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Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Studies estimate that more than half of people who suffer from bipolar disorder also struggle with addiction at some point in their lives. Alcohol is the substance most often misused by people with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder, which used to be known as manic depression, is characterized by wild mood swings from feeling aggressive or excessively cheerful to suddenly feeling severely depressed. These swings can happen in the space of days or months.

Bipolar disorder is a common dual diagnosis and it can make addiction treatment especially difficult. Mood swings are unpredictable and make it hard to plan a course of treatment. One day, an individual suffering from bipolar disorder and addiction may feel like she’s at the bottom of a well and the next day she may feel like Wonder Woman. Episodes of mania are characterized by extreme optimism, grandiosity, rapid speech, delusional thinking, and insomnia. This may quickly shift to depressive thinking, including self-loathing, suicidal thoughts, lethargy, and apathy.

While everyone has emotional ups and downs, bipolar disorder causes mood swings that are extreme, abrupt, and intense. These swings are thought to be caused by an unstable balance of neurotransmitters in the brain. Not only are these neurotransmitters unbalanced, as you might find in depression, for example, but the relative levels are always shifting.

The link between bipolar disorder and addiction is complicated and varies by individual. Usually, the bipolar symptoms come first and the drug use is often an attempt at self-medication. Bipolar disorder causes anxiety, pain, insomnia, and depression and people suffering from it welcome even temporary relief. Unfortunately, drinking and drug use only make the mood swings worse and in some cases they may trigger mood swings when there were none before.

It’s important to treat bipolar along with addiction. Treating one without the other is likely to lead to relapse. Integrated treatment typically includes medication, therapy, and support groups. Therapy focuses on strategies for emotional regulation and controlling addictive behavior.

Properly treating a dual diagnosis of addiction and bipolar disorder requires a staff trained in psychiatric treatment. Make sure any facility you choose is equipped to deal with this dual diagnosis. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and bipolar disorder, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.