Dual Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction: When Diseases Co-Occur

Dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and addiction commonly occur with each other. Bipolar disorder was once called manic depression. It is a serious disorder that results in people having major mood swings. They will be really high and energetic during manic episodes and deeply depressed during times of depression.Their behavior will change from one moment to the next. Bipolar disorder can deplete the patient’s physical and emotional well-being just like substance abuse.

Due to the nature of the disorder, it can cause people to turn to drugs or alcohol. Addiction puts those with the disorder at a greater risk of experiencing worse symptoms. Those who have bipolar disorder are significantly more prone to developing an addiction.

There are a variety of reasons for this. Emotionally, life is much more challenging. Due to behaviors that occur with bipolar disorder, they are often isolated from peers. This can create substance abuse that leads to addiction in many.

What is Dual Diagnosis?

Dual diagnosis is what we now call a co-occurring disorder. It refers to someone having a mental illness and a substance use disorder. The term can also refer to different kind of disorders such as another mental illness. Bipolar disorder and anxiety disordere is an example of this. For people with co-occurring disorders, each disorder is independent of the other. They do tend to intertwine and feed off each other however. This is what makes treatment more complex. The combination of a psychiatric disorder and substance use disorder can be different for everyone. One of the disorders might not be as severe as the other. They can also change, one becoming more dominant over the other.

For people with co-occurring disorders, each disorder is independent of the other.

There are many mental health disorders that can create a greater risk for addiction due to the symptoms. Bipolar disorder is one of them. When you have a psychiatric condition and are addicted to substances, it creates a complex disorder. When one seeks treatment for both addiction and a mental disorder, they may be diagnosed with major depression or bipolar disorder.

Substances that go along with certain psychological disorders display the need for self-medicating. People who experience major depression which would be a part of bipolar disorder would be inclined to abuse cocaine. It gives one a lift when they feel fatigued and melancholy. For those who experience panic disorders or have borderline personality disorder, they will often become alcoholics. Many of the symptoms of these disorders will involve heavy drinking as a means of numbing emotional issues.

Dual diagnosis is the term used when a person has a mood disorder such as depression or bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) and a problem with alcohol or drugs. A person who has a dual diagnosis has two separate illnesses, and each illness needs its own treatment plan.

There are a few factors that can cause bipolar disorder and make the symptoms more severe. Hormonal imbalance can act as a trigger, causing bipolar disorder to develop. Abuse, mental stress, and a significant loss in one’s life can also cause the onset of the disorder. Traumatic events can contribute to it as well. If a first-degree relative developed it, there’s also a chance of development. Drug or alcohol abuse can contribute also. Many of the psychological disorders will be the reason that someone will start abusing substance. This is not always the case with bipolar disorder.

A combination of factors usually cause the disorder. They include biologic, genetic, and environmental. These factors make up who we are and play a role in what our emotional and physical self becomes. Drug abuse falls under the environmental factors that cause bipolar disorder, which can become a co-occurring disorder if one become addicted to a substance.

There are a variety of regions in the brain that regulate our moods. Dopamine and serotonin improve our mood and increase the amount of pleasure we experience. Impulse-control abilities, memory, learning, and motivation are also involved with these neurotransmitters. The front of the brain processes information and allows you to make decisions. Other areas respond to stress.

A change in the levels of brain chemicals are possibly related to bipolar disorder. While it’s not exactly known, publication have noted that brain imaging shows potential abnormalities in the brain related to emotional stimuli and impulsivity. Drugs and alcohol interact with brain chemistry and part of the brain. They directly affect dopamine and serotonin levels.

A bipolar manic episode may be more severe when someone abuses drugs or alcohol. Psych Central has noted that depressive episodes may also be more significant and frequent.

Dual diagnosis in mental health is the term that defines someone who has a substance use disorder along with a mental illness. Substances will make the mental health problem worse in most cases. This can create a debilitating disorder. They will feed off each other, making it additionally challenging to treat.

The most prevalent issue that connects mental illness to substance abuse is because patients want to self-medicate. The disruptive, challenging symptoms that occur with bipolar disorder often cause patients to turn to alcohol or drugs. This is a means of numbing and managing their feelings. As bipolar comes with ups and downs, it can mean there are a variety of medications that may be used to ease symptoms.

Patients might use marijuana to numb the pain. Through major depression episodes, they may use cocaine or prescription drugs like Adderall in order to function and get things done. To prevent attacks before they have a chance to start, some may abuse benzodiazepines to calm themselves. Alcohol is the most prevalent substance that is abused for someone with bipolar disorder.

Patients with bipolar disorder have a distorted sense of perception. This can get in the way of all types of relationships. They may often seem manipulative and highly dramatic. What is really going on inside is that they are living with a lot of fear and emotional angst. When someone experiences that level of constant emotional pain, they are more at risk of using substances to numb that pain. There is also a need to self-destruct with this disorder. They do this to hurt others around them.

They want help but their way of asking is to push people away. They seek out ways to hurt themselves. The anxiety and depression that someone with bipolar disorder is plagued with coupled with self-destructive tendencies very often leads to addiction. Someone with the disorder also has an addictive personality. If they start using substances, they are more likely to become addicted. This is why a co-occurring disorder between the two is so prevalent. The constant ups and downs and feelings of isolation can easily lead to substance abuse and then addiction.

Symptoms of Bipolar Disease that Lead to Addiction

People who suffer from bipolar disorder will often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol. In fact, as many as 60% of people with bipolar I disorder also experience substance use disorder in their lifetime. This co-occurring disorder can develop due to the symptoms that come with bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder has two opposing sets of issues that come with their own symptoms. The symptoms cause changes in mood and behavior quickly. This causes the patient to experience distress and self-created difficulties in their life. A manic episode can occur with a hypomanic or depressive episode to follow.

Both a manic and a hypomanic episode include some of all of these symptoms:

  • A tendency to be overly upbeat and jumpy.
  • An increase of energy that can also include agitation.
  • An exaggerated sense of well-being or confidence.
  • Less need for sleep due to energy.
  • Very talkative.
  • Thoughts racing.
  • Easily distracted.
  • Poor decision-making. This can include abusing drugs, taking sexual risks, or going on shopping sprees when they don’t have the money.

The manic symptoms can cause someone to try to mellow themselves out with drugs that will cause the GABA receptors to depress the nervous system. This would calm the patient down. Marijuana might also be a drug of choice to help with the symptoms.

With a major depressive episode, symptoms are opposite. It can be quite a severe experience, making it hard for a person to cope with their responsibilities and relationships. Here is what some of the symptoms include:

  • A depressed mood which includes feelings of sadness, emptiness, hopelessness. Many people might become quite upset and cry uncontrollably. Children or teens might become irritable.
  • Loss of interest in activities.
  • Inability to feel pleasure.
  • Weight gain or weight loss due to a decrease or increase of appetite.
  • Problems sleeping (too much or too little).
  • Fatigue and loss of energy.
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt that is unfounded.
  • A hard time thinking and concentrating.
  • Indecisive.
  • Thinking, planning, or attempting suicide.

What Happens when Addiction Mixes with Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder symptoms are challenging enough. When mixed with a substance addiction, they can become out of control. Here are some of the ways the co-occurring disorder worsens bipolar disorder:

  • Mood symptoms of bipolar disorder will onset earlier.
  • The clinical depression and anxiety of the disorder are more significant.
  • There are poor outcomes from an episode due to actions taken.
  • More suicide attempts.
  • A greater rate of anxiety and depressive episodes.
  • More visits to the hospital for the disorder or due to accidents.
  • The cycle of manic and depressive episodes become more rapid.
  • Less likely to comply with the treatment that can reduce symptoms.

Addiction and bipolar disorder both take a part in interfering with a patient’s daily life. It’s a greater challenge to meet responsibilities and function in society. This will often cause homelessness because the patient is unable to hold down a job. There is a lot of financial strife associated with bipolar disorder and addiction. Relationships becoming challenging and many times divorce will come into play. There is also the risk of accidents and injuries due to risky behaviors.

With this co-occurring disorder that involves substances, accident and injuries are quite common. There is also trouble with the law often because of irrational and risky behaviors. Being under the influence of any given substance while going through a manic episode can lead to bad, sometimes illegal, choices. With bipolar and addiction together, often a patient will not feed themselves properly so they become very unhealthy. Their physical body can develop many problems and the brain is less clear.

Overlapping of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and addiction have similar symptoms. This is why it’s so challenging for medical professionals to make a diagnosis. Bipolar disease has even further challenges because the symptoms cause them to shut down and push people away. Patients can tend to be challenging to work with as they are quite manipulative. Signs of substance abuse will often be similar to that of bipolar disorder.

Here are the overlapping symptoms between this co-occurring disorder:

  • Addiction and bipolar disorder include self-destructive, risky behaviors.
  • Intense mood swings occur in both disorder.
  • Manipulation and deceit are both symptoms of these disorders.
  • Each disorder causes a patient to care very little about their health and safety.
  • There may be an urge with both disorders to pursue dangerous intentionally.
  • Suicidal tendencies occur with addiction and bipolar disorder.
  • Moods can be similar such as depression, anxiety, paranoia.

With bipolar disorder, there might be a variety of possibilities to what substances are abused. This creates a variable on what the detailed symptoms are. The above symptoms are general for any type of behavior inhibited when someone has an addiction.

Bipolar and Addiction Co-Occurring Disorders Statistics

  • A national study in the U.S. on bipolar patients and the dual diagnosis of substance abuse was conducted. They found that 56% of the participants with bipolar disorder had at one point in their lives, experienced a drug or alcohol addiction.
  • Regarding alcohol and bipolar disorder patients, the study found that about 46% of the group had abused alcohol or become addicted to it. There were 41% that had abused or were addicted to drugs.
  • Alcohol has been found to be the most abused substance for those with bipolar disorder.
  • The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) has estimated that almost 3% of American adults suffer from bipolar disorder.
  • Other research has found that there is a connection between mental illness like bipolar disorder and abusing addictive substance.
  • Mental health disorder patients make up the following consumption rates:
    • 38% alcohol consumption
    • 44% cocaine consumption
    • 40% cigarette smoking

There is a no mistaking that there is a connection between substance abuse disorder and mental health disorders. There are a wide variety of combinations that can co-occur. Each comes with their own causes and symptoms. This is why there is also a variety of dual diagnosis treatment methods. This means there is hope for those suffering from this debilitating disorder.

Dual Diagnosis in Young Adults

Young adults can suffer from dual diagnosis and are more prone to abusing drugs or drinking. Research has found they are also more at risk of developing later drugs by the time they become adults. More than 100 teens diagnosed with bipolar were interviewed by researcher at Massachusetts General Hospital. They were able to track down 68 of the participants five years later when they were adults. The hospital researchers found that there was a significant elevated risk of substance use disorder or patients becoming smokers. This was in comparison to a control group that was also followed. The rate of those with bipolar becoming addicted to substances was 49%. The control group was 26%.

Drugs in early adulthood causes havoc on a brain that hasn’t fully developed. It leads to an increased risk of mental addiction and addiction. Drug abuse can bring on psychotic side effects that can actually contribute to bipolar-related symptoms. Not only that but when drugs and alcohol negatively effect the brain, it can cause symptoms to be so much worse in their bipolar disorder.

Dual diagnosis in adolescences is concerning. Not only are there present issues like problems learning and coping with overwhelming emotions as hormones run wild but their future is at risk too. There is a far higher risk that when a teenager or young adult abuses alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs, it will lead to addiction in adulthood.

Mental health professionals may find it challenging to determine which condition started first. Substance use disorder and bipolar disorder can tend to mimic each other. Symptoms of behavior intertwine with each other. Mental illness, if left unattended, can lead to self-medicating with alcohol, illicit drugs, or drugs in your medicine cabinet. The problem is that some drugs can create psychiatric issues, making bipolar disorder worse.

For a teen that has a dual diagnosis disorder, it should be addressed as soon as possible. Both illnesses will need to be treated at the same time. Bipolar and substance abuse disorders exacerbate each other which can cause challenges in recovery. The good news is, it’s not impossible. There are methods that have been developed to treat dual diagnosis.

Someone suffering from dual diagnosis in the form of bipolar and addiction, it is essential to treat both conditions. The drug or alcohol addiction treatment will allow the brain to heal form damaging effects. These effects have likely caused more intense symptoms in the bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder takes a toll on the brains functioning as it is. For health and well-being to ever occur, the person needs to stop using drugs.

Addiction and symptoms that come with bipolar disorder will be treated at a rehabilitation treatment center. A holistic approach that is designed to the mind and body is an important aspect to recovery. Health problems that can develop with substance abuse will be addressed. This is going to help restore the brain, reducing manic or major depressive episodes.

When the drugs are out of the system, it becomes more clear as to what symptoms were drug induced and which were as a result of the bipolar disorder. This then allows physicians to figure out what medications can treat the bipolar condition.

Therapy for Co-Occurring Disorder

The best opportunity for a full recovery and a new way of managing bipolar disorder is to go through professional addiction rehabilitation. Therapy will be a part of the process and is a very important part of the whole recovery system. Here, one learns how to deal with triggers that may occur which might cause them to abuse substances again. They gain a greater sense of self and learn what it was that caused addiction in the first place. There is a feeling of isolation for those with bipolar disorder so going to group therapy sessions give them a kind of support they have probably never experienced. Those with the disorder may also feel like nobody understands them. Therapists that specialize in these disorders will give them insight and understanding about their disease that can bring immense hope.

Hope for Dual Diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

It is the support and understanding that can help someone with bipolar disorder recover from addiction. This can ease their symptoms and with the proper medication and therapy, they can live a normal life for perhaps the first time. The disorder is complex but inpatient or outpatient addiction therapy can tend to the multiple layers of a dual diagnosis case.

Through the help of addiction specialists, behavioral therapy, group therapy, and one-on-one therapy, copies strategies will be developed. Confidence will be built. Patients will learn how to feed their body with nutrients that promote better brain health. Exercise will be incorporate into recovery for similar benefits to a healthy diet. The support that comes from the groups help someone to feel like they are a part of something and they are no longer alone. The benefits of therapy for this kind of co-occurring disorder are numerous.

There are recovery programs out there that can address both conditions simultaneously. There is a lot of support and attention that is needed to help those who have a co-occurring disorder. The rehabilitation may take some time but along the way, the patient will begin to feel better. They will have a greater understanding of what bipolar disorder is and how it’s affected their actions. This enables people to forgive themselves and find a place of self-love. This is an important part to recovering from addiction. As one disorder is properly treated, it becomes easier to manage the other.

Get Help for Your Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Today

Here at Women’s Recovery, we want you to know that we understand the pain of your addiction. However, with the right support, you can get the help you need to successfully recover.

Our program is designed to provide you with the help you need during this critical time. Do you have questions about bipolar disorder and addiction, or how to get recovery assistance? Please contact us right away.