Bipolar Disorder Hiding in Addiction

Addiction treatment can reveal untreated mental illness that may trigger substance abuse. Bipolar disorder can go hand-in-hand with addiction. Bipolar is a mood disorder that varies between high’s, referred to as ‘mania’ and lows, referred to as ‘depression.’ Often, a person struggling with bipolar uses alcohol, drugs and food to cope with the anxiety, racing thoughts and depression they experience.

When a mental illness and addiction are present this is referred to as a dual diagnosis. The difficulty with having both bipolar and an addiction is that the high’s of bipolar can make a person feel as if they have a good handle on life. In the manic state a person will feel happy, energetic and excited about life. Here, one might say they have their substance abuse under control. The following are some symptoms of bipolar mania:

  • Extreme happiness or reporting a “natural high.”
  • Talking very fast.
  • Severe impulsivity.
  • An over-confidence in ones abilities or powers.
  • Engaging in risky behavior, like impulsive sex, gambling and shopping sprees.

As exciting as mania is on the flip side is the low of depression. Here are some symptoms of bipolar depression:

  • Sad or lethargic for long periods of time.
  • Withdrawal from friends and family.
  • Loss of interest in usually fun activities.
  • A drastic loss or increase in appetite.
  • Noticeable fatigue or lack of energy.
  • Slow and broken speech.
  • Difficulty with concentration, memory and decision-making.
  • Thoughts or attempts of suicide, or preoccupation with death.

As well, there are ‘mixed states’ of bipolar. Here a person goes through mania and depression all within a few hours, days or weeks.  Others vacillate between the mania and depression over the course of months or years.

When it comes to recovery it is often the pain that pushes us to seek help. During treatment both the addiction and bipolar should be treated simultaneously, yet differently. Dual diagnosis rehabilitation programs are designed to meet the needs of clients who struggle with both addiction and a mental illness like bipolar. Staffed by specially trained and credentialed mental health professionals and addiction specialists, they offer care that integrates the best treatment strategies for bipolar disorder with the most effective treatments for addiction.

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous