Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar disorder affects roughly 2.8% of the U.S. population. It’s a mental health disorder that is characterized by extreme mood swings, which include emotional highs (mania/hypomania) and lows (depression). Bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition, meaning there is no cure.

The mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are much different than the normal ups and downs that people experience on a daily basis. Bipolar disorder mood swings can put the person at risk of hurting themselves or other people. Someone who suffers from bipolar disorder may experience episodes very rarely, or several times per year.

The cause of bipolar disorder is largely unknown. However, there are some factors that appear to increase a person’s risk. Studies show that people who have a family history of mood disorders are more likely to develop bipolar disorder. It’s also believed that people who have certain brain chemical deficiencies or imbalances are more predisposed to the development of bipolar symptoms.

On its own, bipolar disorder can be dangerous. But it’s also not uncommon for people with bipolar disorder to abuse drugs and alcohol. Some people abuse substances as a way to self-medicate and control their symptoms. Others turn to drugs and alcohol during manic or depressive episodes. Bipolar disorder and substance abuse disorder need to be addressed early on and treated by a professional to avoid more serious issues down the line.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

Depending on the severity of a person’s addiction, there are different treatment options to consider. Some forms of bipolar disorder include:

Bipolar I Disorder

This form of bipolar disorder is characterized by dramatic shifts between mania and depression. These mood swings are the most sudden and severe among the various types of bipolar disorder. Mood swings can impair a person’s ability to function and typically last at least two weeks. In some cases, individuals need to be hospitalized to protect their safety.

Bipolar II Disorder

With bipolar II disorder, mood fluctuations are less severe than in bipolar I disorder. Depressive episodes may last longer, and a person may experience periods of hypomania, which are less severe episodes of mania. People with bipolar II disorder can typically function at a higher level, but it can still interfere with their ability to live a normal life.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder, or cyclothymia, is another form of bipolar disorder, but it’s less severe than bipolar I and bipolar II disorder. The mood swings are not as extreme and typically don’t last as long. But when left untreated, people with cyclothymia can eventually develop bipolar disorder.

Rapid-Cycling Bipolar

This form of bipolar disorder is characterized by numerous rapidly-shifting phases of depression and mania. The depression phase of rapid-cycling bipolar disorder is more extreme than other forms of depression. People with this kind of bipolar disorder are more likely to engage in self-destructive or suicidal behaviors during depressive periods.

Other Types

Some people with bipolar disorder experience symptoms of depression and mania at the same time. This is often referred to as “mixed symptoms” or mixed bipolar disorder. It causes a person to feel despair, sadness, and low levels of self-esteem while simultaneously feeling extremely energized and restless.

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If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction or dual-diagnosis, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

All forms of bipolar disorder share similar symptoms.

The most obvious sign of bipolar disorder is drastic mood swings that are more noticeable and severe than what a person would normally experience. These episodes impact a person’s personality, mentality, and behavior.

Bipolar disorder episodes are generally unpredictable and uncontrollable. It’s possible for these mood shifts to follow patterns, but it’s not common. When someone experiences a manic episode followed by a depressive episode or vice versa, it’s called a cycle.

Some research has found that on average, people with bipolar disorder have one or two cycles per year. Manic episodes are more likely to occur in the spring and fall months.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder fall into one of two categories: depressive or manic. Depressive symptoms may include:

  • Low energy levels
  • Feelings of despair or hopelessness
  • Fatigue
  • Negative feelings of self-worth
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Suicidal thoughts

Manic symptoms may include:

  • Poor judgement
  • Racing thoughts
  • Feelings of grandness
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Angry outbursts
  • High levels of energy or enthusiasm
  • Rapid speech
  • Restlessness

The Link Between Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar disorder can be a difficult illness to live with, especially if it’s not managed properly. To deal with the severe mood swings, some people with bipolar disorder use drugs and alcohol to numb themselves from feeling the extreme highs and lows. While it may provide temporary relief, it’s problematic for a few reasons.

Using drugs and alcohol during a bipolar episode is extremely dangerous. People who are dealing with mania or depression are already susceptible to self-harm and reckless behavior. When drugs and alcohol are added to the mix, the risk of injury is much higher. Not to mention, substances can often make bipolar disorder symptoms much worse.

Dual-diagnosis treatment is imperative for people who struggle with addiction and bipolar disorder simultaneously. Addiction and bipolar disorder rarely improve on their own without professional help. Additionally, it’s common for bipolar disorder to go undiagnosed for years until a person is in treatment for addiction.

At Nexus Recovery, our clinical team has experience treating bipolar disorder, addiction, and dual-diagnosis disorders. We believe that treating co-occurring conditions together is imperative for a successful recovery, and to reduce a client’s risk of relapsing.

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Our approach to mental health and substance abuse treatment is multifaceted. We use a combination of evidence-based treatments and holistic therapies to heal the body, mind, and soul as one. Some of the treatment therapies used in our dual-diagnosis clinical program include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT)
  • Gestalt therapy
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR)
  • Art therapy
  • Music therapy
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Yoga

If you or someone you love is struggling with bipolar disorder and addiction, give us a call at (310) 881-9151 to learn more about our dual-diagnosis treatment program.

If you or a loved one are suffering from addiction or dual-diagnosis, we’re here to help. Contact us today and speak with one of our trusted recovery advisors.

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