Perhaps it’s easy to imagine that someone with a mental illness might also develop an addiction. The discomforts that come with a mental illness might cause someone to turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of soothing the pain and uneasiness.
However, with Bipolar Disorder particularly, there is a high percentage of those with this disorder who also have an addiction.
For example, according to a national survey, about 56% of individuals with Bipolar Disorder have experienced drug or alcohol addiction at some point during their lives.
Also, approximately, 46% of that group has abused alcohol or experienced an addiction to alcohol. About 41% were addicted to drugs. However, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among those who have Bipolar Disorder.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
The characterizing symptom of Bipolar Disorder is a swing of moods from depression to mania. For some, this mood swing can be drastic, feeling high on life one day and severely depressed the next. The symptoms of this disorder can be such a disruption to one’s life that a person might turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of finding reprieve.
For instance, anxiety, pain, sleeplessness, irritability, and suicidal thoughts might drive someone to drink or use drugs.
Of course, at some point, the continued use of alcohol and/or drugs can lead to the development of an addiction. One problem with this disorder is that the mental illness can be present even when the stark symptoms of mood swings, impulsivity, sleeplessness, and others are not.
Furthermore, because this illness includes the experience of euphoria, many people are resistant to taking medication that would stabilize their moods.
Euphoria is a psychological experience that makes you feel on top of the world. It’s common to feel as though you could stay up all night. You might have grandiose ideas about writing the next best selling novel. Or you might feel sexually irresistible or on fire to accomplish all that you set out to do.
When you are feeling euphoric, you are optimistic about the world, strongly confident, and generous. You might feel loving, creative, and successful. You are energized despite a lack of sleep, and you are making plans for the rest of your life. You look and feel great.
However, euphoria is a symptom of psychological illness, Bipolar Disorder being one of them. Although it is natural to feel euphoric when you are in love or spiritually inspired, if those feelings are also accompanied by other psychological experiences such as depression or psychosis, then an illness is likely present. In fact, euphoria is commonly a sign that mania is developing.
Problems of Self Medication
The problem with feeling this way is that most people don’t want to give it up. When faced with the decision to take medication for Bipolar Disorder, many people choose not to take their medication and instead “self-medicate” through the use of alcohol or drugs. However, this is dangerous for many reasons including:
- Without the proper medication, the mood swing cycle can become more and more severe.
- The National Institute of Mental Health indicates that drinking and drug use can actually trigger depression and manic moods in someone who has Bipolar Disorder.
- Drug use can also cause mania in its users. Some commonly used drugs can induce a feeling of well-being and contentment, which can contribute to continued use of a substance. This is often the case with alcohol, nicotine, and marijuana. Other drugs such as cocaine and heroine can cause one’s mood to shift dramatically and induce forms of euphoria. These feelings easily make the drug desirable and over time stimulate the cycle of addiction in the brain.
- Without medically managing euphoria, it can lead to risky behavior such as car accidents, overspending and financial debt, dangerous sexual activity, and more.
If you or someone you know is struggling with Bipolar Disorder as well as alcohol or drug use, seek the assistance of a mental health professional. If your loved one continues to argue the fact that nothing is wrong, which is likely because he or she is feeling great, you might want to remind them of the depression or psychosis that he or she will cycle through if diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
If the mania is an experience due to drug use, you can impose limitations on his or her behavior for their safety as well as yours. Nonetheless, having the support of a mental health professional is the best first step to acquiring help.
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