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The Connection Between Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

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Around 1 in 50 American adults deal with bipolar disorder at some time in their lives. More than 80% of those cases could be considered severe. Formerly known as manic depression, this condition is typified by extreme changes in behavior, mood, energy levels, cognitive function and judgment. These sudden, polarizing shifts can make it difficult to maintain employment or long-term relationships. When someone struggling with bipolar disorder tries to self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs, they make their situation even more difficult.

How Does Bipolar Disorder Happen?

While a definitive cause for bipolar disorder has not been established, there are several potential risk factors for developing the condition.

  • Genetics – Those who have relatives with anxiety, depression or other mental health issues are more likely to develop bipolar disorder.
  • Neurological conditions or hormonal imbalances – Individuals with dopamine or serotonin imbalances may also experience manic and depressive episodes. Hormonal imbalances may trigger changes in the brain that could lead to developing mental health issues.
  • Stressful or chaotic environments – Children who grow up in abusive homes have higher rates of bipolar disorder—typically showing symptoms as they hit their late teen and early adult years.
  • Sleep Deprivation – Disruptions in sleep patterns have been linked to changes to white matter of the brain, and many who develop bipolar disorder have reported sleep disturbances prior to being diagnosed.
  • Substance use – While many struggling with bipolar disorder may turn to drugs for relief, there are many cases where the condition has emerged after a person has developed an addiction.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

There are four primary types of mood episodes someone may experience with bipolar disorder.

  • Mania consists of drastic shifts between extreme optimism and pessimism. Manic episodes can include delusions or hallucinations. Someone in this state might talk quickly. Difficulty sleeping is another common symptom.
  • Hypomania presents the same symptoms as mania but often to a lesser degree. People experiencing hypomania often describe bouts of feeling hyper-productive while in this state. Risky behavior is more common.
  • Depression brings feelings of hopelessness and self-hate. You may lose interest in hobbies or relationships that once brought you happiness. Fatigue is a common symptom, and you could have suicidal thoughts.
  • Mixed episodes can feature elements of all the above. This combination of symptoms may drive higher rates of substance abuse as the person feels they need help restoring some kind of balance to their emotions and thoughts.

Complications with Bipolar and Addiction Disorders

More than half the people who deal with bipolar disorders also claim to have struggled with drug or alcohol addiction. Alcohol is the most commonly abused drug among those, and young men are the most likely to experience both disorders. Anxiety, depression, insomnia and pain are often cited as the main reasons why people feel the need to drink. Unfortunately, alcohol may trigger more and longer depressed or manic states. Drug use can intensify other issues associated with bipolar disorder such as feelings of hopelessness and suicidal thoughts.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Drug Addiction and Bipolar Disorder

It’s important to treat co-occurring conditions like addiction and bipolar disorder together. If you ignore one while treating the other, it often leads to higher rates of relapse. At Design for Change, we understand how valuable dual diagnosis treatment is for your recovery. Our recovery center has areas for therapy and relaxation, and your customized treatment plan will be focused on your individual needs. Our compassionate, knowledgeable staff and our facilities are equipped to treat both addiction and mental health issues. We work with most major insurance company policies, and our admission team is standing by to answer your questions about coverage. Whether you’re concerned about a loved one or you’re struggling with bipolar disorder and addiction yourself, we are here for you.

A young woman smiles in the foreground as her mirror image appears depressed or anxious.