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Bipolar Disorder and Addiction



Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that can lead to depression and mania, but it’s often misdiagnosed as a substance abuse problem. 

The two disorders are so commonly linked that researchers and clinicians have coined the term “dual diagnosis” to describe them as co-occurring conditions better. 

In this article, I’ll explain what bipolar disorder is and how it can manifest in your life. 

Then I’ll address some of the most common questions about recovering from both conditions.


Table of Contents

What is bipolar disorder and what do people mean when they talk about it?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that affects mood, energy, and sleep. It affects how you feel and act during the day, but it doesn’t usually affect your thinking or judgment as much as other kinds of illnesses do. 

People who have bipolar disorder can feel elated or sad at the same time—something that’s known as “mixed” emotions.

The symptoms of mania are very different from those of depression:

  • Increased energy
  • Increased talkativeness (“pressured speech”)
  • Decreased need for sleep (hypersomnia)
  • Racing thoughts and rapid speech (racing thoughts)
  • Reckless behavior.


What is addiction?

Addiction is a chronic brain disease that causes compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is characterized by:

  • A compulsion to seek and use drugs or alcohol;
  • An inability to stop using drugs or alcohol;
  • A higher priority is given to drug/alcohol use than other activities and obligations, such as family, work, school, or health problems; and
  • The presence of withdrawal symptoms when the substance use stops.


Why is there a connection between bipolar disorder and addiction?

So, what does all this mean? Why is it that bipolar disorder and addiction go hand-in-hand so often? 

Addiction can trigger bipolar episodes. When you’re in the midst of a depressive state and your brain is telling you that nothing matters anymore, an addictive behavior may seem like the perfect way to cope with that pain. 

On the other hand, being addicted to drugs or alcohol can lead to mania or hypomania—a condition where people feel highly energized and full of excitement. 

One study found that over half of people who were diagnosed with bipolar disorder also had an addiction problem. It makes sense: if someone has bipolar disorder but isn’t getting help, they might self-medicate with drugs or alcohol instead. 

This leads us back into full-blown depression which means more self-medication until something breaks through this cycle.


How often does addiction occur in people with bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder and addiction are closely linked, but some researchers believe that they’re two separate disorders. 

Bipolar disorder is a condition in which someone experiences dramatic shifts in mood, energy levels, and activity levels. 

These shifts may be accompanied by changes to sleep habits, concentration problems, hallucinations, or delusions. 

Addiction is the compulsive use of drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences such as health problems or trouble with family and friends. 

Some researchers think that people with bipolar disorder have an increased risk of developing an addiction compared to those without the condition—in fact, about 50% of people with bipolar disorder abuse drugs or alcohol at some point in their lives!

However, other experts believe that substance abuse itself is an independent problem that can occur without any mental illness present at all—it’s just more common for people who have both conditions than it is for someone who has neither one (about 9-15% versus 3%).

The good news? If you do have both bipolar disorder and an addiction problem, stay calm there’s still hope!


Does one condition inevitably lead to the other, or are they separate issues a person might struggle with at different times of their lives?

There is no evidence that bipolar disorder leads to addiction. However, as with any mental health condition and substance use disorder, there is a risk of self-medication.

It’s important to note that the overlap between bipolar disorder and addiction doesn’t mean you have both—you may have one or the other or be affected by both at different times. 

You can be treated for one without having to treat the other, but it’s best to seek help from a psychiatrist who specializes in treating both conditions if you have them simultaneously or experience symptoms of either regularly.


Bipolar Disorder Can Lead To Addiction

Someone with bipolar disorder may use drugs or alcohol as part of their treatment plan on top of taking medications prescribed by their doctor(s). 

The severity of this problem depends on how long they’ve been using substances and how much they’re consuming each day/week/month/year; whether they’ve had any previous detoxes; whether another person has ever told them about their substance abuse problems before (for example family members); what kind of support system they have available when trying to stop using drugs again. etc


How are bipolar disorder and addiction treated together in a clinical setting?

If you are suffering from both bipolar disorder and addiction, it’s important to seek treatment at a facility that has experience in treating both conditions. 

Treatment for both conditions should be provided at the same facility so they can be overseen by a team of experts who are familiar with their interactions.

If you have been diagnosed with addiction, your treatment options can range from outpatient therapy to residential treatment. 

Residential facilities will provide around-the-clock help and support from therapists, counselors, psychiatrists, and other medical professionals. 

Outpatient services may include individual or group therapy sessions, medication management, and family education classes. In some cases, these services are provided by an outpatient clinic located near your home or work.

Treatment for bipolar disorder can be delivered through an outpatient or residential setting as well depending on your needs and whether you’re stable enough to engage in self-care outside of the clinical setting (e.g., taking medications).

What kind of treatment options exist for those who struggle with both bipolar disorder and addiction?

There are many treatment options for those struggling with bipolar disorder and addiction, but not all are the same. 

Some standard treatment methods include medication, therapy, support groups, and self-help. 

Depending on the severity of your disorder or addiction and your personal preferences, you may be able to find an effective combination of treatments to help you manage your symptoms.

The most important thing to remember when choosing a treatment plan is that there is no “one size fits all” approach for either condition; you must find what works best for you so that you can live a happy life free from mental illness or substance abuse.


Can I go to both an addiction treatment center and a mental health facility, or do these services have to come from one location only?

You can receive addiction treatment and mental health care in the same place or go to different locations. 

It depends on your situation, but most often it’s better to have someone dedicated to each type of care. 

If you’re going through both an addiction and bipolar disorder, these issues must be treated by professionals who understand how they work together.

Some people with bipolar disorder turn to alcohol or drugs to self-medicate their symptoms because they don’t know how to deal with them. In addition to getting help for your substance use disorder

—whether that means learning more about safe drinking habits or enrolling in an outpatient rehab program—your therapist will help you manage any other mental illnesses you may have and offer support during recovery from addiction.


If you are struggling with bipolar disorder and addiction, know that you are not alone. 

Millions of Americans live with both conditions every day, and some of them have found ways to manage them successfully. 

It’s important to remember that there is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan; each person will need different types of care depending on their unique needs. 

That said, there are resources available that can help guide you through this journey—be sure to ask your doctor if they have any recommendations!


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