Bipolar Disorder & Substance Abuse Addiction

by baladmin | June 3, 2014

What is Bipolar?

The term bipolar which means “two poles” signifying the polar opposites of mania and depression first appeared in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in its third revision in 1980.

Bipolar I Disorder

  • at least one manic episode and one or more major depression episodes.
  • equally common in men and women, with the first episode in men usually being mania, and the first episode in women typically being major depression.

Bipolar II Disorder

  • major depression
  • instead of full-on mania, they experience hypo-mania: high energy, impulsiveness, and excitability, but less severe as full-fledged mania.
  • more common in women than men

Bipolar disorder often starts in a person’s late teen or early adult years. But children and adults can have bipolar disorder too. The illness usually lasts a lifetime.

Bipolar disorder is a serious brain illness. It is also called manic-depressive illness. People with bipolar disorder go through unusual mood changes. Sometimes they feel very happy and “up,” and are much more active than usual. This is called mania. And sometimes people with bipolar disorder feel very sad and “down,” and are much less active. This is called depression. Bipolar disorder can also cause changes in energy and behavior.

Bipolar disorder is not the same as the normal ups and downs everyone goes through. Bipolar symptoms are more powerful than that. They can damage relationships and make it hard to go to school or keep a job.

Substance Abuse and Bipolar Disorder

Substance abuse is very common among people with bipolar disorder, but the reasons for this link are unclear. Some young adults with bipolar disorder may try to treat their own symptoms with alcohol or drugs. Substance abuse can also trigger or prolong bipolar symptoms and the behavioral problems associated with mania can lead to drinking too much.

Anxiety disorders, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and social phobia, also can co-occur with bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder can co-occur with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well, which has some symptoms that overlap with bipolar disorder, such as restlessness and being easily distracted. However, the symptoms of ADHD are persistent, whereas those of bipolar disorder are episodic.

Alcoholism & Bipolar Disorder

Dr. Daniel K. Hall-Flavin, M.D., research shows that bipolar disorder and alcoholism often occur together. Up to half the people who have bipolar disorder also struggle with alcoholism.

Although the association between bipolar disorder and alcoholism isn’t clearly understood, these factors likely play a role:

  • Inherited traits. Genetic differences appear to affect brain chemistry linked to bipolar disorder. These same traits may also affect the way the brain responds to alcohol and other drugs, increasing the risk of alcoholism and addiction to other drugs.
  • Depression and anxiety. Some people drink to ease depression, anxiety and other symptoms of bipolar disorder. Drinking may seem to help, but in the long run it makes symptoms worse. This can lead to more drinking — a vicious cycle that’s difficult to overcome.
  • Mania. This upswing from depression is usually characterized by an intensely elated (euphoric) mood and hyperactivity. It commonly causes bad judgment and lowered inhibitions, which can lead to increased alcohol use or drug abuse.

Bipolar disorder and alcoholism or other types of substance abuse can be a dangerous combination. Each can worsen the symptoms and severity of the other. Having both conditions increases the risk of mood swings, depression, violence and suicide.

If you or someone you love is suffering from bipolar disorder and addiction to alcohol or drugs, please call us today for help. 1(866) 316-4012