Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health disorder that is characterized by significant shifts in energy levels and mood, and an inability to easily carry out daily tasks and participate in day-to-day activities. Before bipolar disorder was widely understood, it was referred to as manic depression. While there are three different types of bipolar disorder, each involves the same base symptoms – mood changes and changes in energy level. Those who struggle with bipolar depression will shift between feeling motivated, excited and happy to feeling extremely low and disengaged with the world around them. These shifts in mood are known as manic episodes (the highs) and depressive episodes (the lows). Manic episodes can be extremely intense – when they are less intense and less disruptive, they are referred to as hypomanic episodes. The three different types of bipolar disorder are as follows:
Bipolar I Disorder. This type of bipolar disorder is characterized by manic symptoms that are so intense and disruptive that they require serious and immediate care. Those with untreated Bipolar I are very frequently hospitalized, usually in a psychiatric setting. This type of bipolar disorder could also be characterized by manic episodes that last for over a week, and depressive episodes that last for two weeks or more. It is also possible for those with Bipolar I to present both symptoms – some manic symptoms and some depressive symptoms (such as short and intense bursts of energy coupled with an inability to get out of bed the following day).
Bipolar II Disorder. This type of bipolar disorder is more mild than Bipolar I, and is typically not quite as disruptive to daily life. Bipolar II is characterized by ongoing patterns of hypomania and depression. Those suffering from this type of bipolar disorder will generally feel depressed and down for several months, then more alert and able to focus for several weeks following the depressive episode.
Cyclothymia (or Cyclothymic Disorder). Those suffering from cyclothymia will experience periods of depression lasting for around 2 full years, followed by periods of hypomania. These symptoms are noticeable, but generally very mild. Cyclothymia can be easily treated with a combination of non-addictive medication and psychotherapy.
It is extremely important that those who have been battling a bipolar disorder of any type seek professional treatment. When left untreated, bipolar disorder very frequently leads to substance abuse. Those with untreated symptoms often turn to drugs and alcohol as a means of self-medication. Those struggling with a bipolar disorder of any type will require a combination of non-narcotic medication and holistic treatment. At Pine Tree Recovery Center, we offer comprehensive dual diagnosis care to those struggling with substance abuse and mental health disorders. If you or someone you love is in need of integrated treatment, we are available to help.
Proper diagnosis and ongoing treatment is essential in helping those struggling with bipolar disorder go on to lead happy and productive lives. The first step on the road to recovery is identifying underlying disorders. At Pine Tree Recovery Center, we offer in-depth pre-assessments for those who may be struggling with an undiagnosed mental health condition. Bipolar disorder is diagnosed based on a combination of factors, including existing and persisting symptoms, personal experiences, family history and environmental factors. If we find that dual diagnosis treatment is the most appropriate option, we will immediately set our new client up with an on-staff psychiatrist, who will ultimately determine the most effective treatment options. There are many treatment options available, and it is important that those struggling with a dual diagnosis disorder (bipolar disorder and addiction) receive a combination of non-narcotic medication and psychotherapy (as well as other proven holistic treatment options). Medication is typically essential when it comes to treating symptoms of manic and depressive episodes. If a substance abuse disorder is also present, medication will help prevent relapse by managing symptoms long-term. The following non-narcotic and non-addictive medicinal treatment options have proven effective in the long-term treatment of Bipolar I, Bipolar II and Cyclothymic Disorder.
It is important to note that different people will react differently to non-narcotic bipolar medications, and that it can take awhile to figure out the most effective type of prescription medication, or combination of prescriptions. The following non-narcotic medications have proven effective in the treatment of bipolar disorder and in the managing of related symptoms:
Lithium. Lithium is the oldest and most well-known treatment for bipolar disorder. This specific medication is an ideal solution for treating manic episodes – however, it does not always work as well in the treatment of depressive episodes. Those with Bipolar I are often prescribed lithium, though it can take up to two weeks to provide relief. It is extremely important that those who are prescribed lithium take blood tests regularly, seeing as high doses can be toxic. Initially, blood levels should be checked once a week. Once the body adjusts to the medication blood level checks can be reduced to once every two or three months.
Anticonvulsants (which act as mood stabilizers). Anticonvulsants were initially developed to treat disorders that result in seizures, such as epilepsy. However, it was found that many non-narcotic anticonvulsant medications work to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Depakote is a highly effective mood stabilizer, and those experiencing rapid cycling (quick shifts between mania and depression), severe manic episodes, and mixed mania often benefit from this specific prescription medication. Some other anticonvulsant medications that are used to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder include Lamictal (Lamotrigine), Tegretol (Carbamazepine), and Topamax (Topiramate).
Antidepressants. Non-narcotic antidepressant medications are more commonly used to treat bipolar depression, but they can be effective in treating bipolar disorder of all types. However, antidepressants should be used with caution, especially if manic episodes persist. It is very common for those with bipolar disorder to have been misdiagnosed at some point during their lives, and been prescribed antidepressants as a result. Our team of on-site psychiatrists will work to determine all underlying mental health concerns and adjust medications as necessary.
Mood stabilizers. This type of non-narcotic medication has proven to be very effective in reducing mood swings and stopping mood cycling altogether. Lamictal is a mood stabilizer that is commonly prescribed and extremely effective in the treatment of bipolar disorder.
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All of the above listed medications are non-addictive. When treating substance abuse and bipolar disorder simultaneously, utilizing non-narcotic and non-addictive medicinal treatment options is extremely important.
Non-Narcotic Holistic Treatments
It is extremely important to recognize that when treating bipolar disorder, medication alone will not be enough. Non-narcotic medicine must be matched with a comprehensive program of holistic treatment. These holistic treatment methods include:
Intensive therapy. Psychotherapy and medication must be used in conjunction in order for recovery to be maintained long-term.
A healthy and nutritious diet.
A consistent sleep schedule.
Social support networks (such as 12 step meetings when substance abuse is also concerned).
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Pine Tree Recovery Center focuses on fully integrated treatment for bipolar disorder and addiction. We believe that in order for an individual to fully recover and maintain recovery, he or she must receive simultaneous treatment for substance dependency and all existing, underlying mental health disorders. Our program of dual diagnosis recovery will actively treat symptoms of bipolar disorder with proven, non-narcotic and non-addictive medications while providing personalized holistic care, making for a well-rounded and truly effective treatment program. If you or someone you love has been struggling with undiagnosed or untreated bipolar disorder and substance abuse or dependency, we are here to help. Give us a call today to learn more about our dual diagnosis program or to get started on your own personal journey of lasting, inclusive recovery.
Randi is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor and Supervisor who has over 20 years of experience in the field of mental health and addictions. She has worked in both clinical and administrative leadership roles and also has extensive career experience in gender specific trauma treatment, crisis intervention, structural family work and substance