Substance Abuse in People With Bipolar Disorder

The Truth About Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder entails a mental health mood disorder that impacts your ability to regulate your emotions as you experience highs and lows in your emotional state. With approximately 5.7 million Americans currently living with bipolar disorder, the need for effective treatment methods is crucial. 

Bipolar disorder is characterized by experiencing radical shifts in mood that come in episodes that typically last for a few days and, in some cases, weeks. These episodes can impact your ability to concentrate and affect your energy levels, either going into manic episodes or depressive states. There are four standard bipolar episodes that individuals will face:

  • Manic episodes: Individuals will exhibit signs of extreme happiness and over-the-top cheerfulness or hostility. These episodes can cause severe behavior and may require hospitalization to treat and stabilize your emotions. 
  • Hypomanic episodes: These are shorter than manic episodes, only lasting for a couple of days. The signs and behaviors are similar to manic disorders. 
  • Depressive episodes: Lasts for a minimum of two weeks, and individuals will experience extreme depressive states where a person becomes uninterested in activities that once brought joy and happiness. 
  • Mixed episodes: Some individuals will experience a mix of depressive, manic, and hypomanic episodes. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction, call WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab today at 877.969.1993 to learn how we can help.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

For those individuals living with bipolar disorder, it is common to search for methods to treat the symptoms of bipolar through drug or alcohol use as a method of self-medicating. While individuals will feel momentary relief from the unpleasant symptoms of bipolar, the use of alcohol and drugs increases the severity of symptoms felt. This process works to further the cycle of substance abuse and addiction. 

There are incidents where someone does not have bipolar disorder and begins abusing alcohol and drugs. The more you increase your drug and alcohol use, the more it changes your brain functioning, including the reward system that impacts the pleasure you feel from using drugs or alcohol. As your reward system changes from substance abuse, someone will likely engage in risk-taking, compulsive behavior. Alcohol and drug use has been proven to affect the brain by rewiring the brain’s capacity to feel moods and shift reactions that can lead to developing bipolar disorder. 

If an addiction does form, these are some of the diseases drug users are at risk of catching:

What Diseases Can You Get From Drug Abuse?

Signs of Co-Occurring Bipolar Disorder And Substance Abuse

The common signs of this condition include:

  • Difficulty maintaining employment 
  • Using alcohol or drugs to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder 
  • Change in weight and appetite 
  • Engaging in substance abuse to overcome unpleasant emotions such as stress, fear, or anxiety 
  • Extreme shifts in mood and energy levels 
  • Severe feelings of stress, worry, or tension 
  • Inability to maintain relationships due to behavior changes 
  • Isolate from friends, family, and colleagues 
  • Shifts and disturbances in sleep patterns 
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or, in some cases, suicidal ideation 

How Bipolar Disorder Is Diagnosed

Diagnosing bipolar disorder can be challenging when experiencing a co-occurring condition of addiction and bipolar due to symptoms in both diseases mirroring each other in many circumstances. To properly diagnose bipolar in these circumstances, physicians will complete the following tests to determine the severity:

  • Psychological tests 
  • Medical exams 
  • Documenting mood charts 
  • Comparing symptoms and results from tests 

Treating Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

To effectively treat a co-occurring disorder of bipolar and addiction, a patient will be invited to participate in a dual diagnosis treatment program. This treatment will focus on ending your cycle of drug or alcohol addiction while assisting you to manage your bipolar disorder through the use of medications and evidence-based therapy methods. 

Medications Used to Treat Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Medications are an effective tool in assisting to stabilize a person’s bipolar disorder by regulating moods, responses to situations and providing a sense of balance and calm within the individual. There have been positive effects from the use of medications in assisting with efficiently removing the influences of drugs or alcohol and easing the severity of withdrawal symptoms. 

Medications offered to treat bipolar disorder are:

  • Antipsychotics 
  • Benzodiazepines 
  • Lithium 
  • Anticonvulsants 

WhiteSands’ Dual Diagnosis Treatment

WhiteSands Alcohol and Drug Rehab offers a dual diagnosis treatment program for addiction that will assist patients in finding a healthy balance within their lives and alleviate the severity of episodes experienced by bipolar without having to self-medicate with the use of alcohol and drugs. Our team will provide patients with the clarity they need on understanding the root causes of addiction and the triggers associated with their drug and alcohol use. Patients will learn practical, holistic tools to overcome potential barriers to success in sobriety and stable mental health through our individualized approach to treatment. We are waiting for your call to get you started on the path to a healthy, well-balanced life free of adverse outcomes from mental health and addiction. 

If you or a loved one needs help with abuse and/or treatment, please call the WhiteSands Treatment at (877) 855-3470. Our addiction specialists can assess your recovery needs and help you get the addiction treatment that provides the best chance for your long-term recovery.

About the Author

Jackie has been involved in the substance abuse and addiction treatment sector for over five years and this is something that she is truly eager about. She has a passion for writing and continuously works to create informative pieces that not only educate and inform the public about the disease of addiction but also provide solutions for those who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse.