Bipolar Disorder

In many cases, substance use disorder (SUD) is accompanied by a mental illness such as bipolar disorder. This is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring condition. It is important that individuals suffering from both, get treated for conditions or that a person is more likely to relapse.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes severe high and low moods.  This order is also known as manic depression.  It can affect a person’s sleep, energy level, thinking, and behavior.  The term “bipolar” describes the two opposite “poles” of moods that a person who is suffering from this disorder experiences.

Individuals with bipolar disorder have periods of feeling overly happy and energized; whereas they will feel sad, hopeless, and sluggish during other periods.  People with bipolar disorder are significantly more likely to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol.  If you or someone you know is battling a mental health disorder like bipolar disorder, and a co-occurring disorder like substance abuse.  Our healthcare professionals can treat your bipolar disorder and substance abuse problem.

A Deeper Look at Bipolar Disorder and the Symptoms

When a bipolar person is going through a “manic” phase, they can become irritable, impulsive, or make reckless decisions.  About half of sufferers may experience delusions or hallucinations during mania.

“Hypomania” is considered to be milder symptoms of mania.  An individual with hypomania will not experience hallucinations or delusions, and their high symptoms won’t interfere with daily life.

The term “depressive” are periods of extreme sadness or depression.  These symptoms can be compared to those experienced in major depressive disorder or “clinical depression,” which is when a person doesn’t have the highs that are in manic or hypomanic episodes.  The majority of bipolar sufferers experience more depressive symptoms than manic or hypomanic symptoms.

The dramatic high and low moods in episodes of bipolar don’t follow a set pattern.  If you have this condition, you can experience the same mood state, depressed or manic, many times before switching to the opposite mood.  Episodes can last for weeks, months, or some in extreme cases, years. 

Some symptoms of mania (the highs) can include:

  • Excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Sudden mood changes (from being joyful to being irritable or hostile)
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid speech and poor concentration
  • Increase energy and less need for sleep
  • Abnormally high sex drive
  • Making grand and unrealistic plans
  • Showing poor judgment
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Increase in impulsive behavior

Depressive moods, or “low periods” may include:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness
  • Lack of interest in things you once enjoyed
  • Problems concentrating
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Struggle with decision making
  • Irritability
  • Needing more sleep
  • Insomnia
  • Changes in appetite that can cause you to gain or lose weight
  • Death or suicidal thoughts
  • Attempting suicides

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

If you are struggling with bipolar disorder and a drug or alcohol problem, you may have a dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and substance abuse.  A dual diagnosis, or a co-occurring disorder, can make recovery more difficult. The emotional instability of bipolar disorder can interfere with a bipolar individual’s recovery program, making it harder to abide by treatment plan guidelines.  Bipolar individuals may experience times of intense depression alternating with periods of heightened activity and an exaggerated sense of self-importance when severe bipolar disorder co-occurs with an alcohol or drug addiction, the risk of adverse outcomes increases.

Bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder often occur together.  The connection between bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse isn’t fully understood, but some factors that may likely play a role are:

  • Inherited Traits – There are genetic differences that appear to affect brain chemistry linked to bipolar disorder.  These traits may also affect the way the brain responds to alcohol and other drugs, which increases the risk of alcohol abuse and addiction to drugs.
  • Depression and Anxiety – Some people turn to alcohol to relieve symptoms like depression and anxiety that occur with bipolar disorder.  At first, you may think the drinking is helping, but in the long run, it makes the symptoms worse, which is the beginning of a vicious cycle that is hard to overcome.
  • Mania – This elated, euphoric “high phase” mood of bipolar disorder involves hyperactivity.  During this episode, it is common for you to have poor judgment and lowered inhibitions, which can increase alcohol or drug use.

As you can see, bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder or types of substance abuse is a dangerous and potentially dangerous combination.  Each can worsen the effects of the other. If you are battling both of these conditions, you are at a higher risk of mood swings, depression, violence, and suicide.

Diagnosis

Bipolar disorder typically occurs near the end of adolescence and the early part of adulthood with about half of those being diagnosed being under the age of 25.  If you think that you or someone you know has symptoms of bipolar disorder, it is best to speak with a healthcare professional, doctor, or psychiatrist. They will ask questions about mental illnesses that may run in the family.  A complete psychiatric evaluation will be done to determine if the issue is bipolar disorder or another mental health condition. Other physical health conditions, like low thyroid, or mood symptoms caused by drug or alcohol abuse, will have to be excluded.  The severity, length, and frequency of symptoms will also be factored in when confirming a diagnosis. The most obvious signs are those that involve high and low moods in conjunction with changes in sleep, energy, thinking, and behavior.

Treatment

Bipolar disorder is seen as a lifelong disease for most people that are diagnosed, but medical treatment can help to alleviate symptoms and maintain stable moods.  Treatment is also available for people battling bipolar disorder and substance abuse.  A combination of therapies is an effective method of treatment.  Psychiatric medications, individual and group therapy, and intensive substance abuse treatment can assist you with achieving balance, being productive, and experiencing a better quality of life.

If you or your loved one would like to seek treatment for bipolar disorder and substance abuse, take the first step today by speaking with one of our representatives at (636) 707-2097. You can also read more about our treatment options for co-occurring disorders and learn about our rehabilitation center on our website.

References:

www.mayoclinic.org

Article Reviewed by David Sherman, MD

David Sherman, MDDavid Sherman, MD is a Fellow of the American Society of Addiction Medicine (FASAM) and board certified in Addiction Medicine with the American Board of Preventive Medicine. He is a native Missourian and graduated medical school at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine. Dr. Sherman completed a two-year fellowship in Addiction Medicine at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He leads a highly trained staff of master level certified addiction professionals. Men and women from all over Missouri and the United States come to Sana Lake Recovery Center to get the care they need and deserve.