What You Need to Know About Bipolar II and Drug Addiction

It is not unusual to have a mental illness alongside drug addiction. Bipolar II is no different.

If you are struggling with bipolar 2 disorder, you may have begun to take drugs to manage your symptoms. Now you may find that you are addicted to the drugs you were taking to feel better.

Co-occurring bipolar II with drug addiction may make treatment harder. It is better to know about and be working with both the addiction and mental disorders together. Treating the disorder and the addiction separately will not fully address the underlying issues of your addiction – or your type 2 bipolar disorder.

Bipolar 2 can be co-occurring with addiction. Get the facts on why and how to find treatment for both addiction and bipolar II.

Here’s the thing: It is possible to have bipolar 2 and not know it

You could have been trying to treat your symptoms of bipolar 2 through drugs without fully understanding your situation. If you think you have bipolar 2 disorder, or any other mental illness, please consult a doctor and do not self-diagnose or medicate.

Anyone can develop bipolar 2 disorder. It is more likely to develop in people under 50 years of age. Symptoms are more likely to begin occurring in your teens or early 20s.

These are the ages that it is most common to develop symptoms. If you are past your early 20s, you still may want to talk to a doctor if you feel you are experiencing symptoms of a co-occurring disorder.

You are more likely to develop bipolar 2 disorder if you have an immediate family member who also has the same diagnosis. You still can develop bipolar II even if no one in your family that has it. 2.5% of the U.S. population has this mental disorder – that’s almost 6 million people.


2.5% of the U.S. population has this mental disorder.

6 million

That’s almost 6 million people.

What is Bipolar Disorder 2 – and What are the Bipolar Types?

Bipolar 2 is a mental illness. It is characterized by a cycle of rapid highs and lows. People with bipolar 2 disorder are more likely to experience manic “lows” than euphoric highs. They experience more bipolar depression, also known as “manic depression.”

If you have bipolar II, you may live out your life symptom free in between your episodes of bipolar depression.

People who have bipolar II will experience sudden bipolar depression and hypomaniac episodes. These times of hypomaniac feelings can either show as a euphoric high or irritability.

Specific symptoms of this state of bipolar 2 look like:

  • fast and loud talking
  • rapid changing of ideas
  • a lot of energy and less of a need for sleep
  • excessive amounts of self-confidence

Hypomaniac episodes can last from days to months. During this time, you have a lot of positive energy to share with others. This euphoric high can turn into mania, a symptom of bipolar I, where you may make a serious of risky decisions without thinking of the consequences.

The cycle of bipolar depression and hypomaniac episodes is different for everyone. Some people will experience periods of normality in between them. Others jump back and forth from depression to hypomaniac seasons.

If you have bipolar 2, you are more likely to experience more depression than hypomania.

Depression in people with bipolar 2 disorder looks similar to clinical depression. You may have thoughts of suicide. You might feel worthless. You may be in a constant state of despair and hopelessness.

When you are in a depressive state caused by bipolar 2, you may stop enjoying friends and activities you usually love. It may be hard for you to eat. You could gain or lose a significant amount of weight.

If you have bipolar 2, It is not uncommon to have trouble sleeping yet always be fatigued. You could also oversleep everyday and have trouble getting out of bed.

You might go through long periods of time in a constant state of guilt without knowing the cause.

This state of bipolar depression can last anywhere from weeks to months, to possibly a year.

Bipolar Types: Difference Between Bipolar Disorder 2 and 1

If you have bipolar I disorder, you experience more mania than bipolar depression. You may feel like the life of the party, but mania can have bad affects on your life. In bipolar I, mania is so intense that it can lead to bad decision making.

You may make uncharacteristically bad decisions when it comes to money, sex, and life circumstances when you are in mania.

With bipolar II disorder, you experience some periods of hypomania. You will not experience it as frequently or as intense as the mania those with bipolar I have. People with bipolar II have more periods of depression than those with bipolar I.

Mania is a high-energy state in a person. Someone with mania has bipolar I not bipolar II. A person in mania can turn psychotic or depressed. It is possible to hear voices or see things that aren’t there. Though this is not always the case, some in mania may believe that they have super powers or hold other false beliefs about themselves.

Hypomania is a less severe form of mania. People with bipolar II disorder can experience hypomania. This state may just give you more energy and can feel good to be in.

The danger with hypomania is that it can turn into mania or into a serious bipolar depression.

Rapid cycling is when you experience four or more changes from depression and mania (or hypomania) within a year.

If you have bipolar disorder II, you are more likely to experience rapid cycling than someone with bipolar I. Women are also more likely to rapid cycle.

Rapid cycling can go away. It is uncertain how long any one person can rapid cycle. Proper treatment of your bipolar disorder can help you stop rapid cycling.

Bipolar Disorder 2 Insight

Rapid cycling happens with about 10% to 20% of people with bipolar disorder.

People who have rapid cycle within their bipolar disorder spend more of their time in a depressive state than they do in mania or hypomania.

It is more likely that someone with a rapid cycling course will commit suicide.

The Difference Between Ordinary Mood Swings and Bipolar Disorder

Ordinary mood swings are less intense than the mood swings that occur in any bipolar disorder. Bipolar hypomania, mania, and depression periods have the ability to completely disrupt your life.

Depression may keep you from getting out of bed and going to work or enjoying your life. Mania may cause you to make life-altering decisions or keep you from sleeping for days.

While ordinary mood swings may last a couple of days, mania and depression from bipolar can last from weeks to months. There can be a constant and rapid change from emotions with an intensity that normal mood swings don’t have.

There is still a lot more to learn about bipolar 2 disorder. It is not possible to say whether or not any form of bipolar can be prevented. It is possible to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder through therapy and medication provided by a doctor.

Bipolar disorder is not a disorder that you can make go away. Though symptoms may fade with the right treatment. You can treat symptoms effectively through psychotherapy and mood stabilizing medication.

Mental Health, Drug Addiction and Bipolar Types

20 million

In 2014, it is recorded that 20 million adults in the US had a substance abuse disorder.

8 million

8 million of those people also had a mental illness that required treatment.

There are some obstacles to treating an addiction of someone with a mental health disorder. It is important to find out which disorder led to the other. Sometimes the mental health disorder leads to the addiction, but sometimes it the opposite.

Finding the root of both disorders is important for treatment.

Difficulties with Drug Addiction Treatment with Bipolar II Disorder

People with bipolar 2 already struggle with bouts of depression. This can cause thoughts of hopelessness while in any drug addiction program. This hopelessness can affect your road to recovery. If you have bipolar II, you will be less responsive to the traditional drug abuse treatment.

Bipolar II may make it necessary to be hospitalized longer. More care is needed to help make sure that anyone who has bipolar II does not attempt suicide during any intense depressive episodes.

For these reasons, the traditional drug addiction program is not the best option for those struggling with bipolar 2. That is why more facilities are looking at dual diagnosis treatment for those with co-occurring mental health disorders.

Co-occurring disorder treatment programs work with the dual diagnosis treatment to give you the best care.

With dual diagnosis, your addiction treatment will not separate your mental health from your addiction disorder. We work with you to find answers to both of your disorders and will consider each disorder during each step of your program.

Bipolar II can greatly affect your life. Why not take your disorder into consideration during addiction treatment instead of treating your mental health as something separate from the issue?

Co-occurring disorder treatment provides the best care for you and your unique personal battle with drug addiction. This is true for all bipolar types.

Integrated Group Therapy and Bipolar II

A study of integrated group therapy, IGT, has shown the effectiveness of dual treatment versus only taking the addiction into account.

IGT is a technique that allows patients and counselors to address both bipolar symptoms and drug addiction within therapy sessions for all bipolar types. During these meetings the participants would talk about their substance use that week along with their mood swings. The clinicians took all information into account and made connections between the mood swings and drug use.

Bipolar Disorder 2 Research

The standard drug counseling groups only addressed the substance abuse. The participants’ bipolar disorders were separated from their drug use during treatment.

All groups were each made up of six to eight people that met once a week.

In this 2010 study of 62 participants, it was found that the participants in IGT sessions began to use less drugs per week than those in standard drug counseling groups.

Mental Health Issues that Can Be Caused by Drug Addiction

Drugs can change your brain. Along with creating addictions, some drugs can create anxiety, aggression, depression, and hallucination problems if abused for a significant amount of time.

It is not certain that bipolar can come from drug abuse. There is a high number of people who abuse drugs at an early age that also have severe depression or bipolar disorder.

This may be because people with co-occurring bipolar ii started their drug abusing to help with symptoms. Other people may have both a drug addiction and bipolar II disorder for separate reasons.

Adolescent Drug Use and Mental Illness for Bipolar II Disorder

Some findings suggest that abusing drugs at a younger age may make it more likely to develop mental illness. It is not certain, but it could be that using drugs in key brain developmental stages could make it more likely. Someone who uses drugs as an adolescent may have more of a chance to have mental illnesses than one who started using drugs later in life.

The opposite has been found to be true. Children with mental disorders are more likely to abuse drugs later in life. This has been found especially with children who have ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder). The tricky part about that is a lot of children who have ADHD might be prescribed medication that has addictive qualities.

Drug abuse does affect adolescents more. In fact, the younger a person abuses drugs the more the substance can affect the brain in a way that would cause mental health issues. In some cases, these means developing one of the two bipolar types.

Bipolar Types and Misdiagnosis of Bipolar Disorder 2


69% of US patients with bipolar are known to be misdiagnosed initially.

One third of people with bipolar disorder where misdiagnosed for over 10 years.

It is not unusual to be misdiagnosed if you have bipolar 2. The bad part is that misdiagnosis and treatment for something else can make your symptoms worse. Many people go a long time without knowing what they have and why they feel the way the do.

This is one of the reasons so many people with bipolar II turn to self-medicating and drug abuse.

A lot of people only go to their doctor over their depression symptoms. As a result, they are diagnosed with depression and not the full diagnosis of bipolar ii, which addresses hypomania.

It is also hard for doctor’s to get a full history of a bipolar patient’s history. Hypomania in bipolar II, for instance, is much harder to diagnose since it may not affect a person’s social or work life enough for someone to make note of it.

With bipolar II, people notice the depression. Knowing that someone experiences depression is not enough to make a full diagnosis for bipolar ii.

Bipolar Disorder 2 Insight


40% of people with bipolar are initially misdiagnosed with unipolar depression.

7.5 years

One study shows that people remain misdiagnosed for an average of 7.5 years.

There is a high number of people with bipolar who also have a co-occurring, comorbidity, mental health issues and addiction. This can make it hard to diagnose when bipolar symptoms are showing alongside symptoms to other disorders.

Comorbidity means that there are one or more chronic diseases within one person at the same time. They also tend to affect one another during treatment.

Some studies show that 60% of people with diagnosed bipolar also abuse or are dependent on drugs. 69% of people known to have bipolar are addicted to alcohol or abuse it.

These studies only show percentages based on who is diagnosed bipolar. Many people have misdiagnosed, or undiagnosed, type I or type II bipolar disorder. The percentage of all people with co-occurring bipolar and drug addiction disorder could be greater or less.

Comorbidity with other mental illness makes diagnosis of bipolar ii difficult. Panic disorder, ADHD, axis II personality disorder, eating disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social phobia, or eating disorders frequently occur along with bipolar disorders.

Co-occurring mental health issues can also make treatment of bipolar ii symptoms more complex.

Drugs can also affect your mood. If you are going through a period without drugs, this can cause bipolar depression symptoms.

If someone goes to a doctor looking for help during this time, they are not likely to mention any use of drugs. This person can be misdiagnosed with bipolar disorder.

As stated before, misdiagnosis of bipolar 2 disorder can make drug and alcohol addiction treatment harder.

The longer it takes to get a correct diagnosis, the more time it takes to find the right treatment for your symptoms.

When you are misdiagnosed with unipolar depression, consequences can be more intense hypomaniac episodes. The antidepressants that are used for unipolar depression can cause rapid cycling in someone with bipolar ii. You can also start experiencing mania.

Bipolar Disorder 2 Insight

55% of bipolar patients developed mania and 23% become rapid cyclers in a study of people that had been misdiagnosed with unipolar depression.

More hospital visits and risk of suicide attempts are two consequences of delaying use of proper mood stabilizers for bipolar disorder.

People with bipolar disorder have 25% to 50% risk of attempting suicide. Those with unipolar depression have a risk of 15%.

Remaining undiagnosed with bipolar II, or any bipolar disorder, can have devastating effects on your work and personal life.

You may miss work due to the affects bipolar has on you form day to day. You may miss out on educational opportunities and social events and friendships. Health costs become higher as your symptoms are unmanaged.

Misdiagnosis of bipolar II will not only affect your drug addiction treatment, but can also affect your whole life.

Careful physical examination from your doctor is needed. This can help rule out any nonpsychiatric illness that could add to symptoms of bipolar II.

The most important part of correct diagnosis with bipolar disorder is that you have an accurate idea of your history of symptoms. You need to become aware of the symptoms of hypomania and mania to fully present your situation to a doctor.

Seeking help from family and friends to make note of every episode of depression, mania, and hypomania that you’ve experienced will help you to get the right diagnosis. In bipolar II, you will experience hypomania, which can be harder for you or family to recognize than mania.

Excessive sleep and appetite, irritability, and anger are more common in bipolar depression. Early age onset and family history are also predictors of whether someone has bipolar disorder and not unipolar depression.

Is There More to the Connection Between Bipolar II and Drug Addiction?

Bipolar and depression are the most common mental disorders in those with substance dependency. These comorbidities make drug addiction treatment more difficult.

It’s clear that the connection for bipolar ii, could come from people trying to treat bipolar 2 symptoms that they experience but don’t understand.

Is that the only explanation for the connection?

People with bipolar disorder are more likely to become addicted to cocaine than alcohol. This is because people may be trying to become energized when they are in a depressive episode.

Chronic substance abuse can also strengthen bipolar ii symptoms. Drugs change the neuropathways in the brain that are already connected to the mood disorder. This makes the symptoms of any already existing bipolar disorder more intense.

A Vicious Cycle: More Substance Abuse Leads to More Use

It is also possible that the more someone uses drugs or experiences episodes in bipolar disorder, the more they will use drugs or have symptoms.

Alcohol and cocaine make neurons in the brain more sensitive. The frequency of drug use could lead to a desire for more alcohol or cocaine as the neurons become sensitized. Mood disorders, like bipolar II, may increase in the same way.

Bipolar disorder symptoms and alcohol and cocaine use may make each other more frequent. Both sensitize the neurons in the brain. This is called a kindling process. Some are more likely to experience it than others.

The Role of Family History of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness

Both substance abuse and bipolar 2 can come from conditions that exist in your family. Your brain can be wired to have both of these conditions.

Families with drug abusers are also more likely to have members with mood disorders. The opposite is also true. Family history is important to know so that you can see any patterns that may help you know your own situation.

Your genes may make it more possible for you to experience kindly between drug use and mood disorders.

Depending on how your genetics, you might be more prone to have bipolar II which could lead to substance abuse in an attempt to self medicate.

Co-Occurring Treatment for Addiction and Type 2 Bipolar Disorder

Knowing your family history and whether or not you have bipolar II will help your treatment process.

Your drug abuse and bipolar II symptoms should not be treated separately. There are still facilities that will try to separate the issues. This will only result in more time in an addiction program with less success in quitting your addiction.

First, receiving the proper diagnosis for your mental health disorder is key to starting your drug-free life. By knowing if you have a mental disorder and what it is, proper medication and therapy can be giving while you are also going through your drug addiction treatment.

Therapy with Bipolar II – the Beginnings of Hope

Therapy can help you self-regulate your bipolar ii symptoms as needed. If you are able to self-regulate, this will help you with any feelings of hopelessness that you might experience in addiction treatment.

Being able to regulate yourself will also help you identify addiction triggers. One trigger might be that whenever you feel a depression episode, you use drugs or alcohol. Instead of using drugs you would employ the self-regulation tactics that your therapist gives you.

Active participation in a dual-diagnosis program will provide you with more of the attention and specific tools you need for type 2 bipolar disorder and addiction.

Medication and Drug Abuse

If you have bipolar 2 (or any of the bipolar types), you will need to wait until after detoxification before starting any mood stabilizing medications.

This will allow clinicians to see if your symptoms are from detoxifying or from bipolar II. Your diagnosis will be more accurate if all drugs are out of your system.

Effective Treatment and Dual Diagnosis

If you have, or think you have, any mental disorder along with your drug or alcohol addiction, you need a dual diagnosis program.

We understand the need to take both diagnoses into account during treatment. Please contact us if you’d like to know more about our dual diagnosis program.