Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

bipolar and addiction

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental disorder, characterized by sudden and intense changes in mood, energy level, and behavior. Those afflicted with bipolar disorder suffer from higher rates of interpersonal problems, economic instability, substance dependency, and attempted suicide than members of the general public. The relationship between bipolar disorder and substance dependency has been studied for quite some time, and several conclusions have been drawn regarding the relationship between the two disorders.

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Dependency

The American Journal of Managed Care recently published the following statistics, which were derived from a nationally conducted study on the relationship between addiction and bipolar disorder:

  • Roughly 56 percent of diagnosed bipolar study participants had experienced alcoholism or drug addiction at one point in their lives.
  • Roughly 46 percent of participants were currently abusing alcohol or were currently addicted to alcohol.
  • Roughly 41 percent of participants were currently abusing drugs or were currently addicted to drugs.
  • Alcohol is the most commonly abused chemical substance amongst individuals with bipolar disorder.

While there is no definitive explanation for the close relationship between bipolar disorder and substance abuse, one likely cause is the prevalence of attempted self-medication. Those suffering from disruptive symptoms of an undiagnosed or untreated mental disorder are significantly more likely to begin abusing chemical substances in attempts to numb related indicators, such as insomnia, anxiety, physical pain, and depression. Additionally, (and on the other hand), the Institute of Mental Health suggests that abusing chemical substances is liable to trigger depression or mania in those suffering from bipolar disorder. It has been noted that drinking and drug use severely compromises the effects of medication intended to alleviate symptoms, rendering it essentially ineffective. Thus, for those battling dual diagnosis mental and addictive disorders, it is all too easy to fall victim to a vicious cycle of unintentional self-destruction.

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction – Common Links

It has been suggested that both age and gender play a role in this specific dual diagnosis. The scientific journal Bipolar Disorder states that substance abuse is far more common amongst young males than any other demographic, and that young men are also significantly more inclined to take potentially self-destructive risks (such as discontinuing the use of a prescribed medication, or drinking excessively despite being medically advised not to). It is also believed that brain chemistry plays a major role in the exacerbation of these commonly co-occurring disorders. Individuals with bipolar disorder typically have abnormal levels of dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine. These chemicals affect vital functions, such as appetite, sleep, stress response, and mood. Excessive use of drugs and alcohol can interfere with these chemicals and the way they work within the brain, leading to erratic behavior, intense mood swings, and serious bouts of depression. Thus when individuals suffering from bipolar disorder turn to chemical substances to alleviate their symptoms, they are unwittingly making the symptoms much worse.

Treatment for Bipolar and Addiction

Up until recently, these two disorders were treated completely separately – a link between the two had not been established, and dual diagnosis treatment was not yet available. Individuals who struggled with addiction were sent to rehab, and individuals who were afflicted with bipolar were sent to psychiatric hospitals or mental health professionals. Fortunately, a better understanding of the connection between the two has lead to the development of dual diagnosis treatment – the simultaneous and comprehensive treatment of all concurrent disorders. We at Next Chapter offer dual diagnosis treatment to all of our clients who suffer from substance dependency and an underlying psychological issue. We have licensed psychiatrists on staff, as well as an experienced team of professional therapists. Through a combination of intensive therapeutic techniques and psychiatric evaluation, we ensure that each an every one of our clients will be treated thoroughly and effectively.

For more information on our dual diagnosis program of recovery, please feel free to contact us today.