Bipolar and addiction

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Dual diagnosis
The Hader Clinic
The Hader Clinic
May 22, 2018
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Bipolar disorder and addiction information

Mental health is a complex and often overlooked area of medicine and psychiatry. When mental health matters intersect with substance abuse there can be enormous ripple effects on the individual and their families. This blog looks at the interaction and treatment of bipolar conditions and addiction to drugs and alcohol.


Please note...

This information is no substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This is a complex area of dual diagnosis where the symptoms of addiction and those of bipolar frequently mirror each other or are easily confused. Diagnosis and treatment is often a process.

If you suspect that you or one of your loved ones are suffering from addiction or bipolar, either together or separately, call on an expert. A solution starts with a proper diagnosis followed by a well-rounded and holistic treatment plan.


Contact The Hader Clinic for immediate and effective help today. We offer tailored programs to suit your specific needs, with immediate admission and support.

What is a dual diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is where a person has two or more medical conditions diagnosed at the same time. When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction treatment, a dual diagnosis can mean one of several things:

  1. A substance abuse issue as well as a mental health condition.
  2. A problem with drugs or alcohol and a physical health condition.
  3. Drug and alcohol addiction and another addiction.

Sometimes this area of diagnosis is called co-morbidity. The client might also be referred to as having a co-occurring disorder. One of the most common mental health conditions which can occur alongside addiction is bipolar disorder.


Bipolar and substance abuse statistics:

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness in America, over 56 percent of people diagnosed with bipolar have a history of illicit drug abuse, while 44 percent have abused or are dependent on alcohol.


Dual diagnosis of bipolar and substance abuse is relatively common in the area of mental health and addiction. If you suspect that you or someone you love presents with a potential dual diagnosis you can seek help from a treating professional.

What is bipolar disorder?

young woman yawning

Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme changing moods and used to be referred to as manic depression. The client can display different forms of mania followed by periods of deep depression.

A person living with bipolar may also experience significant changes in energy levels, in both increased energy and decreased energy, while the person’s ability to function may be significantly impaired.

There are different forms of bipolar. In brief, these are divided up as follows:

Bipolar I

This form of bipolar is the most extreme and people can experience rapid and severe mood swings from mania to depression. Typically the periods of depression last for at least two weeks. Additionally, the manic phases often leave the sufferer functionally impaired, and they must be hospitalised for their own safety.

Bipolar II

Bipolar II is characterised by less severe fluctuations between the polar emotional states. Depressive episodes sometimes last longer and are then replaced with periods of hypomania, a milder form of mania. While it is easier for the client to function with this disorder, it can interfere with the normal activities of daily living.


This mood disorder manifests as milder depressive episodes and phases of hypomania.

Bipolar with mixed features

This form of bipolar means that the person experiences the mania and the depression at the same time, or in quick succession. This often presents as elevated energy levels, sleeplessness, and appetite loss combined with feelings of despair, low self-worth, and sadness.

Rapid-cycling bipolar

This manifestation of the disorder is characterised by multiple, rapidly alternating episodes of mania and depression, usually at least four within a 12-month period.

All of these sorts of mood disturbance can be exacerbated or caused by different drugs or their subsequent withdrawal symptoms.

What is a substance abuse disorder?

young man nurses a glass of whisky

The gold standard when it comes to diagnostic criteria for mental health is a guide called The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. This guide is often referred to as the DSM-V for short. As well as addressing bipolar, the DSM-V lays out criteria for substance abuse which can, in reality, span a variety of degrees of severity.

These are some of the criteria listed for substance abuse:

  • Taking the substance in larger amounts or for longer than you’re meant to.
  • Wanting to cut down or stop using the substance but not managing to.
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, or recovering from use of the substance.
  • Cravings and urges to use the substance.
  • Not managing to do what you should at work, home, or school because of substance use.
  • Continuing to use, even when it causes problems in relationships.
  • Giving up important social, occupational, or recreational activities because of substance use.
  • Using substances again and again, even when it puts you in danger.
  • Continuing to use, even when you know you have a physical or psychological problem that could have been caused or made worse by the substance.

Treatment for substance abuse and bipolar disorder

Inpatient drug and alcohol rehab is the best way to address these co-occurring disorders. When staying as an inpatient, it takes the pressure off the client and gives them the support and care they need to begin recovery.

  • The first step in rehab is to detox from any drugs and alcohol a client may already be using.
  • Any diagnosis and treatment for suspected bipolar is not going to be accurate until this point.
  • Medicines prescribed for an already diagnosed bipolar condition will need constant review and adjustment to prevent the emergence of bipolar symptoms as the client withdraws and begins recovery.

In the initial phases of treatment, our staff monitor each client 24-hours a day, which helps to assist in catching symptoms of bipolar early, if they are there.

Once clients are detoxed, doctors can pinpoint which symptoms are drug induced, and which ones result from a person’s bipolar condition. Detoxing also allows doctors to determine which medications will best treat a person’s bipolar condition.

Treatments and therapies for substance abuse and bipolar

cognitive behavioural therapy

Rehab is a way for clients to develop new routines and habits which allow them to heal the mind, body and spirit. The new routine is built by engaging with a regular and balanced daily schedule of group and individual therapy, along with other wellness activities.

While medication may be used in treatment, many of the holistic and therapeutic techniques used in drug and alcohol rehab also benefit bipolar.

  • One commonly used therapy is cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which helps the client to gain a new outlook on their situation by directly challenging negative thoughts and fears, and teaching the individual how to control or get rid of them.
  • Other effective therapies include mindfulness-based cognitive behavioural therapy, behaviour activation therapy and interpersonal and social rhythms therapy.

We believe that that with the right help, treatment, and care every client can achieve a sense of inner balance and create a more satisfying and productive life.

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