Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

Treatment for Those That Suffer From Bipolar Disorder & Addiction

Bipolar disorder and substance abuse is a popular dual diagnosis. In fact, 56% of people that suffer from bipolar disorder also suffer substance abuse. Of that 56%, 46% prefer to abuse alcohol, and the other 41% prefer to abuse drugs. With this relatively high percentage of people that are abusing substances while simultaneously suffering from bipolar disorder, it’s evident that bipolar and substance abuse often co-occur.

Because bipolar and substance abuse can co-occur, they can trigger the development of one another. To treat such co-occurring disorders, individuals should receive an official diagnosis and attend medical detox followed bydual diagnosis treatment.

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Is Substance Abuse Common with Bipolar Disorder?

When people suffer from substance addiction, they often also suffer from some sort of mental illness. One mental illness that often co-occurs with addiction is bipolar disorder. When struggling with bipolar disorder and substance abuse, it’s important to seek out the proper help immediately. To do that, individuals must first recognize the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder and addiction. That way these symptoms can be properly diagnosed as being part of a dual diagnosis.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Two individuals embracing in a hugBipolar disorder is a mental illness that’s characterized by severe mood swings. These mood swings cause individuals to go back and forth between experiencing manic highs and depressive lows at random times.

Individuals with bipolar disorder can also experience hypomanic mood swings. Hypomanic mood swings are mood swings with slightly less intense highs than those with manic mood swings. Typically individuals with bipolar disorder only experience one or two cycles of mood swings a year.

What Causes Bipolar Disorder?

The exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. Still, researchers believe that bipolar disorder likely develops in individuals due to a combination of factors. Some factors that researchers believe can help cause a person to develop bipolar disorder include:


Women Group Therapy SessionMany people are more susceptible to developing certain mental illnesses and conditions due to their genetic history. For example, if an individual has numerous people in his or her family history that have suffered from bipolar disorder, it is more likely that that person will develop bipolar disorder. This is especially true if that person also experiences other factors that can trigger the development of bipolar disorder.

People that have an actual imbalance in the neurotransmitters or hormones in their brains are also more inclined to develop bipolar disorder. Because chronic substance abuse leads to chemical changes in the brain, it’s no wonder that bipolar disorder and substance abuse are co-related to one another.

Past Trauma

Trauma is another likely cause of bipolar disorder. This is because experiencing trauma affects people mentally in a way that can trigger mental illness. The fact that bipolar disorder often develops in people later on in life when they are already adolescents or young adults is an indicator that influences such as trauma can be what triggers the development of the mental illness bipolar disorder.

Another indicator that trauma is a likely contributing cause of bipolar disorder is because many people that experience trauma start to abuse substances to cope. This substance abuse can then cause individuals to experience chemical changes in the brain that triggers the development of bipolar disorder.

This is especially true if the person is already genetically inclined to develop bipolar disorder or the trauma that the person has experienced has already had mental effects on him or her. This just goes to show how easy it is for bipolar disorder and substance abuse to co-occur.


Research shows that while men and women develop bipolar disorder at equal rates, women are more inclined to develop rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Women also contain a tendency to develop bipolar disorder later in life than their male counterparts.

Women are even more prone to experiencing seasonal mood changes and bipolar II disorder. Furthermore, women that suffer from bipolar disorder tend to also suffer from more medical and mental health conditions than men. For example, women with bipolar disorder have more of a tendency to also suffer from thyroid disease, anxiety disorders, and migraines.

Mixed Episodes

Individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder don’t always suffer from a straightforward exchange between manic or hypomanic bipolar symptoms and depressive bipolar symptoms. In fact, some individuals with bipolar disorder experience mixed symptoms at times.

Mixed bipolar disorder symptoms are characterized by some manic or hypomanic bipolar symptoms and some depressive bipolar symptoms. For example, individuals that are suffering from mixed bipolar disorder symptoms may experience manic rapid speech and excitement at the same time that they’re experiencing depressive poor memory and insomnia.

Individuals that experience mixed bipolar symptoms may choose to abuse substances to balance them out. This then leads to bipolar disorder and substance abuse.

Why is it so Difficult to Diagnosis Bipolar Disorder?

Because other health conditions can cause manic or hypomanic behavior and mania and hypomania aren’t their own diseases, diagnosing mania or hypomania can be difficult. On top of that, doctors may initially assume that individuals that are experiencing depressive symptoms simply suffer from depression. Thus, it’s important to communicate in detail your symptoms with your doctor prior to him or her making an official diagnosis of your condition.

To diagnose individuals with mania, those people must experience manic symptoms for at least a week. Individuals that experience severe manic symptoms that cause them to be hospitalized can receive a manic diagnosis after a shorter period of time.

For doctors to diagnose individuals with hypomania, those people must experience at least three classic hypomania symptoms for at least four days. Once doctors are able to diagnose individuals with mania and/or hypomania, it makes it easy to properly diagnose those people with bipolar disorder once the doctors also notice that these individuals suffer from depressive episodes.

Substance addiction is relatively easy for doctors to diagnose. In fact, doctors can often give a concrete diagnosis for substance addiction based on the results of people’s blood tests, urine samples, and lab tests. Therefore, when individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder also struggle with substance abuse, doctors will most likely make a proper diagnosis of the dual diagnosis.

What Is Substance Addiction?

Addiction to substances is characterized by chemical changes in the brain due to substance abuse and the willingness to do almost anything to get more substances. Substance addiction is also characterized by the inability to stop using substances when one tries.

Prior to developing a full-fledged addiction to substances, an individual must also develop drug dependency. People that suffer from drug dependency experience withdrawal symptoms whenever they minimize or discontinue their drug or alcohol use.

Substance addiction starts with substance abuse. Chronic substance abuse not only causes chemical changes in the brain that then leads to addiction, but it also can cause chemical changes in the brain that can then lead to the development of mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder. As a result, many people struggle with bipolar disorder and substance abuse.

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse Diagnosis

To diagnose an individual with bipolar disorder and substance abuse, a doctor will first make a note of that person’s medical history. The doctor will then conduct a physical exam on the individual. Make sure to inform your doctor about any prescription medications that you’re already using at the beginning of your doctor’s appointment.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

To treat the co-occurring disorder of bipolar and substance abuse, it’s vital that individuals treat the two conditions simultaneously. This is because both of the disorders can trigger the appearance of the other one. Therefore, if a person tries to treat one of the two disorders prior to the other one, the lingering disorder will trigger the re-appearance of the treated disorder in-between treatment sessions.

The only way to simultaneously treat a mental illness and a substance use disorder is to attend dual diagnosis treatment at a rehab facility. Prior to attending dual diagnosis treatment though, most individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder and substance abuse, in particular substance abuse, should attend medical detox. That way individuals can rid their bodies of substances prior to entering treatment.

Attend Dual Diagnosis Treatment At Grace Land Recovery

Grace Land Recovery is a dual diagnosis treatment center. Therefore, we specialize in treating co-occurring conditions such as bipolar disorder and substance abuse.

Here at Grace Land Recovery, individuals can also receive individualized and specialized addiction treatment for addiction to a variety of substances. We even offer our patients a variety of other unique mental health and addiction treatment programs and services. For example, Grace Land provides willing patients with everything from groups for mental health, anger management, and trauma, to groups for HIV education, nutrition, and spirituality.

To learn more about the other addiction and mental health treatment programs and services that Grace Land Recovery offers, contact us today! We would love to answer any questions that you may have about our dual diagnosis treatment center.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Common manic or hypomanic bipolar disorder symptoms include:

  • Extreme happiness and excitement
  • Extreme levels of confidence
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid speech
  • Poor conversation skills
  • Poor judgment
  • Extreme bouts of energy
  • Overly high sex drive
  • Substance abuse
  • Impulsivity
  • Lack of appetite
  • Being easily distracted
  • Ability to go extremely long periods of time without sleep
  • Making grandiose and unrealistic plans
  • Sudden change in mood from being irritable and upset to being overly excited and happy and vice versa

Individuals with bipolar disorder can experience manic or depressive episodes several times before the other type of episode kicks in. Most individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder experience their manic and depressive episodes in a particular pattern though.

    Common depressive symptoms of bipolar disorder are similar to that of the mental illness depression.

    Some of these common depressive symptoms include:

    • Persistent feelings of sadness and hopelessness
    • Inability to enjoy activities that one once enjoyed
    • Feeling worthless
    • Lack of energy
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Poor memory
    • Slowed speech
    • Abnormally low sex drive
    • Inability to feel pleasure
    • Excessive crying
    • Indecisiveness
    • Excessive sleeping
    • Insomnia
    • Excessive weight gain
    • Inability to gain weight
    • Suicidal thoughts

    The specific signs and symptoms that are associated with the manic highs and depressive lows that individuals with bipolar disorder experience vary. The severity of these signs and symptoms can also vary.

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