bipolar disorder and substance abuse


Many people suffer from a mental illness at the same time that they suffer from substance addiction. This is because mental illness often acts as a catalyst for substance addiction. Substance addiction can also trigger mental illness in someone because drugs cause alterations to the human brain that can cause mental illness symptoms to arise. One mental illness that often co-occurs with addiction is bipolar disorder. When suffering from bipolar disorder and substance abuse, it’s important to receive proper treatment.

What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes people to experience severe mood swings. Thus, people that suffer from bipolar disorder often go back and forth between experiencing manic highs and depressive lows.  When not experiencing these highs and lows, individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder tend to feel normal.

Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Many factors can cause a person to develop bipolar disorder. These factors include the following:


Genetics is one example of a factor that plays into why a person develops a bipolar disorder. For example, bipolar disorder may run within a person’s family genetics.

Another genetic factor that causes a person to develop bipolar disorder is an imbalance in neurotransmitters or hormones in the brain. Because alcohol and drugs often cause chemical changes in the brain, it’s no surprise that bipolar disorder and addiction often go hand in hand. Drug and alcohol abuse can help cause people with bipolar disorder to experience more manic and depressive episodes in the long run.

Past Trauma

Bipolar disorder also often goes hand in hand with other types of health conditions. People’s life experiences can also impact their ability to develop bipolar disorder. People that have experienced past trauma are very susceptible to developing bipolar disorder. While all of these genetic and environmental factors can help cause bipolar disorder, the exact cause of bipolar disorder is unknown.

One thing that scientists do know is that people tend to develop bipolar disorders later on in life. In fact, most people develop bipolar disorder in adolescents or late adulthood. These people then often start chronically abusing substances to cope with their bipolar disorder, which results in these individuals struggling with bipolar disorder and substance abuse.


While men and women develop bipolar disorder at equal rates, women are more likely to develop rapid cycling bipolar disorder. Rapid cycling bipolar disorder means that the person that is bipolar has four or more mood episodes within a year. With women experiencing more rapid cycling bipolar disorder, it’s no wonder that women with bipolar disorder experience depression more often than their male counterparts.

Women with bipolar disorder also tend to develop bipolar disorder even later in life than their male counterparts. Women are even more likely to experience seasonal mood changes and bipolar II disorder as well.

Furthermore, women with bipolar disorder tend to experience more medical and mental issues than men. For example, women that suffer from bipolar disorder often suffer from medical issues such as thyroid disease, migraines, and anxiety disorders. Causes of bipolar disorder can also vary depending on the types of bipolar disorder.

Types of Bipolar Disorder

There are various types of bipolar disorder. The types of bipolar disorder include the following:

Bipolar I Disorder

People with bipolar I disorder suffer from manic highs for a week or so that are so intense that they often need medical attention. People with bipolar I disorder also experience severe lows that last for at least two weeks.

Bipolar II Disorder

Individuals that suffer from bipolar II disorder also experience highs and lows, but not at such a severe level as those that suffer from bipolar I disorder. Thus, it’s slightly easier to function in society with bipolar II disorder than it is to function in society as a person with bipolar I disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder

Cyclothymic disorder is a form of bipolar disorder that causes individuals to experience manic and depressive episodes for at least two years in adulthood and one year in childhood or teenage years. While people that suffer from cyclothymic disorder experience manic highs and depressive lows for long periods of time, cyclothymic symptoms are less severe than those associated with bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder.

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder episodes can occur for days, weeks, months, or years. The manic or depressive episodes that individuals with bipolar disorder experience tend to occur in a certain pattern. Manic and depressive bipolar disorder episodes can also occur several times over before the other type of episode occurs though.

The severity of a person’s bipolar disorder symptoms varies depending on the person. The severity of a person’s bipolar disorder symptoms can also change over time.

Examples of manic, or the less severe, hypomanic, bipolar disorder symptoms include:

  • Excessive happiness, hopefulness, and excitement
  • Sudden changes from being happy to being irritable, angry, and hostile
  • Restlessness
  • Rapid speech
  • Poor conversation skills
  • Increased energy
  • Less need for sleep
  • Unusually high sex drive
  • Making grand and unrealistic plans
  • Poor judgment
  • Drug and alcohol abuse
  • Impulsivity
  • Less of an appetite
  • More self-confidence
  • A larger sense of well-being
  • Being easily distracted

Essentially, the symptoms of depressive bipolar disorder are similar to that of depression itself.

Examples of depressive bipolar disorder symptoms include:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
  • Not enjoying participating in activities that one previously enjoyed
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Forgetfulness
  • Talking slowly
  • Minimum to low sex-drive
  • Not feeling any pleasure
  • Uncontrollable crying
  • Trouble making decisions
  • Irritability
  • Sleeping excessively
  • Insomnia
  • Appetite changes due to losing or gaining weight
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Attempting suicide or death

What is Addiction?

Addiction is a disorder that occurs when a person abuses substances to the point where it causes chemical changes to the brain. These changes result in substance users craving the drugs that they’re taking. People that suffer from addiction crave drugs and alcohol so much that they become willing to do almost anything to get it. This includes no longer attending work or school, lying, cheating, stealing, no longer taking care of oneself, risking one’s life, risking one’s relationships with close family members and friends, and more.

Prior to developing an addiction to substances, people that chronically abuse substances also develop a dependency on drugs. This dependency causes individuals to experience withdrawal symptoms anytime they minimize or discontinue their use of substances.

The most effective way to overcome substance dependency and addiction is to attend addiction treatment. People that suffer from both bipolar disorder and substance abuse should attend dual diagnosis treatment.

Dual diagnosis treatment is addiction treatment for people that also suffer from mental illness. Thus, individuals that attend dual diagnosis treatment programs receive treatment for both their addictions and mental illnesses simultaneously. Individuals that suffer from bipolar disorder and substance abuse should attend specialized dual diagnosis treatment programs for people that suffer from that specific mental illness and addiction combination.

Causes of Addiction

Many factors help cause addiction. Similar to bipolar disorder, people can be more susceptible to developing an addiction due to their genetic history. For example, people with parents that suffer from substance use problems are more likely to develop a substance use problem themselves.

Being exposed to substance abuse in life also makes a person more likely to develop a substance addiction. Therefore, the environment that a child grows up in acts as an environmental and social factor that can help cause people to develop an addiction.

Mental illness, trauma, and emotional distress are also all common causes of addiction. This is because many people that suffer from mental illness, trauma, and emotional distress start chronically abusing substances to cope. Before they know it, they’ve developed substance dependency and addiction.

Types of Addictions

There are countless types of substance addictions based on the countless types of drugs in the world. The most common forms of substance addiction include alcoholism, heroin addiction, cocaine addiction, meth addiction, prescription medication addiction, and more.

Addiction is also commonly accompanied by mental illness in the form of a dual diagnosis. One common dual diagnosis is bipolar disorder and substance abuse.

Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

Signs and symptoms of addiction are primarily physiological or behavioral. Some of these physiological and behavioral signs and symptoms are described below.

Physiological Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Heart palpitations
  • Poor self-hygiene
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Appetite changes
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Repeated speech patterns
  • Increased drug tolerance

Behavioral Signs and Symptoms of Addiction

  • Irritability
  • Getting in legal issues due to substance use
  • Risky behavior
  • Not having much money due to spending it all on buying substances
  • Abusing or not caring about relationships with friends and family
  • Change of social circle
  • Lying
  • Cheating
  • Stealing
  • Secrecy about whereabouts
  • No longer participating in activities that you once enjoyed

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

When a person suffers from bipolar disorder and substance abuse, he or she will need dual diagnosis treatment so that both conditions can receive treatment simultaneously. If a person doesn’t treat bipolar disorder and substance abuse simultaneously, the lingering condition can trigger the treated condition.

This is especially true since 56% of people that suffer from bipolar disorder also experience alcohol and drug addiction. Out of that 56%, 46% of people suffered from alcohol addiction and 41% suffered from drug addiction.

Prior to attending dual diagnosis treatment for bipolar disorder and substance abuse, individuals should also attend medical detox. Through medical detox, patients will rid their bodies of all substances so that they can focus on their recovery while in addiction treatment.

Receive Dual Diagnosis Treatment At Florida Center for Recovery

At Florida Center for Recovery, we understand that addiction often co-occurs with mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder. That’s why we utilize integrated treatment approaches to treat both the disease of addiction and any related co-occurring disorders.

We also incorporate traditional, holistic, and alternative therapies along with 12-step anon-12-step approaches in our alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs. That way, each of our patients can treat their minds, bodies, and souls at our treatment center so that they have a better chance of maintaining sobriety in the long-term.

To learn more about Florida Center for Recovery and the various addiction treatment and dual diagnosis treatment programs that we offer, contact us today. Whether you’re here to treat bipolar disorder and substance abuse or some other addiction-related condition, we’re here to help.

Recover with Us! Individualized Inpatient Addiction Treatment Services:

  • All Inclusive Inpatient Detox
  • Medical and Psychological Evaluation
  • Addiction Treatment Assessment
  • Integrated Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders
  • Group and Individual Psychotherapy
  • Gender Specific Counseling
  • Grief / Loss Therapy
  • Rapid Resolution Therapy® (Trauma Therapy)
  • Intensive Family Therapy
  • Relapse Prevention
  • 12 Steps & SMART Recovery®
  • Addiction Educational Series
  • Holistic and Alternative Therapies
  • Recreational Activities
  • Aftercare Programming
  • Discharge Planning
  • Chronic Relapse Program
  • Pregnant Women Program
  • Military/First Responders Program