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Bipolar is classified as a mental illness characterised by extreme high and low moods. When people with substance abuse problems have a dual diagnosis of both addiction and a mental disorder, their path becomes extra challenging.

This is according to Karen Griessel, a social worker at Sanca Wedge Gardens rehab centre in Johannesburg.

“With bipolar, the highs, otherwise known as mania, and the lows, marked by depression, can be experienced at different times or at the same time.

“Treating people diagnosed with bipolar disorder and substance abuse disorder – which  is when an individual suffers from substance dependency – is extremely challenging, especially when they are in active addiction,” she says. “It is more manageable when the person is in recovery, which is why it is essential that people with bipolar disorder seek treatment for their addiction.”

Symptoms of bipolar mania:

  • Feeling overly happy for a long time.
  • Sleeping little.
  • Talking fast.
  • Restlessness.
  • Impulsiveness.
  • Engaging in risky behaviour, like taking drugs, having risky sex, gambling and spending too much money, to name a few.

Symptoms of depression:

  • Feeling sad for long periods.
  • Withdrawing from life.
  • Losing interest in things your normally enjoy.
  • An increased or decreased appetite.
  • Severe fatigue.
  • Cognitive issues.
  • Thoughts of suicide.

“The disease of substance abuse affects a person’s brain and behaviour and leads to the inability to control oneself. This can be truly debilitating. As professionals, we use integrated therapeutic treatment strategies and approaches like cognitive behavioural therapy and dialectical behaviour therapy within our primary care treatment programme at Wedge Gardens.

“This is complemented by controlled psychiatric medication and supportive group therapy techniques, as well as continued psycho-education.

“The good news is it can be treated and managed successfully but it is a continuous process,” says Karen.

For help with addiction recovery, contact Wedge Gardens rehab centre in Johannesburg. Visit or phone 010 534 6596.

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