Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse Treatment for Women

Drug addiction Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse and bipolar disorder many times go hand in hand. In some cases, bipolar disorder can lead to a substance abuse issue when a person with bipolar disorder turns to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medicating. In some situations, though, drug addiction can actually lead to the development of bipolar disorder due to the drugs and alcohol changing the brain’s overall chemistry. 

When someone is suffering from both drug addiction and a mental ailment at the same time, it’s known as a co-occurring disorder. This is particularly true among womens. Let’s take a deeper look at bipolar disorder and how it is closely linked to addiction.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder with distinct periods of extreme euphoria and energy and sadness or hopelessness. The extreme highs are known as mania, and the extreme lows are known as depression. These extreme mood changes can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the bipolar disorder’s severity. 

Bipolar disorder is largely caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain but can also be caused by genetics. Bipolar disorder can lead to financial and legal troubles, addiction, relationship issues, and even suicide. Turning to drugs and alcohol as a way of self-medication is popular amongst people who suffer from bipolar disorder.

What Are the Different Types of Bipolar Disorder?

There are four main types of episodes that someone suffering from bipolar disorder can experience over time. They are:

  • Manic episodes
  • Hypomanic episodes
  • Major depressive episodes
  • Mixed episodes

Manic Episodes

A manic episode is typically highlighted by the feeling of either excessive cheerfulness of hostility. Manic episodes tend to last a week or more and, in extreme situations, can even result in hospitalization. Symptoms of manic episodes include:

  • Lack of a need for sleep
  • Extreme talkativeness 
  • Hyperactivity
  • Increased chances of risky behavior
  • Short attention span
  • Racing thoughts
  • Increased self-confidence
  • Preoccupation with a specific goal

Hypomanic Episodes

A hypomanic episode is similar to a manic episode, with the biggest difference being the amount of time that the episode lasts. While a manic episode can last a week or longer, a hypomanic episode tends to only last for a few days, and the symptoms tend to be less severe.

Major Depressive Episodes

A major depressive episode centers around the feeling of depression or just a general disinterest in things that are going on. In order for an episode to qualify as major depressive, the person has to be experiencing these feelings and emotions for at least two weeks. 

Symptoms of a major depressive episode include:

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Significant weight loss or gain
  • Feeling worthless
  • Feeling restless
  • Changes in sleep patterns such as insomnia or oversleeping
  • Feeling depressed or hopeless for hours at a time
  • Having trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Constant fatigue
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in once enjoyable activities
  • Excessive feelings of guilt

Mixed Episodes

Some people who have bipolar disorder don’t suffer from just one type of episode, but multiple types of episodes. This is known as having mixed episodes. Mixed episodes include traits of manic, hypomanic, and major depressive episodes.

Does Bipolar Disorder Affect Women Differently Than Men?

Bipolar disorder occurs with a similar frequency in both men and women. However, the ways in which the disorder is experienced are vastly different amongst the two sexes. 

For starters, women are significantly more likely to experience more symptoms associated with depressive episodes than manic episodes. Additionally, women’s hormones can play a major role in how bipolar disorder affects them. Women’s hormones play a major role in the development of bipolar disorder and the severity in which they experience it.

Menopause can also play a major role in how women experience bipolar disorder compared to men. Among women who have the disorder, almost one in five reported severe emotional disturbances during the transition into menopause.

However, the greatest evidence of a hormonal association with bipolar disorder is found during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Women who have bipolar disorder and are either pregnant or have very recently given birth are seven times more likely to be admitted to the hospital as a result of their bipolar disorder. They are also twice as likely to have a recurrence of symptoms.

What Is the Correlation Between Drug Addiction and Bipolar Disorder?

Unfortunately, not only is there a strong correlation between bipolar disorder and substance abuse, but it continues to get stronger almost by the day.

Many people who suffer from bipolar disorder either don’t know how to handle their condition properly or are too embarrassed to get the proper help they need. More often than not, they will turn to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain associated with their condition and self-medicate. 

It might even make them feel better or more “normal” for a short period of time. While these drugs and alcohol might seem like a great fix temporarily, in the long run, it can actually lead to more issues. Not only can it lead to addiction, but it can also ultimately result in bipolar disorder becoming more extreme due to the chemical changes that happen in the brain as a result of addiction.

On the opposite side of that, studies have shown that someone can develop bipolar disorder as a result of prolonged substance abuse. This can occur as a result of the drugs and alcohol changing the chemical makeup of the brain. The bipolar disorder might have previously been dormant, and as a result of substance abuse, the symptoms of that can come to the surface.

What Are the Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder and Addiction?

If you are suffering from both bipolar disorder and a substance abuse issue, the first step is to address the substance abuse issue with detox. Before you can address either the bipolar disorder or the addiction, you have to rid your body of all the harmful substances that have to lead you to this point.

Depending on the addiction’s severity, detox can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to complete. Due to the way that the body reacts to the detox process, it must be done under constant medical supervision. This can be done at a hospital or a dedicated detox facility. You can also attend a treatment facility that also offers detox services such as New Directions for Women.

Once detox treatment has been completed, then it is time to address not only the addiction but the bipolar disorder as well. Depending on your recommended treatment plan, you might be prescribed a medication to address the bipolar disorder issue. Medications for bipolar disorder can calm mood shifts and bring equilibrium to a person’s life. 

Some medications for bipolar disorder include:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Lithium
  • Benzodiazepines

For those who either don’t feel comfortable or are deemed to be at risk by taking medication, another popular treatment method for addressing addiction and bipolar disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy. CBT addresses the thoughts and feelings that people with these conditions face. By examining the thoughts and feelings that lead to manic and depressive behaviors, addicted people with bipolar disorder can better understand their actions.

What About Treatment During Pregnancy?

There is a special treatment option available to women that are pregnant in order to protect the baby. Otherwise, treatment for men and women are mostly the same.

When addressing treatment for bipolar disorder during pregnancy, doctors tend to prescribe lithium as well as other antidepressants due to their track record when it comes to protecting the baby. 

In general, though, doctors and treatment professionals will try to limit the number of medications a developing baby is exposed to during pregnancy. As a result, for those women who are pregnant and in treatment, their treatment will focus more on the mental and behavioral side of things such as CBT and other types of alternative treatment like:

  • Acupuncture
  • Yoga
  • Art
  • Gardening
  • Meditation
  • Equine therapy

Do You Suffer From Drug Addiction and Bipolar Disorder?

Like with many other aspects of life, women experience bipolar disorder and substance abuse differently than men do. Women’s hormones and chemical makeup of their brain can result in the way they react to bipolar disorder being different than men.

At New Directions for Women, we understand. This is why we focus solely on the health and well-being of women. Our facility and treatment programs are designed specifically for women so that they can get the help that they need in an environment that they feel comfortable in. If you or someone you know is a woman who is suffering from bipolar disorder and drug addiction, we can help even if you are pregnant. Contact us today to learn more.

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