Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

At one point, bipolar disorder and addiction were treated separately as separate conditions. If you had bipolar disorder, you would be referred to a mental health treatment center. If you also struggled with addiction, you would be referred to an addiction treatment center at the same time. Treating bipolar disorder and addiction separately often had the effect of not properly addressing either.

Today, it’s far more common to treat bipolar disorder and addiction at the same time in an integrative treatment plan. Addiction treatment professionals recognize that mental health conditions like bipolar disorder and addiction are often connected and need to be treated at the same time.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is sometimes called manic depression, but this is not an accurate description as the disorder causes a person’s mood to go between extreme highs and lows. Some people can even develop bipolar disorder after abusing drugs or alcohol. The root cause of bipolar disorder is a combination of genetics and imbalanced chemicals in the brain. Traumatic past events or current environments can also be a factor.

Bipolar disorder can be life-disrupting and cause suffering through addiction, legal and financial problems, relationship issues, and even attempts at suicide. Many people who struggle with bipolar disorder become attracted to alcohol or drugs as self-medication.

People with Bipolar Disorder May Experience Four Different Episode Types:

• Manic episodes are characterized by excessively happy or hostile behavior and may last over a week.
• Hypomanic episodes are the same as manic, but they are shorter and less severe.
• Major depressive episodes are characterized by intense depression and apathy. They typically last for over two weeks.
• Mixed episodes are experienced by some people with bipolar disorder. These episodes include elements of the other three types.

It’s possible for a previously healthy person to develop bipolar disorder after a period of abusing drugs or alcohol. These substances rewire the brain, which can affect mood and behavior.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder symptoms can vary by individual case. The symptoms are also different depending on the episode. People with addiction tend to have stronger symptoms of bipolar disorder than others.

Symptoms of a Manic Episode in Bipolar Disorder Include the Following:

• Hyperactivity
• Reduced need for sleep
• Extreme chattiness
• Overconfidence
• Racing thoughts
• Obsession with a particular goal
• Short attention span
• Willingness to engage in risky behavior

Some people with bipolar disorder have extremely severe manic episodes that can lead to hospitalization. The episodes render them unable to function in a normal social setting.

The Symptoms of a Major Depressive Episode in a Person with Bipolar Disorder Are as Follows:

• Feeling severely down and hopeless most of the time
• Feeling worthless
• Not eating enough or eating too much
• Restlessness
• Sleeping too much or not enough
• Fatigue
• Feelings of guilt
• Preoccupation with death or thoughts of suicide
• Loss of interest in hobbies
• Inability to concentrate

These episodes also make a person with bipolar disorder unable to function in a normal social setting. The episode needs to last at least two weeks to meet the definition of a major depressive episode.

How Is Bipolar Disorder Diagnosed?

A person with bipolar disorder and addiction is difficult to diagnose because many of the symptoms are similar. Bipolar disorder is typically diagnosed by itself through a series of tests that include psychological, physical, mood, and comparisons. Dual diagnosis is something used in addiction treatment where both the mental health disorder and addiction are diagnosed at the same time. Many quality treatment centers offer dual diagnosis for conditions like bipolar disorder and addiction.

What Is Addiction?

Abuse of drugs and alcohol that leads to physical tolerance and a compulsive urge to use is what typically characterizes addiction. Drugs and alcohol are both addictive substances that rewire the brain when used over a period of time. Some drugs cause chemical changes almost immediately, while alcohol might take many years depending on how much is used. When a person is struggling with addiction, the seeking and use of drugs and alcohol become their main focus on a daily basis. It’s often very hard for a person with an addiction to overcome the disorder by themselves. This is due to the previously mentioned brain changes and also the uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when attempting to quit various substances.

Symptoms of Addiction

The symptoms of addiction can mirror some of the aforementioned symptoms of bipolar disorder. Different substances can have different effects. For example, someone with bipolar disorder can have a manic episode with symptoms that resemble a person using cocaine.

Some Common Signs of Addiction That Cross Different Substances Include the Following:

• Mood swings
• Behavioral changes
• Loss of interest in hobbies
• Social withdrawal
• Financial and/or legal problems
• Drug paraphernalia in their house or car
• New health problems

How Are Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Connected?

A dual diagnosis expert can distinguish between the symptoms of bipolar disorder and addiction. Sometimes bipolar disorder is triggered by addiction, and sometimes bipolar disorder can lead to addiction through self-medication.

For example, a person with bipolar disorder having a major depressive episode might turn to substance abuse to cope with it. Another example of bipolar disorder triggering addiction is when a person having a manic episode engages in risky behavior that includes substance abuse. In other words, there are several ways for addiction and bipolar disorder to connect. This is where dual diagnosis is very important in discerning whether bipolar disorder or addiction came first.

Treatment for Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

A dual diagnosis for addiction and bipolar disorder will likely lead to some of the same treatment methods. Cognitive-behavioral therapy is a common treatment for bipolar disorder and substance abuse. It’s also common for dual diagnosis patients to receive medication for both bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Some examples of common treatments for both of these disorders include the following:

• Dual diagnosis support groups
• Holistic therapies
• Family counseling
• Group and individual therapy

An integrative treatment plan crafted by dual diagnosis professionals includes a collaborative team that employs counselors, specialists and doctors for comprehensive care. Comprehensive care that addresses both bipolar disorder and substance abuse reduces the risk of relapse and also raises the possibility that the patient will remain in treatment.

People with bipolar disorder require different prevention strategies against substance abuse relapse that will deal with the triggers they experience during both manic and depressive episodes. Both types of episodes can also interfere with treatment if not properly diagnosed and recognized.

New Method Wellness is a dual diagnosis treatment center that can help you differentiate between bipolar disorder and addiction. If you or a loved one needs dual diagnosis treatment for addiction and bipolar disorder, reach out to New Method Wellness for more information today.

For more information about our Addiction Treatment Programs, call 866-951-1824

It’s Time For A New Method


  • Contacting for:
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

+1 (866) 951-1824