Co-Occurring Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

It is common for many addicted individuals to have co-occurring problems with mental health such as bipolar disorder. This unique mental health condition is also known as manic depression and can lead to intense mood swings between emotional lows and highs. 

Patients suffering from bipolar disorder are more likely to fall victim to drugs or alcohol addiction. Even though studies on the connection between bipolar disorder and addiction are limited, it is proven that substances can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Drugs or alcohol can cause bipolar disorder even to those who have no history of any mental health condition. 

How Addiction and Bipolar Disorder Are Linked?

As mentioned earlier, bipolar disorder patients can experience severe mood swings. The episodes of such highs and lows can last for days or even weeks in some cases. The frequency of such episodes can be several times a week or a few times throughout the year. It severely affects a patient’s ability to focus and energy levels.

Bipolar disorder can be caused due to several causes. However, genes and chemical imbalances in the brain are the most common causes of this condition while a traumatic environment is one of the biggest risk factors. As long as symptoms of bipolar disorder are considered, patients may experience problems in personal relationships, financial troubles, addiction, legal trouble, and even death. In most cases, bipolar disorder patients abuse drugs or alcohol to ease the difficulties that are caused by this condition. Patients majorly experience four types of episodes. Let us take a look at them one by one.

Major Depressive Episodes

Patients suffering from major depressive episodes go through serious depression. They are uninterested in even those activities which they once used to like. If the depression lasts for at least 2 weeks for a bipolar disorder patient, it is termed as a major depressive episode. 

Manic Episodes

Manic episodes cause extreme happiness or hostility in a patient. Generally, such episodes can last for a week. If it lasts for more than a week, our health care experts suggest finding a reputable drug and alcohol rehab.

Hypomanic Episodes

Hypomanic episodes exhibit almost similar symptoms as manic episodes. The only major difference between these episodes is that hypomanic episodes are relatively less severe and can last for up to 4 days.

Mixed Episodes

Patients who suffer mixed episodes experience traits of all other types of episodes such as manic, hypomanic, and major depressive.

Bipolar disorder is categorized into two types — Bipolar I and Bipolar II disorder. The symptoms for both are different. Patients with bipolar I disorder can undergo several mixed or manic episodes followed by the hypomanic and major depressive episodes. Patients with bipolar II disorder undergo major depressive episodes followed by the traits of the hypomanic episodes. Due to the more severity of symptoms, bipolar I disorder is more dangerous as compared to bipolar II disorder. 

Bipolar disorder patients often count on drugs or alcohol to find relief from the symptoms. While it is true that some substances can ease troubles related to manic and major depressive episodes, they can take a major toll on both physical and mental health in the long run.

What Is Drug-Sourced Bipolar Disorder?

Regular substance abuse can lead to major changes in the brain. It activates the reward system of your brain and you start experiencing pleasure from substance use. However, it comes with some serious consequences. It encourages drug-seeking and compulsive behavior. You get dependent on substances to experience happiness and if you are not high, even the most loved activities cannot interest you. 

What Are The Effects of Bipolar Disorder?

Major depressive episodes and manic episodes show different symptoms. Symptoms of bipolar disorder vary from person to person. Patients who are suffering from addiction and bipolar disorder both can experience more severe symptoms. 

Common Symptoms Of Manic Episodes

  • Preoccupation with a specific goal
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Extreme talkativeness
  • Inflated sense of self-confidence
  • Risky attitude
  • Hyperactivity
  • Difficulties in focusing
  • Racing thoughts

Sometimes, manic episode symptoms are so intense that patients find it difficult to function while in a social environment. Such patients need medical assistance as it can lead to severe damage if not addressed on time. It cannot be drug abuse that always causes manic episodes. This makes the diagnosis of bipolar disorder more difficult if the bipolar disorder patient is addicted to any substance.

Common Symptoms Of Major Depressive Episodes

  • Loss of pleasure in even the most enjoyable tasks
  • Sudden weight gain or loss
  • Difficulty to concentrate
  • Feeling hopeless or depressed all the time
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Loss of sleep
  • Feeling unworthy 
  • Feeling guilty
  • Constant restlessness
  • Fatigue

Patients suffering from major depressive episodes struggle to function in a social environment. Such episodes need to last for at least 2 weeks to qualify for its medical definition. Its link with drug abuse is similar to that of manic episodes. This means that drug abuse does not lead to true major depressive episodes.

What Are The Treatments For Bipolar Disorder And Addiction?

When it is about treating co-occurring bipolar disorder and addiction, health care experts treat both conditions at the same time. While therapies and medications are some of the most common treatment options for this condition, medications depend on what type of drug the patient is abusing.


The following are the common medications that are used to treat mood swings in bipolar disorder patients. 

  • Benzodiazepines
  • Antipsychotics
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Lithium

No matter if the patient is experiencing major depressive episodes or manic episodes, these medications can help them bring back the stability in their lives. As Benzodiazepines can lead to addiction, doctors are more careful when prescribing them.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

CBT is one of the most effective therapies to treat co-occurring bipolar disorder and addiction. It targets negative thoughts and psychology. This therapy helps patients to examine thoughts that cause major depressive episodes and manic episodes. It benefits them for preparing for cravings and behavioral management.

Final Words

Generally, diagnosing bipolar disorder is tougher than diagnosing addiction. Patients with a history of bipolar disorder are at more risk of drug abuse. 

Medical experts recommend finding a medical facility that offers dual diagnoses for such patients. If you or someone you love is suffering from this problem, it is best to know when to use a drug abuse hotline.


Author’s Bio

Jack Petti

Jack was a victim of addiction when he was just 12. Today, he is dedicated to healing people facing the same issues that he once faced. Apart from being the Chief Executive Officer at Renaissance Recovery. Jack handles and manages several other roles at the company. He is known for his work with clients that helped them build a strong and solid foundation for recovery. 


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