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Substance Abuse and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by mood swings, which ranges 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, they may 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


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


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


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. You 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 are able to 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.

Typical Treatments for Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is incurable, but it can be effectively managed. Several treatments are beneficial for most people.
Medications are a common course of treatment for this disorder. The following are prescribed for bipolar disorder, according to the Mayo Clinic:


These might be prescribed to control hypomanic or manic episodes. They might be prescribed with an antidepressant or antipsychotic.


These medicines might be recommended for the depressive episodes that can occur with this disorder. Antidepressants are typically given along with either an antipsychotic or mood stabilizer.


Some people experience sleep issues and anxiety with bipolar disorder. These medications may help to improve these problems.


These medications might be considered if people continue to have symptoms despite other treatment. Doctors might prescribe these with a mood stabilizer or alone.


This medication is a combination of the antipsychotic olanzapine and the antidepressant fluoxetine. It works to both stabilize mood and treat depressive symptoms.

Different forms of therapy might be used with medications to help in the treatment of bipolar disorder. These may include:

Types of Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

  • Interpersonal and social rhythm therapy
  • Psychoeducation
  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Family-focused therapy

For people who do not respond to medications and therapy, their doctors might discuss transcranial magnetic stimulation or electroconvulsive therapy with them. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive procedure that might help to reduce depression symptoms in people who do not respond to medications or those who cannot tolerate the medications, according to John Hopkins Medicine.

Electroconvulsive therapy might be considered for people who do not tolerate or respond to medications. This treatment is typically considered a last resort. This therapy has been shown to be safe and effective for drug-resistant bipolar disorder and all phases of the disorder, according to research published in Current Neuropharmacology.

Are There At-Home Treatments That Are Effective for Bipolar Disorder?

As a potentially serious mental health disorder, medications are generally needed to manage bipolar disorder. While alternative approaches can augment treatment, they generally shouldn’t be used to replace medications.

It is important to remember that no patient should abruptly stop any medical treatments for bipolar disorder on their own. They must talk to their doctor before making any changes to their treatment plan to ensure a safe transition.

Regular exercise might be beneficial for people with bipolar disorder. It may help with mood and to prevent weight gain that might occur with certain medications prescribed for this disorder.

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A review of the research published in Frontiers in Psychology determined that regular exercise can help people to cope with stress, get better sleep, and ease hypomanic symptoms. However, exercise is not usually recommended during a manic state since this same study found that exercise might increase the symptoms of mania. Beneficial exercises for bipolar disorder include running, walking, and swimming.

Bipolar disorder can cause sleep disturbances. Not getting enough sleep might trigger mood episodes, according to research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Because of this, a sleep hygiene program can be helpful for people with this disorder. This type of program helps people to adopt a consistent sleep schedule to encourage a regular circadian rhythm.

A study published in Medical Hypotheses suggests that following a ketogenic diet might be helpful for stabilizing mood in people with bipolar disorder. The theory behind this is that certain antiseizure medicines are sometimes prescribed to stabilize mood for people with bipolar disorder. Since the ketogenic diet has shown promise in alleviating seizure activity, it might also help with mood swings.

Some research supports the use of a daily N-acetylcysteine supplement for bipolar disorder. One study in Bipolar Disorders on this antioxidant showed that 2 grams daily led to a significant improvement in the quality of life, depression, and mania. These people continued to take their regular bipolar medications.

Choline is a water-soluble vitamin that might help with mania symptoms. Research shows that 2,000 mg (milligrams) to 7,000 mg daily could improve manic symptoms when combined with lithium, according to a study published in Biological Psychiatry.

Those with bipolar disorder should consult their doctor before making any changes to their treatment regimen. There are potential at-home treatments, as described above, but switching to these or adding them to a general regimen must be supervised by a doctor to ensure safety.

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 the bipolar disorder, meeting with a mental health expert for assessment can be helpful.

It’s time to try a new recovery route. You can get all the help you need at an alcohol or drug rehab that focuses on sobriety and managing bipolar disorder.

Bipolar Disorder

Do you struggle with both bipolar disorder and alcohol dependence? If so, rest assured that help is available for you today. You no longer have to live each day in turmoil over these two diagnoses. For a free and confidential consultation with a specialist at Delphi Behavioral Health Group, call 855-935-0303 or contact us online now. These professionals are available around the clock to help you navigate your treatment options, verify your insurance, and answer any questions you might have.