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Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Treatment

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substance abuseWhen it comes to addiction and addiction treatment, co-occurring disorders are fairly common. A co-occurring disorder is used to describe a situation where a person is suffering from substance abuse and a mental health condition at the same time. An example of this is bipolar disorder and substance abuse. 

The combination of bipolar disorder and substance abuse can be dangerous if not treated properly. Someone who suffers from bipolar disorder already experiences extreme mood swings and mixing illicit substances with those mood swings such as drugs or alcohol can oftentimes make those mood swings even worse.

On this page, we will discuss what exactly bipolar disorder is, the different forms of bipolar disorder, some of the signs and symptoms of the different forms of bipolar disorder, and how you or a loved one can get the help that they need when it comes to bipolar disorder and addiction treatment.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme highs and lows. Also known as manic depression, the emotional highs of bipolar disorder are referred to as mania or hypomania, while the lows are referred to as depression. Depending on the type and severity of a person’s bipolar disorder, these extreme mood episodes can last days or even weeks. 

Bipolar disorder is typically the result of imbalanced chemicals in the brain, although in some cases a person’s genetic makeup can also lead to the development of bipolar disorder. Many who suffer from bipolar disorder turn to drugs or alcohol in order to try and alleviate some of their symptoms so that they can feel better.

What Are the Different Types of Bipolar Disorder?

While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders only formally recognizes 2 forms of bipolar disorder (bipolar I and bipolar II), there are numerous variations of the mental health condition. 

Below are some of the different variations of bipolar disorder.

bipolar disorder and substance abuse

People suffering from Bipolar I typically experience a more severe transition from mania to depression. They often experience sudden and severe mood swings that can last for weeks at a time. In some extreme cases, hospitalization is required in order to protect the person due, in part, to their inability to function properly during an episode. 

Someone diagnosed with Bipolar II might experience less extreme transitions between emotional states. While their depressive episodes might last longer, they might also experience hypomania, which is a milder manic episode. People who suffer from Bipolar II tend to struggle less when it comes to basic functionality, however, it can still interfere with their daily activities.

Cyclothymia is a much milder form of bipolar disorder. Someone with cyclothymia will typically experience less severe depressive and hypomanic episodes. Each episode tends to last significantly less than it would in someone with Bipolar I or II.

This variation of bipolar disorder involves the person suffering from it experiencing both manic and depressive episodes simultaneously. 

Rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is characterized by multiple, rapidly alternating episodes of mania and depression. Those suffering from another form of bipolar disorder might experience phases of rapid cycling. During a rapid cycling period, it is not uncommon for depression to be more severe as well as self-destructive behavior and even suicidal attempts. 

What Are the Different Episodes That A Person With Bipolar Disorder May Experience?

Regardless of the type of depression, someone might suffer from, they all share some common traits. One of those traits is cycling through a variety of episodes. In fact, at any given point, there are several types of episodes that a person with bipolar disorder might experience.

While manic and hypomania are technically two different episodes, they share many of the same symptoms. As mentioned above, mania is more severe than hypomania and can even lead to hospitalization. Manic episodes can last a week or more whereas hypomanic episodes tend to last 3 to 4 days.

In order to be considered a manic or hypomanic episode, three or more of the following symptoms must be involved:

  • Racing thoughts
  • Poor decision making
  • Being easily distracted
  • Being very talkative
  • Increased energy or agitation
  • Being abnormally cheery, upbeat, or jumpy
  • Having an exaggerated sense of well-being or self-confidence
  • Lack of a need for sleep

A depressive episode can be so severe that inhibits the person experiencing it from being able to perform daily activities such as going to work or school. In order to qualify for a depressive episode, five or more of the following symptoms must be experienced:

  • Thinking about or attempting suicide
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of energy
  • Either not being able to sleep or sleeping too much
  • Restlessness
  • Slowed behavior
  • Feeling worthless
  • Experiencing inappropriate guilt
  • Significant changes in weight or eating habits
  • Feeling no pleasure
  • Depressed mood
  • Decreased ability to concentrate or think straight 


In some cases, a person might experience what is known as a mixed episode. During a mixed episode, the person may experience symptoms associated with both mania or hypomania and depression at the same time.

What Is the Correlation Between Addiction and Bipolar Disorder?

Many who suffer from bipolar disorder struggle with what the condition does to them. They might not fully understand why they are feeling the way they are or might be too embarrassed or ashamed to talk to someone about it or ask for help. This feeling of shame and guilt is particularly strong during a depressive episode. In order to feel “normal” or better again, many who suffer from bipolar disorder turn to drugs and alcohol as a way of self-medicating. While at the time this might seem like a good idea and might even provide some temporary relief, in the long run, it can actually make their condition worse. In fact, taking substances of abuse while suffering from bipolar disorder has been known to intensify many of the symptoms associated with bipolar disorder, intensify and increase the length of episodes, and even increase the chances of a suicide attempt. While most people who battle bipolar and addiction developed their addiction due to having bipolar disorder, in some cases substance abuse can actually result in the development of bipolar disorder. This can happen because drug and alcohol abuse and addiction can cause chemical changes in the brain. These chemical changes can lead to the development of a mental health condition that wasn’t previously there, such as bipolar disorder.

Are There Treatment Plans For Bipolar Disorder and Addiction?

For someone who is dealing with bipolar disorder and then develops a substance abuse problem as a result, it might seem like there is no relief in sight. It’s important to remember though that there are treatment options available for both bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Before any sort of treatment can begin though, the first step is to detox. Detoxing is done so that the body can rid itself of any and all harmful substances that are in it so that it can begin the healing process. Due to the nature of detox and the symptoms associated with withdrawals, the safest and most efficient way to detox is to do so under the care and supervision of trained medical professionals. This can be done at either a local medical facility, a dedicated detox center, or a treatment center that also provides detox services. Attempting to self-detox can be dangerous and can also increase the chances of a relapse. Once detox has been completed, then treatment can begin. For those suffering from bipolar and addiction, most treatment professionals recommend a combination of medication treatment to help address the bipolar disorder and traditional therapy to help with the substance abuse. Some medications that have been found to be effective in treating bipolar disorder include:
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Antipsychotic medications
  • Blood pressure medications
  • Anticonvulsant medications
In addition to medications, many different types of therapies have also proven to be effective when it comes to treating bipolar disorder and addiction. Some effective therapy options for treating co-occurring disorders, including bipolar disorder that we offer at Casco Bay Recovery include:

Are You Looking For Treatment for Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse?

bipolar disorder and substance abuse therapySuffering from both substance abuse and bipolar disorder can oftentimes feel like a losing battle. Many people feel like they are alone and have nobody to turn to. It’s important to remember that you are not alone and there are people out there that want to help you.

At Casco Bay Recovery we offer a variety of treatment programs including dual diagnosis treatment programs. If you or someone you know is suffering from a co-occurring disorder such as bipolar disorder and substance abuse, contact us today. We want to make sure you get the help that you need so that you can live a happy, healthy, and sober life.