Living with Dual Diagnosis of Bipolar and Addiction

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Finding peace in your soul is difficult and almost impossible when a person is suffering from a dual diagnosis of a mental and addiction disorder.  The word suffering is the operative word and is extremely different from living with one or more disorders.

The trend of mental disorders that usually coincide with addictions are most often: Depression, Bipolar, Anxiety, Schizophrenia and Personality Disorders.  It is a scaring statistic to report that 37% of alcohol abusers and 53% of drug abusers also have at least one serious mental disorder.  Also, of all people diagnosed as having a mental disorder, 29% abuse either drugs and/or alcohol.

It is obvious that people with mental and addiction disorders tend to have higher statistics of being violent, not taking medications, not responding to help and failure to respond to any type of treatment.  When someone is under the influence and is remains under the influence, they are not treatable for a mental disorder.  Therapy, medication and other psychiatry strategies may work for a short amount of time, but will quickly fade as the instant gratification of others saying “great job”, ‘I am proud of you” or their addiction motivates their body to give their mind peace, but using a numbing substance to the brain / nervous system.   

Through my experiences in two alcohol / drug treatment centers in Center City, Minnesota and near Kerville, Texas, I can clearly see that people that are in and out of treatment / hospitals multiple times most likely have some sort of mental disorder.  I have been in Hazelden and La Hacendia and both continue to report statistics along with the rest of the medical community that having an untreated mental disorder and a substance disorder lead to immense brain damage and eventually death.  The people that do not have sound judgement or reasoning from substance abuse are taking their treatment into their own hands by self-medicating and using substances to mask their inner-demons, thoughts, feelings, etc. Using these substances tends to quiet the ‘voices’ in the brain or the constant ‘rat-race’ that is happening between a persons ears.  I lived that way for 17 years and it is no way to live.  I literally thought I was going crazy in trying to think of ways to hide my addiction to alcohol, violent thoughts, etc.

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Living with peace and serenity is a everyday challenge for me and others who live with a dual-diagnosis.  I say the word challenge instead of using other words to describe the way of life, because unlike others, I have to consciously think about the decisions I make from which sock to put on first, how many times I click the lock button to lock my truck to which way I drive to work that day.  This has become a way of life for me and I am working on some of these obsessive thoughts and emotions, but learning to revamp a ‘brain’ from years of abuse is difficult.  I do take 6 pills a morning, two for blood pressure and 4 for my mental disorder of bipolar.  I also take another pill at night to help calm my brain and body so I can sleep. I take these to survive everyday and to be in control of my life with continuing to educate myself on treatments, neurological science, addiction science, psychiatry visits, etc.  It is an on-going process and is one that has made me a better person. 

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You Can’t See a ‘Broken’ Mind

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Wouldn’t it be nice to look at someone and know automatically their inner-struggles, disabilities, disorders and addictions?

People that have ‘hidden’ disorders or addictions live with inner-turmoil and struggles everyday. Sometimes it’s a victory for a person with severe bipolar to get out of bed in the morning and take a shower.

Often a sign of someone in the moderate to severe depressive cycle, limit the willingness to take care of themselves (basic hygiene, eating, etc). It’s not that they don’t know how or want to, it is the lack of chemical responsiveness to parts of the brain that control basic need functions and therefore logic and reasoning application is non-comprehensible at that stage.

This is a major RED FLAG and should be addressed accordingly based on the individuals needs. The best approach that I use with young adults I work with, is break the processes into simple steps and give a positive, genuine response when the step is completed. ‘Less is more’ and you have to realize when helping someone not to base the process on your gratification but theirs.

Remember, mental and addiction disorders are a disease, and should be treated as one.

Mental Illnesses: The Hidden Disease

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Millions of people around the world have diagnosed mental illnesses.  In a most recent study completed by the ‘National Alliance on Mental Illness’, 1 in 4 adults were reported to experience mental illness in any given year.  In more significant diagnoses, 1 in 17 adults live with illnesses such as: schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.

Facts and statistics about youth can even be considered to be more frightening to our community, society and how the next ‘generation’ is developing.  Studies show that approximately 20% of youth ages 13 to 18 experience severe mental illnesses and 13% of youth ages 8 to 15.

With the statistics rising at a considerable high rate, one would wonder why have the numbers jumped up so high since the early to mid 2000’s.  There is a lot of speculation of the use of substances by the individual, pregnant mother, ‘Big-Business’ and the diagnoses methodology improving.  I believe both cases are true and ‘spot-on’.

Mental illnesses / disorders cost America $193,000,000,000 (193 Billion) in lost earnings per year.  Mood and mental disorders alone are the third highest cause of hospitalization in the country.

As a functioning member of society and a person that suffers from both bipolar and addiction disorder, I couldn’t believe the astounding statistics as I have been doing my research.  The amount of money it is costing America to REACT to the mental illness and addiction disorder is outrageous and  can be reduced by proper early identification.  In allocating funds to research and early intervention/treatment of these disorders and illnesses, then RESPOND to the people living with these conditions.

This sounds cliche, but I look and sound like the guy standing in an office and working on research projects.  I am that guy standing next to you working on the project and trying to meet the deadline…  The difference is, I can barely afford my daily medication and I have the blessing to have the proper treatment and care for my addiction and mental disorder.

Cancer is not shown on the sleeve of people that have it and neither are some mental illnesses and addiction (which are life threatening diseases if not treated properly).  When someone has breast cancer, they are not viewed as being ‘weak’ or a ‘drag’ on society, but when someone is schizophrenic, they are viewed as, ‘weak’, ‘pathetic’, an ‘animal’ that doesn’t deserve to stand in the same grocery line as the next person.  I hear people say frequently, ‘well there goes another one of my hard earned tax dollars going to waste’ when looking at a person suffering from a hidden illness.

Scientists, doctors and researchers are finally beginning to be able to show patterns of brain activity, structure, connectivity, etc and relate it to specific diseases / illnesses.

It is crucial and critical that we as a community, country, world, continue to prepare all people to have a meaningful life.