Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by mood swings, which range from emotional highs (mania) to emotional lows (depression). During a manic or hypomanic phase, their mood tends to be more euphoric. They’re talkative and full of energy, and they don’t need as much sleep as normal. But when their mood shifts to depressive, they have little energy and more trouble focusing, and they have trouble getting out of bed.

Sometimes, bipolar disorder and substance abuse go hand-in-hand.  In fact, the American Journal of Managed Care reported that over half of Americans struggling with bipolar disorder have also struggled with addiction at some point.

The Relationship Between These Two Disorders

A dual diagnosis (or co-occurring disorder) can make recovery more challenging, but it’s certainly possible to get sober and manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

In the depressive stage, it’s not easy to wake up every day, and bipolar individuals have little to no energy. It can really interfere with everyday life. In the manic stage, many decisions can negatively affect them, such as going on shopping sprees.

While there’s not a perfect answer to the reasons why substance abuse and bipolar disorder are related, one good reason is that someone who’s dealing with the lows and highs of bipolar disorder is attempting to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs. If they’re manic and having trouble “coming down,” they may drink or drug in an attempt to “chill out.”

Bipolar people may also find that their drinking or drugging triggers their manic or depressive states. Because bipolar people have abnormal levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, they can sometimes turn to substances to regulate their emotional states. Unfortunately, this tendency can cause dependence and addiction.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The most common symptoms of each stage of bipolar disorder are listed below.


  •  High levels of optimism
  •  Rapid thoughts and speech patterns
  •  Feelings of grandiosity
  •  Not needing much sleep
  •  Irrational behavior
  •  Lack of judgment
  •  Feeling “wired”
  •  Engaging in risky behaviors
  •  Delusions
  •  Hallucinations


  •  Increased happiness
  •  Less need for sleep
  •  Increased socializing
  •  More risk-taking behaviors
  •  Higher energy than normal


  • Intense sadness
  •  Feelings of despair
  •  Suicidal thoughts
  •  Lack of energy
  •  Sleeping a lot
  •  Appetite changes
  •  Lack of interest

Mixed Episodes

  • A combination of depression and mania

When you’re struggling with bipolar disorder, you may feel out of control, which can be frustrating.

Some people self-medicate to contend with their bipolar symptoms.

Distraught woman sitting with her legs crossed and her head in her handsYou may think this behavior will help you feel better.

But while you may feel an initial buzz or temporary numbness, the long-term effects can actually worsen your bipolar symptoms.

Dual diagnosis treatment centers can help those struggling with addiction and mental health disorders.

They’re staffed with specialists who can offer the best treatment modalities for both bipolar disorder and addiction.

Seek a Recovery Program for Dual Diagnoses

In the past, addiction and bipolar disorder were treated separately. Patients either went to drug treatment centers or mental health centers. But today, substance abuse professionals use integrated treatment to simultaneously treat both diagnoses.

Therefore, a patient may receive the following services at a single treatment center:

  •  Mental health counseling
  •  Addiction recovery counseling
  •  Psychiatric medication
  •  Relapse prevention care

Approaches to Therapy

When attending a treatment center for bipolar disorder and substance abuse, various approaches to therapy will be implemented. These approaches include the following:

  • To contend with the thoughts and beliefs underneath the behaviors, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) may be used. These forms of therapy have been known to help manage the emotions that oftentimes overwhelm the patient.
  • Support groups are often employed as well, as patients report they get a lot out of being able to share with their peers. In groups, topics like triggers, relapse prevention, and coping skills can be explored.
  • Psychiatric medication may be used to treat the symptoms of bipolar disorder, including antidepressants and antipsychotics.

Reach Out for Help Today

Attending an addiction treatment facility that specializes in treating dually diagnosed adults can help you overcome addiction and manage your bipolar symptoms. But you don’t have to keep struggling, as medications and techniques will help you learn how to regain control of your life.

If you struggle with both substance abuse and bipolar disorder, it’s time to seek professional help. Or if you’re not sure if you’re having highs and lows with being diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, meeting with a mental health expert for assessment can be helpful.

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