An often a challenging part of treatment is an accurate assessment. It requires the treating professional to identify the precipitant to the mood. “Angry, elevated, expansive moods, or mania experienced during the course of substance use may not be mania at all. Instead it may be a result of the substance(s) being used” notes Dr. Gerald Grosso, Clinical Director at NSIGHT Psychology and Addiction in Newport Beach, California. The same would be true for depression. Attention to substance use and addiction is necessary as a substance may be used to prevent presence of a mood whether it is elevated or depression. For example, one may use alcohol, a depressant, to decrease a manic or hypo-manic mood while amphetamines, a stimulant, may be used to prevent depression. Therefore, a period of sobriety during assessment is ideal as the ability to observe mood instability without the influence of substances helps to provides clarity.
The context and situation that triggers the mood is equally important as mood swings in reaction to specific stressors may be a normal response to stressors and not part of a manic or depressive episode. Confusing to many, mood swings such as happiness to anger may not have anything to do with Bipolar Disorder and result from ones lack of sufficient coping skills to manage their emotions. In these cases emotional dysregulation may be more reflective of a behavioral issue than a biochemical one. Many individuals who struggle with addiction are often misdiagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and become frustrated when treatment interventions are not effective in improving their mood and situation.
Medications are effective in helping one stabilize and improve their mood making the management of stressors and relationships more manageable. Dr. Grosso suggests utilizing psychotherapy along with medications as individuals have the opportunity to benefit from medication and obtain accurate information about Bipolar Disorder and develop skills to effectively manage mood to prevent emotional extremes that negatively impact relationships and self esteem.
Reach out to your doctor, a mental health professional, or treatment center to obtain accurate information about Bipolar Disorder, how it is diagnosed and treated. When substance abuse and dependence and is a concern consider a period of sobriety to allow for accurate assessment and treatment. Bipolar disorder can be sufficiently treated with the use of medications that promote mood stability. Participation in psychotherapy to better understand oneself can reduce emotional extremes in response to life stressors. Mood can be managed through the use of well developed coping skills and may serve to decrease dependence on alcohol and drugs that are used to control unpleasant feelings.