Table of Contents
Understanding Bipolar Disorder
Many people with an addiction have a co-existing mental health condition such as bipolar disorder. Once known as “manic depression,” bipolar disorder causes mood swings between intense emotional highs and lows.
In a study of people with bipolar disorder, approximately 60 percent had some history of substance abuse.
Although it’s not fully understood why, bipolar disorder makes people more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol often make the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse. People with no history of mental health issues can also develop bipolar disorder that were previously dormant as a result of drug abuse. Get in touch with a dedicated treatment specialist to learn more about co-occuring mental health and substance use disorders.
Co-occurring Bipolar Disorder and Addiction
People with bipolar disorder experience radical shifts in mood. These “episodes” can last for days or weeks at a time. Episodes may happen as often as several times a week or as little as a few times a year. Bipolar disorder also causes major changes in energy and concentration.
Imbalanced chemicals in the brain and genetics can cause bipolar disorder. A traumatic environment is also a risk factor for bipolar disorder. This disorder can lead to financial and legal troubles, addiction, relationship issues and suicide. Many people with bipolar disorder are tempted to abuse drugs to relieve the troubles caused by their condition.
There are four types of episodes people with bipolar disorder may experience. They include:
During a manic episode, someone with bipolar disorder may be excessively cheerful or hostile. These episodes last a week or more and may require hospitalization.
There are only subtle differences between a hypomanic and manic episode. The main difference is that hypomanic episodes are shorter, lasting at least four days, and are less severe.
Major depressive episodes
These episodes leave people depressed and/or uninterested in activities. A person’s depressed mood has to last at least two weeks to meet the clinical definition of an episode.
Some people with bipolar disorder have mixed episodes. These episodes include traits of manic, hypomanic and major depressive episodes.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders defines bipolar disorder in two categories. These categories are bipolar I and bipolar II disorder.
People with bipolar I disorder experience one or more manic/mixed episodes followed by a major depressive episode. Those with bipolar II disorder have one or more major depressive episodes followed by a hypomanic episode. Bipolar I disorder is more severe than bipolar II disorder.
It’s common for people with bipolar disorder to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. These substances seem to ease the symptoms of manic and depressive episodes at first, which partially explains why many people with bipolar disorder have an addiction.
Substance-Induced Bipolar Disorder
Frequent drug use causes physical changes in the brain. The most obvious change is to the brain reward system, which makes using drugs feel pleasurable. However, changes in the brain reward system lead to compulsive, drug-seeking behavior. Drugs can rewire other parts of the brain that affect mood and behavior. Drug abuse and addiction can cause changes in the brain that lead to bipolar disorder.
Even people who were mentally healthy before their addiction can develop bipolar disorder.