Bipolar and Addiction Have Strong Connection

gimme my cake now!Imagine feeling on top of the world with a rush of seemingly endless energy, only to crash to the depths of despair and emotional pain a few days later. And now imagine trying to live your life during all this. Is it any wonder so many people with bipolar disorder also develop an addiction? The connection is so strong and the personal stories can be devastating. Tragically, this wildly swinging mood disorder can lead to suicide. You may very well know someone like this – someone who may need complete drug rehab treatment and a new chance at life.

Bipolar Disorder Symptoms

Bipolar disorder has a mix of symptoms, both manic and depressive. Bipolar consists of several emotional “states” that a person goes between.

Depression – symptoms include sad or angry mood, negativity towards themselves and others, sleep problems (too much or too little), change in eating patterns (too much or too little), thoughts of suicide or death, despair, hopelessness, social isolation

Mania – symptoms would be rushed speech, flight of ideas, racing thoughts, decreased need for sleep, excessive energy, heightened sex drive, reckless behaviors such as spending sprees, crime, dare-devil activities, impulsively, heightened aggression, feeling of invincibility, overestimating their abilities and inflated ego

Hypomania – milder form of mania that may not seem to interfere with daily life, but could easily transition into full mania or crash into depression

Mixed mood – moods can change and cycle rapidly, even within one day

What Does Bipolar and Addiction Look Like Together?

Foundation Associates has several compelling stories from people dually diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Sometimes bipolar and addiction is apparent in the teen years, which was the case for one young man who also adopted an addiction lifestyle by that time. Another undiagnosed bipolar addict maxed-out credit cards, did all kinds of reckless behavior, and went missing for days. Yet another bipolar addict experienced years of undiagnosed ADHD and a learning disability along with a cycle of crime and incarceration.

Bipolar Treatment

Bipolar treatment is usually a combination of medication and cognitive behavioral therapy. They have lived a life of extremes – extreme behavior, extreme thoughts, and extreme emotions. Therapy and medication help them to learn about living with moderation and balance. Together, treatment can help correct harmful patterns that have been established while the person has gone untreated.

Mood stabilizing medication is the most common “first line of defense” against bipolar symptoms. Frequently used meds include Lithium, Zyprexa and Serequil. Sometimes anti-convulsants such as Depakote are used if Lithium has not worked. When the main bipolar “state” is depression, Wellbutrin can be carefully used for symptom control. It’s crucial that a person is properly diagnosed as bipolar. If anti-depressants are used to treat the depressive cycle of bipolar, they can spur on manic cycles.

Bipolar and Addiction Have Strong Connection

Bipolar disorder and addiction have an alarmingly strong connection. Here are just a few information tidbits to get you thinking.

  • 56% of individual with bipolar disorder have dual diagnosis
  • The depression part of the cycle often leads into drug or alcohol relapse
  • Manic episodes of bipolar increase a person’s lifetime risk for addiction to 4x’s that of the general population.
  • Addiction tends to increase resistence to lithium

The complexities of co-occurring disorders is still not universally understood across the medical and mental health professions. Treating dual diagnoses together is only a recent phenomenon. Can you imagine how many bipolar addicts there must be out there that aren’t well understood and aren’t getting the treatment they desperately need?

Bipolar Dual Diagnosis Treatment at The Canyon

Dual diagnosis treatment at The Canyon is the complete treatment choice for addicts with bipolar disorder. So many people have had just their addiction or the mental disorder treated, leaving many problems untouched. The Canyon takes in the whole picture. Their expert professionals address all the complexities of effective dual diagnosis treatment.

The Depression Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA) has support groups and an informative website to check out. The internet hosts a great variety of resources such as bipolar message boards, bipolar online support groups, and bipolar blogs.

Your Comments

How has Bipolar Disorder affected your life? Do you have a loved one who has gone untreated? Have you yourself been down the painful road of bipolar dual diagnosis? The Canyon is here to help. We truly appreciate and respect your stories of struggle.

Wendy Lee Nentwig

By Wendy Lee Nentwig
Guest Contributor

Articles posted here are primarily educational and may not directly reflect the offerings at The Canyon. For more specific information on programs at The Canyon, contact us today.

5 Responses

  1. Terri January 4, 2012

    Just lost a 47yr old son, diagnosis: recovering addict, bipolar, ptsd, on 13 prescribed drugs by one MD..
    inconclusive autopsy….had been coughing and vomitting bile.
    had degenerative spine, frequent lung infections.
    Was a certified addiction counselor.
    We can not understand how the combination af 13 chemicals can be the best Rx. The brain struggling to function is being bombarded by not well researched interactions of these drugs.
    Can anyone lend some insight to this tragedy? Thank You.

    • Lisa Austin February 12, 2012

      I cannot believe that this phenomenon has not been researched more. I suffered most of my life feeling as if I was a terrible person. I feel after I was diagnosed at 44-years old my life began. I now work at a alcohol and drug rehabilitation center. At least75% of the clients are diagnosed as bipolar or another type of mood disorder at any given time. The doctors at our facility do not even understand how important mood stabilizing medications are to our clients. We actually take people of their medications that they were previously prescribed. These clients are not supposed to act out; they are expected to conform to normalcy. If these clients could be put on a mood stabilizer their lives would change and the need for self-medication would go away. I am living proof.

  2. Meles September 28, 2012

    Hello guys! It’s really helps that i know i am not alone. First of all sorry for my language if i made some mistakes, English is not my first language i am from Ethiopia. I have a bipolar and addicted sister. This thing started before 7 years when she was a 3 year medical student she used to chew the popular stimulant in Ethiopia called Khat. Most students specially in higher education they use it for studying for a longer period of time. But the effect of this drug(Khat) will last only for 7 or 6 hours then they will make the person restless so most of the time they tend to drink alcohol. But the differences is she became addicted to this substances very fast than her other friends who use this both Khat and alcohol… we have an uncle who had been addicted to smoking and alcohol…and committed suicide years and years ago. she has no connection with him socially. but if it is genetic I don’t know. one day before two years she started to have manic episodes… and admitted to the only private rehab in Ethiopia. She becomes some what good for some weeks but she relapsed. Then after some months she committed a forgery with some criminal carelessly and almost sentenced for 5 years but by considering her problem the court let her out with in days. but her condition keep getting worse and she become so addicted to alcohol…and again she admitted to rehab and pass one month there. After she goes out she started to take ‘Sodium valproit’ but after some weeks 4 or 5 she relapsed.
    Today she come home drunk… it is almost hard for her to get out of bed lately and hard for her to go to work.. there are no good rehabs in Ethiopia and that is the other problem. I don’t know what to do please tell me what should I do? I know you can understand how hard to see your sister going to insanity or madness I don’t know … i am so confused.

  3. shannon October 12, 2012

    wow its devastating to hear your side of the story i know its hard for you to be there for her. going through something of a similar nature my family tended to back down and be a little scarred i know my sister thinks ‘im insane it would just be nice to have someone to listen to, to talk to, to just be in the way…isolation is not the solution. socialization is the key.

  4. Jenny October 19, 2012

    I have a bi-polar daughter with narcissistic tendencies whom I gave up for adoption many years ago. She and I finally reunited after being apart a few years ago. She unfortunately was not getting the help she needed because she was either not being diagnosed properly and lying to her therapists. So this carried into our relationship and has utterly destroyed it on all levels. She has lied to me the whole time about everything. I feel as though I don’t even know who she really is. She has addictions to sex, alcohol and pain medications. She has spent thousands and thousands of dollars that her husband has sacrificed everything to earn. She has neglected her youngest child and put the older one in harms way on several occasions. She has stolen from me personally as well. I am devastated by all of this and had to see family counselors for myself and how to cope with this situation. I am still processing it all and grieving the loss of our relationship even though it was fake on her end. I am praying she gets the help she so desperately needs and that she can once and for all be honest with herself and her family. I pray that if she cannot remain faithful to her husband that she would let him go as it is extremely selfish to hold on to him and ruin his life entirely. I pray for her children that they will have a stable environment to live in and that the older one gets therapy. I am beyond words for how this has impacted me, it really has blown up my world. Time is healing things somewhat, but I am so upset and know that a part of me will never be the same because of how she has treated me. I would never have thought this would happen in a million years. I am praying for her parents too that they use good boundaries and tough love. I am not at all understanding of how they can have alcohol in the house as they live with her knowing she is an alcoholic. I had NO idea and would not have socially drank at all if I had known. I am lost without her as she is my daughter and EVERYTHING reminds me of her as we are so similar. I don’t know what I will say when we finally talk, I am praying for wisdom for the right words. I am thankful to God that I have a relationship with Him and I have the best husband and daughter at home that support and love me each and every day.