Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

When you suffer from a mental illness, it can take over your entire life. Combine that mental illness with a substance use disorder, and it can take over your entire world. One mental illness that can be particularly difficult to manage when it occurs with addiction is bipolar disorder. To manage co-occurring bipolar and substance abuse disorders, you need to first learn everything there is to know about each of these disorders individually. For example, you need to know what causes a person to suffer from each of these disorders. 

You should also learn what the signs and symptoms are for each of these disorders so that you can be aware if you or your loved one is suffering from one or both of them. If you do find out that you suffer from bipolar and substance abuse disorders simultaneously, you’ll need to seek out co-occurring disorder treatment

Since co-occurring disorder treatment is slightly different from bipolar disorder treatment or addiction treatment, it’s important to pick up on whether or not you suffer from both of these disorders simultaneously as soon as possible. 

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that’s characterized by extreme mood swings, energy shifts, and changes in behavior. Another name for bipolar disorder is manic depression. This is because people with bipolar disorder experience such highs and lows that when they are low they experience depression

The manic part of the name manic depression is due to the crazy and “manic” shift from depression to happiness that occurs in people with bipolar disorder. The number of bipolar episodes that you can experience in a year range from nearly never to multiple times a year. 

When you suffer from such highs and lows in such a short time span, it can affect your sleep, memory, behavior, judgment, activity, and ability to think. As a result, people with bipolar disorder often struggle with maintaining healthy relationships and financial stability. People with bipolar disorder also often have accidental injuries and suicide attempts. People with bipolar disorder are even more susceptible to suffering from addiction. 

Individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder need to find treatment so that they can manage the disorder throughout their lifetime. Despite all of the issues that a person with bipolar disorder will likely suffer from, with the right medications and therapy you can live a life full of happiness and success.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are multiple types of bipolar disorder. The different types of bipolar disorder are described below.

Bipolar I Disorder

Someone with bipolar I disorder has had at least one manic episode that might have been preceded or followed by hypomanic or major depressive episodes. Sometimes, when people with bipolar I disorder experience mania, it may trigger a break from reality. In other words, it may trigger psychosis. Psychosis is a break from reality in the form of hallucinations, delusions, talking incoherently, etc. 

Bipolar II Disorder

If you’ve had at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode, but have never had a manic episode, you have this form of bipolar disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder

If you’ve suffered through many years of hypomania symptoms and many periods of depressive symptoms, you’ve likely had cyclothymic bipolar disorder. If you compare bipolar I disorder to bipolar II disorder, people in bipolar I disorder tend to have severe and dangerous manic episodes.

People with bipolar II disorder, on the other hand, tend to have long periods of depression. These long periods of depression can cause significant impairment. Individuals can acquire bipolar disorder at any age. Still, most people develop bipolar disorder in their teens or early twenties. 

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

A culmination of factors causes bipolar disorder. These factors are usually either genetic, biological, or environmental in nature. 

One key genetic bipolar disorder factor that makes you more likely to develop bipolar disorder is if you have a close family member with bipolar disorder. The biological factors that make you more likely to have bipolar disorder include an imbalance in neurotransmitters or hormones that affect the brain. The environmental factors that make you more likely to have bipolar disorder include going through traumatic life events like the loss of an immediate family member or abuse.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

You can separate bipolar disorder into four core sections, manic, hypomanic, major depressive, and mixed. When discussing the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, the best way to do so is to categorize the symptoms by these sections. 

Manic and Hypomanic Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Although mania and hypomania are two separate sections of bipolar disorder, the symptoms of these two sections are generally the same. The main difference between these two categories of bipolar disorder is that manic bipolar symptoms are more severe than hypomanic bipolar symptoms. Therefore, manic bipolar disorder is more likely to send you into psychosis or hospitalization than hypomanic bipolar disorder. 

Regardless, manic and hypomanic bipolar disorder symptoms are considered the “high” emotions of bipolar disorder. Both of these sections of bipolar disorder can cause functioning and upkeeping your responsibilities in day-to-day life difficult.

The symptoms of manic and hypomanic bipolar disorder include:

  • Restlessness
  • Rapid speech
  • Poor judgment
  • Impulsiveness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Racing thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Poor concentration
  • Extreme talkativeness
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Reckless decision making
  • Unusually high sex drive
  • Extreme and sudden happiness
  • Abnormally upbeat, jumpy, and wired
  • Increase in activity, energy, and agitation
  • Exaggerated sense of well-being and self-confidence
  • Sudden changes between joyfulness and irritability

Major Depressive Bipolar Symptoms

Major depressive bipolar disorder is the “low” times of having bipolar disorder. Like with manic and hypomanic bipolar disorder, suffering from major depressive bipolar disorder can make functioning and upkeeping your day-to-day life responsibilities difficult.

The symptoms of major depressive bipolar disorder include:

  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Loss of energy
  • Excessive guilt
  • Indecisiveness
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Restlessness or slowed behavior
  • Significant weight loss or weight gain
  • Sudden increase or decrease in appetite
  • Insomnia/ sleeping too much or too little
  • Loss of interest in participating in pleasurable activities
  • Extreme feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and emptiness

Mixed Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Mixed bipolar disorder is characterized by a mixture of manic, hypomanic, and major depressive traits and symptoms. Therefore the symptoms of mixed bipolar disorder are a mixture of several of the symptoms that we previously listed in the manic and hypomanic and major depressive bipolar symptoms lists.

What is Addiction?

Addiction to substances is evident when a person that has a dependency on substances and thus cannot minimize their use of them without experiencing withdrawals, goes the extra mile to exhibit risky behavior just to be able to function and obtain those substances. 

Causes of Addiction

A plethora of reasons can cause addiction to develop within a person. Some of those reasons are genetic, while others are environmental or emotional. Exposure to substances can also help cause addiction to develop. 


If your parents are addicts, you are 25% more likely to develop an addiction than someone whose parents aren’t addicts. Also, 40%-60% of people with a predisposition to addiction comes from genetics. It also doesn’t help that pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters release chemicals to the brain that help cause addiction. 

Emotional Factors

Emotions such as anger, happiness, stress, loneliness, and fatigue can cause someone to turn to substances to cope. The extensive use of substances at this time can then cause addiction.

Environmental Factors

Your upbringing can also cause you to develop an addiction. For example, if you grew up in a household where people abused alcohol and substances, you may be more likely to develop an addiction. Ultimately, the more you expose yourself to substance abuse throughout your life, the more likely that you’ll develop an addiction at some point.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

The signs and symptoms of addiction are primarily either physiological or behavioral in nature. 

Physiological Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

  • Nausea 
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea 
  • Seizures
  • Heart palpitations
  • Poor self-hygiene 
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Withdrawal symptoms 
  • Repeated speech patterns
  • Increased drug tolerance 

Behavioral Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

  • Irritability
  • Legal issues
  • Risky behavior
  • Financial issues
  • Relationship issues
  • Change of social circle
  • Lying, cheating, and stealing
  • Secrecy about whereabouts
  • No longer participating in activities that you once enjoyed

Bipolar and Substance Abuse Disorders

When you suffer from a co-occurring disorder of bipolar and substance abuse, you’ll need to treat both disorders simultaneously to get better. Many people with bipolar disorder also develop an addiction to substances. So it’s very common for people with bipolar disorder to seek out co-occurring disorder treatment.

In fact, according to a study done by the American Journal of Managed Care, 56% of people with bipolar disorder also experienced drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime. According to this study, 46% of those people had an addiction to alcohol while 41% abused drugs. 

Many people with bipolar disorder also abuse substances as a way to cope with the manic highs and depressive lows that come with being bipolar. This should not be a surprise since many people with mental illnesses such as depression are known to abuse substances to cope with their negative feelings. Therefore, since depression is a major component of bipolar disorder, people that are bipolar do the same. 

Abusing substances can also trigger bipolar disorder in people that have a predisposition to the illness. This is because regular drug use creates physical changes in the brain. One of these physical changes makes drug use trigger the pleasure-inducing part of the brain which makes you crave drugs more. 

Another physical change to the brain that drug use often causes is the rewiring to the parts of the brain that control your mood and behavior. As a result, extended drug use could rewire your brain in a way that causes bipolar disorder. 

Effects of Bipolar and Substance Abuse Disorder

When suffering from bipolar and substance abuse disorders, you may feel like you are going through withdrawals while also experiencing bouts of energy and elevated mood. Some of the symptoms and effects of bipolar disorder look very similar to that of addiction. This sometimes makes it hard to distinguish if someone has one of these diseases or both. That’s why you’ll need someone trained in co-occurring disorders to diagnose you with bipolar and substance abuse. 

Bipolar Disorder Therapy and Treatment

To treat your bipolar and substance abuse problem in a way that will help you manage your issues long-term, you’ll need to treat both disorders simultaneously. The treatment of bipolar and substance abuse consists of medication and bipolar disorder therapy. 

The addiction treatment medications used in the treatment of this co-occurring disorder are meant to ease withdrawal symptoms during detox. The medications that your physician will prescribe you for the addiction part of your co-occurring disorder will depend on the type of substances that you abuse. 

The medications that your doctor will prescribe you for your bipolar disorder is meant to calm your mood and create emotional equilibrium within yourself. Common types of medications that doctors prescribe to treat bipolar disorder include anticonvulsants, antipsychotics, lithium, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines. 

Common forms of therapy used to treat bipolar and substance abuse include cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal and social rhythm therapy, psychoeducation, family therapy, and electroconvulsive therapy. Acupuncture, supplements, and healthy lifestyle changes such as exercise, healthy eating, getting a full night’s worth of sleep each night, and obtaining healthy and fun hobbies can also help in your treatment of bipolar and substance abuse. 

Silver Linings Recovery Center Has Everything You Need to Treat Your Co-Occurring Disorder

At Silver Linings Recovery Center, we provide a wide variety of addiction treatment and mental health therapy services. Therefore you should have no problem treating your bipolar and substance abuse problem with us. We even offer medication-assisted therapy for patients that need it, like those with bipolar and substance abuse issues. Whether you want your bipolar and substance abuse treatment to be inpatient or outpatient, we have a treatment plan option for you. To learn more about Silver Linings Recovery Center and the treatment programs and services that we provide, contact us anytime.


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