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Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use Disorder, Use of Alcohol and Drugs Linked to Bipolar Disorder, What Is Bipolar Disorder

What Is Bipolar Disorder? Can It Lead to Addiction?

By on Jul 20, 2023 in Addiction, Blog

“You’re bipolar.” It’s a statement people make when they are judging a person’s behavior or moods. But bipolar is much more than periodic contradictory behavior. In reality, bipolar disorder is a very real mental health disorder that impacts millions of people. It is a serious condition, one that impacts every facet of a person’s life and can carry the risk of co-occurring disorders, including drug and alcohol addiction.

Between 30 and 50% of people with bipolar disorder will develop a substance use disorder, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Addiction puts people at a very high risk of not only reckless behavior and overdose but also of suicide.

If you suspect your loved one or yourself have bipolar disorder or may be at risk for it, seek out immediate help. 

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a chronic mental health condition noted for causing changes in mood, activity levels, and energy levels at an unusual and sometimes unpredictable level. This type of mood shifting can make it hard for a person to:

  • Engage in healthy relationships
  • Succeed at school
  • Perform their job duties consistently well
  • Manage family responsibilities
  • Maintain a social life

A person with this condition will typically experience two very different emotional states. The first is mania, in which they feel very excited and full of energy. They may also be very self-confident and on a constant high that mimics the high brought about by substance use. 

The second emotional state is that of depression, which is often coupled with feelings of being sad and withdrawn even when there is no obvious reason for this. Many people become listless and even despondent.

This describes the very basic structure of bipolar disorder, but this condition is often much more complicated. For example, people with bipolar may go through times of feeling pretty normal or balanced. Other times, they may feel both mania and depressive symptoms seemingly at the same time. Most often, mania symptoms (which are not always a positive feeling) will last at least a week. Some people will also experience periods of four days or longer in which they have hypomania, a less severe form of mania. 

Why Is the Use of Alcohol and Drugs Linked to Bipolar Disorder?

It’s not fully understood why people who have bipolar disorder are at a higher level of risk for drug and alcohol use or substance use. However, a wide range of factors are likely involved.

Genetic makeup

A person who has a family history of substance use disorder and mental health disorders may be at a higher risk for developing a co-occurring disorder. 

Symptom relief

Some people turn to drugs and alcohol to help manage the intense symptoms of mania and depressive episodes. Consistent use of drugs in these situations can ultimately lead to dependence, making it difficult for someone to stop using.

Mental health related-onset

Sometimes, substance use can trigger mental health disorders that may be dormant in a person. That is, using drugs or alcohol may have triggered the onset of the bipolar disorder symptoms you have.

What Can Be Done to Treat Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use Disorder?

One of the first steps is to have an official diagnosis. When meeting with a mental health professional, you’ll be asked questions, and your family medical history will be taken. This can provide some groundwork to better understand what you’re facing. You’ll also provide insight into your drug and alcohol use.

If you’re diagnosed with co-occurring disorders like these, you’ll have an individualized treatment plan created for you. It may include various tools and strategies to help you work through both conditions at the same time. Your treatment may include the following:

  • Detox, depending on the severity of your dependence on substances
  • Residential treatment to create a safe place to recover and work on your addiction and mental health
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of talk therapy, to help you work through these challenges
  • Treatment for bipolar disorder, which may also include medications
  • Ongoing support through experiential therapy and holistic care

Over time and with consistency, you may find that your symptoms improve, and you no longer experience those intense mood swings and the desire to use alcohol or drugs. Treatment can be effective but typically needs to be life-long.

Let Our Professionals Help and Guide You

Our team at Victory Addiction Recovery Center in Lafayette, LA, has the tools and resources to help you. Contact our admissions counselors now to learn more.

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