This is a guest blog by Jennifer Scott. You can find more about her after her article below.
About 56% of people with bipolar disorder will suffer from addiction at one point or another. Though addiction to drugs is common at 41%, the biggest risk is alcoholism at 46%. Though researchers haven’t pinpointed a definitive causal relationship, the rate of addiction is clearly higher in people suffering from bipolar disorder compared to the population as a whole. There are several theories on why this correlation exists.
Bipolar causes physical discomfort such as an inability to sleep and mental discomfort such as anxiety, leading a person to self-medicate. Here are a few reasons someone with bipolar disorder might self-medicate, how to recognize addiction, and the consequences of substance abuse in those living with the disorder.
Self-Medication is Often Used for Sleep and Relaxation
People with all kinds of mental illness turn to alcohol in an attempt to silence racing thoughts, numb emotional turmoil, and jump start sleep. For Self-medication is more common in people who are are not receiving treatment, as they believe they have no other way to stabilize themselves.
Preventing self-medication is a matter of ensuring that the person is receiving proper treatment. A person suffering from bipolar disorder needs a regimen of medications, talk therapy, and a set daily schedule to avoid stress. A consistent schedule can resolve many of the problems a person with mental illness might use alcohol to treat including insomnia and anxiety.
Addiction in People Living with Bipolar Disorder Should Be Recognized and Treated
Common signs of addiction can include visible, repetitive use of a substance, shirking of responsibilities in favor of the substance, and an inability to function without the substance. With bipolar disorder, it can be a little confusing whether or not the person is showing symptoms of addiction or is having an episode. If you are concerned, confront them gently.
To treat alcoholism, therapy programs and replacement treatments for bipolar are necessary. If a prescribed medication is given to replace the alcohol, the person is likely to have more success kicking the addiction as they will no longer feel the need to use alcohol.
Abuse of Alcohol Has Detrimental Effects on People with Bipolar Disorder
Though alcohol can dull some of the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it actually causes more serious episodes in the long run. The actual drinking can cause negative thoughts and impaired thoughts which can easily lead to poor decisions. A night of drinking can set months of therapy back even if it may seem like it will offer temporary relief.
If you have a person struggling with bipolar disorder in your life, it is best to avoid drinking around them. Keeping detrimental substances away is the best thing you can do for them.
Spending time around someone with bipolar disorder can be worrisome for those who have not experienced spending time with someone struggling with this disorder or another mental illness, as they may be unsure what to expect or how to help. Certainly, people who are untreated may lash out, experience suicidal thoughts, and take unnecessary risks. If your loved one is behaving in these concerning ways, it is important that you convince them to get help.
However, if they are already receiving treatment, a person who suffers from bipolar can live a very successful life with healthy, solid relationships. All you need to do is be understanding, be aware of the risk of substance abuse, and be courteous.
Jennifer Scott has been experiencing anxiety and depression since she was a teen. She shares her journey toward improved mental health on her website, SpiritFinder.org. When she isn’t blogging, Jennifer loves to travel, volunteers at her local animal shelter, and rock climbs.
Image via Pixabay by markusspiske