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Do I Have Bipolar Disorder?

Question:

Hi,

I’m twenty one years of age.  I have a young daughter and I’m living on my own. From a young age I have always suffered with extreme emotions but as I’m getting older it seems to be getting worse. I seem to get extreme highs where I’m partying really hard and sometimes I just don’t know when to stop. Then I get extreme lows where I can’t b bothered to do anything and then sleep all the time.

I’ve been using party drugs and spending stupid amounts on alcohol. I don’t care what anyone thinks. I don’t feel like I have any control when I go off on one!  When I come crashing back down I become so depressed and self loathing that I just feel like I can’t get to a happy middle point. I just would like to relax and get some comtrol back so I can be a normal mommy with my daughter.  I can’t stand the extreme parts of my personality.  The drugs and alcohol are making it worse!

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  • Dr. Schwartz responds to questions about psychotherapy and mental health problems, from the perspective of his training in clinical psychology.
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Answer:

It is impossible to know if you have bipolar disorder because your diagnosis is clouded by alcohol and drug abuse.  There is no question that you need to get help immediately.  You will not gain a sense of control over your life until you stop drinking and using drugs.  You need to be seen and evaluated by a psychiatrist or psychologist, and given a recommended course of treatment that will include psychotherapy.  In addition, attending a 12 step drug rehab program will help.

What is especially alarming about your case is that you either mother or of a child.  That child needs you to be fully alert and available 24 hours a day.  It is entirely possible, under the current circumstances, that you could be accused of child neglect and have your child taken away from you.  I am sure that if something you do not want.  To prevent that from happening you must get help now.

While it is possible that you have some type of psychiatric disorder that would not explain the reason for your drinking and using drugs.  The sooner you get the drug abuse under control the sooner you will feel in control of your life.

If you cannot afford a private psychiatrist or psychologist you could attend a local mental health clinic or not for profit mental health organization.  Help is available and you need to get that help immediately.

Best of luck

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Comments
  • Mona Lisa

    Dr. Schwartz writes: "It is impossible to know if you have bipolar disorder because your diagnosis is clouded by alcohol and drug abuse. There is no question that you need to get help immediately. You will not gain a sense of control over your life until you stop drinking and using drugs. You need to be seen and evaluated by a psychiatrist or psychologist, and given a recommended course of treatment that will include psychotherapy. In addition, attending a 12 step drug rehab program will help."

    I know that Dr. Schwartz means well and I know him to be a very nice man, but I think his advice regarding 12 step treatment is misguided.

    While it is certainly true that a diagnosis of bipolar disorder may be masked by alcohol and drug abuse and that abstinence ultimately is a necessary aspect of treatment, 12 step rehab programs are uniquely ill-suited to the treatment of individuals who have mental illnesses (such as bipolar disorder) in addition to addictions.

    The reason for this is that 12 step treatment is aimed solely at the addictive behaviors, and sometimes, addictive behaviors are nearly impossible to stop as long as the mental illness remains untreated...but the 12 step view is that failures to achieve abstinence are rooted in lack of interest in recovery, in dishonesty, or in the inability to accept one's "powerlessness" over one's addiction and the consequent need for God's intervention.

    My feeling is that anyone who suspects the presence of a mental illness should make sure that their treatment regime is aimed at treating the addiction and the mental illness AT THE SAME TIME. Integrated treatment is critical to success.

    Beyond treatment, there is also an unfortunate risk to membership in 12 step groups such as AA and NA, which is that these groups contain a significant faction of people who believe that the use of psychiatric medications (such as those used to treat bipolar disorder) is incompatible with "sobriety". This group is fairly small in number, but is very vocal and insistent. I was an active member of AA for many years, and ultimately left the group in large part because of this phenomenon. I sponsored a young woman who has bipolar disorder and she was constantly being told by "interested" longtime members that she "wasn't really sober" because she took Depokote and Topamax. Fortunately, she had me for a sponsor and I told her to ignore those individuals. But others are not so lucky, and sadly I witnessed a number of suicides over the years as well--the majority of which were the direct result of untreated mental illness.

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