A person with bipolar disorder experiences periods of elation and periods of depression – they can seem to have two completely different personalities. These extreme mood swings can happen every few days, or even a few times a year. When they occur, the person is not in control of their mood.

What Bipolar Disorder Is

There are four different kinds of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I is defined by manic episodes (times of elation and energy) that last at least a week, or can even lead to a need for hospitalization. Usually, the depressive episodes (times of sadness and hopelessness) last at least two weeks as well and are very strong in their own way.
  • Bipolar II follows a similar pattern as Bipolar I, but the manic episodes are not as severe.
  • Cyclothymic Disorder involves longer periods of each, with the depressive symptoms lasting years at a time.
  • General unspecified bipolar disorders include any bipolar disorder that doesn’t fit with the patterns of the above types.

People are more likely to seek treatment while they are in a depressive episode (which makes sense, because during manic periods there is a general feeling of elation).

Bipolar disorder can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, stress, and brain structure. It can dramatically decrease a person’s quality of life, but it is completely possible to overcome with a comprehensive treatment plan.

Substance Abuse and Bipolar Disorder

It is extremely common for people with bipolar disorder to also have a substance abuse problem. In fact, most studies recommend that any young person with bipolar disorder should be checked out for addiction. The more rapid the cycling, (the shorter each phase is), the more likely the person is to abuse substances since they seem like fun in a manic stage and can be used to self-medicate in a depressive stage.

Sadly, drugs can be even more harmful to young people with bipolar disorder than they are for their peers. Speed and cocaine can send people into a manic period and even lead to psychotic symptoms.

Approaching Treatment

In the past, people used to treat bipolar disorder separately from alcohol or drug abuse. Mental health treatment centers and drug or alcohol rehab centers were completely different places. However, times have changed. Professionals now believe that the best thing to do is to treat the two disorders concurrently and in the same place through integrated treatment.

A treatment plan can include a number of strategies, including counseling, support groups, and medication. A well-run integrated program, like ours, will have professionals trained in treating both disorders, treating them when they occur.

Receiving care for both conditions at the same time can decrease the possibility of relapse. People need to learn how to manage the emotions that have led to alcohol or drug abuse in the past, and that is even more necessary in people who suffer from bipolar disorder.