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The Role Bipolar Disorder Plays in Addiction

The Role Bipolar Disorder Plays in Addiction

Mental health conditions and substance abuse are frequently connected. Bipolar disorder and addiction, for instance, often have a relationship to one another. If you or someone you love is experiencing symptoms of both bipolar disorder and addiction, you’ll want to recognize the signs and pursue treatment that addresses both co-occurring conditions.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

People with bipolar disorder have extreme mood swings that alternate between periods of mania–enthusiasm, hyperactivity, and impulsiveness–and periods of depression. The term “bipolar” indicates these two opposite “poles” of emotion. While everyone feels a wide range of emotions from time to time, these intense feelings disrupt daily life in a person with bipolar disorder.

Symptoms of mania, or manic symptoms, include unusual energy, euphoria, irritability, and reckless behavior. Depressive symptoms include sadness, despair, and a loss of interest in activities. Some individuals experience “mixed episodes” with symptoms of mania and depression simultaneously.

As with many mental health disorders, bipolar disorder symptoms can range from mild to severe enough to require hospitalization.

How are Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Connected?

Since bipolar disorder and addiction are some of the most frequent co-occurring disorders, a person diagnosed with bipolar disorder is at high risk for developing substance addiction. Between 30% and 50% of people diagnosed with bipolar disorder may also have a substance use disorder during their lifetime. Alcohol is one of the most common substances abused, followed by drugs.

This co-occurrence may be so common because each condition puts an individual at risk of developing the other.

Researchers are still determining the causes of bipolar disorder, but drug and alcohol abuse may contribute to symptom development. Substance use can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder and alter the brain over long periods of use. When people are under the influence of drugs and alcohol or withdraw from substances after a period of dependence, their behavior can resemble the emotional highs and lows of severe bipolar disorder episodes.

Similarly, people with bipolar disorder are more likely to turn to substances to deal with their symptoms. Alcohol and sedatives can temporarily relieve feelings of depression. In manic states, a person’s high energy and compromised judgment may lead them to seek the euphoria or “high” of stimulants like cocaine or amphetamines. Over time, substance use can lead to dependence and addiction in each case.

These co-occurring disorders have a negative effect on the quality of life, and they increase the risk for physical injury and even suicide.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders

When someone has both bipolar disorder and addiction, mental health experts agree it’s best to treat both conditions simultaneously. This is often called “dual diagnosis” treatment or integrated treatment. The approach focuses on treating the whole person rather than isolating any specific health factor. People who receive treatment for co-occurring disorders are more likely to stay sober and find effective ways to manage their mental health condition.

Each individual’s recovery plan will be different, but treatment at a rehab facility may include:

  • Medications to manage bipolar symptoms or to ease withdrawal symptoms from substances.
  • Group therapy, where group members discuss their feelings, struggles, and successes with a trained facilitator.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), a psychotherapy technique that focuses on changing ineffective thoughts and beliefs.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), a psychotherapy technique that helps people deal with extreme emotions and self-harm urges.
  • Relapse prevention programs and education about healthy coping skills.
  • Family therapy, where family members improve communication and discuss boundaries.

Learn More at Greater Boston Addiction Centers

With a variety of programs to meet clients’ diverse needs, Greater Boston Addiction Centers’ treatment team has the expertise to handle bipolar disorder and addiction.

Partial hospitalization programs and intensive outpatient programs let clients pursue treatment on a less restrictive schedule than inpatient hospitalization without sacrificing the quality of care. Outpatient drug treatment offers evidence-based therapy to help you or a loved one overcome addiction. Therapy and counseling address the unique needs of individuals with bipolar disorder who are also working towards sobriety. Contact us at 877.920.6583 to start your journey to better health.