diagnosis

Diagnosing those with both bipolar disorder and a substance use disorder can be difficult because of the mirror effect that the symptoms of both addiction and bipolar disorder present. The symptoms are often remarkably similar. Those affected with bipolar experience the same types of mania and depressive behavior experienced by individuals in the throes of their addiction. This can have a compounding effect that leads to further complications and often-serious episodes of mania, and/or depression, that could lead to hospitalization or even serious self-harm.

Issues Surrounding Treatment

The major issue with most co-occurring disorders, or dual diagnosis, cases is in the resulting level of care once it has been diagnosed. The two disorders must be treated concurrently in order for the greatest chance of success. In days past, psychotherapists often attempted to get the bipolar disorder regulated, and then attempted to treat the substance use disorder; and vice versa, substance abuse counselors would attempt to get the patient sober before seeking help for bipolar disorder (if they recognized that the disorder existed at all). This method of treatment has led to a low rate of success for those struggling with a co-occurring disorder.

In addition, those with untreated mental illness, or those who are not completely sober before undergoing treatment, are many times less compliant with treatment terms.  Non-compliance can take the form of refusing medication

Treating Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse at Prescott House

At Prescott House, we recognize the importance of treatment strategies in order to help our male patients both in terms of mental health and sobriety. Through a process known as integrated treatment, our mental health professionals and substance abuse counselors help our male patients seek relief from both bipolar disorder and the substance abuse issues.

Integrated treatment encompasses a variety of different treatment methods. Some of the strategies used are one-on-one psychotherapy with psychiatrist Dr. Penney, counseling sessions (both individual and group), and family counseling. Other therapeutic practices include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) as well as some of the finest addiction specialists in the country, the Prescott House can help you or your loved one begin to regulate the intense mood episodes that currently plague your life, all while aiding in your recovery from substance abuse. If you or a loved one is suffering from bipolar disorder, as well as a substance abuse addiction, contact us today to find out how we can help.

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