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Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar disorder and addiction frequently go hand-in-hand. It's even possible to suffer from bipolar disorder and not be aware of your condition. For these individuals, they will commonly use certain substances as a way to help their symptoms. This is a very serious mental illness. It can be debilitating for those who suffer from it. It's not surprising that so many bipolar sufferers choose to use substances as a means of escape. For these individuals, they live in a constant state of being at risk mentally and physically.

Bipolar Disorder

There are so many people in the U.S. who have bipolar disorder. There are most likely many others who have it, but have never been officially diagnosed. According to Bipolar Lives:

  • More than 2 million adults in the United States during any year have bipolar disorder.
  • This works out to be about 1% of the population.
  • The lifetime risk of developing bipolar disorder is as high as 10%.
  • Almost 10 million people will develop bipolar disorder at some point during their lives.
  • Only about half of them will ever receive the right treatment for their conditions.

Bipolar disorder can begin during any stage of life. It's possible for it to begin during childhood.

Sometimes people don't start to show symptoms until they're much older. It is a mental illness that affects every facet of a person's life. Many people are forced to stop working and go on disability because of it.

Considering the above statistics, it's possible that you have bipolar disorder, but you're not aware of it. Or, if you are aware of it, you may be using substances to cover up your symptoms. Alcohol and drugs can quickly become a crutch for people with bipolar disorder. If that's where you are right now, we want to help you.

At Northpoint Washington, we know how serious bipolar disorder is. We also know how difficult it is for people who also suffer with addictions. These co-occurring disorders tend to feed off each other. Over time, symptoms only become worse.

It's important for you to learn as much as you can about bipolar disorder. If you think you may have it, the information we're about to present to you can help you. You'll learn about the signs and symptoms, as well as how to get help for both conditions.

Understanding Bipolar Disorder

"The point about manic depression or bipolar disorder, as it's now more commonly called, is that it's about mood swings. So, you have an elevated mood. When people think of manic depression, they only hear the word depression. They think one's a depressive. The is, one's a manic-depressive." Stephen Fry

Bipolar disorder can be a difficult condition to understand. This is especially true for those who suffer from it. According to WebMD, bipolar disorder is a mental illness that brings severe high and low moods. It also results in sleep changes, energy fluctuations and behavior changes.

The mood swings can be quick and abrupt when they occur. It's also possible for people to remain in one specific state for a period of several months.

Sufferers will frequently feel very happy and energized, and then that changes. Sadness, hopelessness and a lack of energy are experienced on the other spectrum. These highs and lows are often thought of as polar opposites, which is where it gets its name.

During the manic phase of bipolar disorder, emotions are usually out of control. The individual may feel overly excited, irritable and impulsive. Sometimes delusions and hallucinations accompany this as well. There are bipolar sufferers who will remain in a hypomanic state for quite some time. For them, their symptoms don't really interfere in their daily lives.

The depressive stage of bipolar disorder has symptoms that are similar to those with major depression. This is where the majority of bipolar individuals spend most of their time.

There are Different Types of Bipolar Disorders. Which One Fits You Best?

Like many mental illnesses, bipolar disorder is not a cut-and-dried condition. There are several different types of it. It's important for you to understand which one you may be suffering from. Finding out will help you to understand your situation and why you feel the way you do.


People who are diagnosed with bipolar I disorder must have had at least one manic episode. Usually, the individual spends most of his or her time experiencing chronic depression. There can be some cycling between the two extremes. There are also some "off" times when people feel perfectly normal. During this stage, they are able to live normally. They can hold down a job, interact well with their friends and family, and take care of their responsibilities.


Bipolar II disorder may be more common than bipolar I. Those who suffer from this type never fully reach the manic stage. Their form of mania usually stays within the bounds of hypomania. A person must have had at least one hypomanic episode to be diagnosed with this condition.


For someone with cyclothymic disorder, they still reach the two polar opposite of moods, but they aren't extreme. These individuals will stay within hypomania and mild depression. Their symptoms overall are much milder than someone with the previous levels of bipolar disorder.


The mixed features version of bipolar disorder is quite rare. It occurs when someone experiences symptoms of both moods at the same time. This individual may have a lot of energy and be unable to sleep. He or she may also be very depressed, and even suicidal.


Rapid cycling refers to the experience of having four or more mood episodes within a year. Episodes need to last for a certain number of days. Sometimes people develop patterns of rapid cycling after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It is even possible for ultra-rapid cycling to occur. This is when severe mood shifts occur within the course of one day.

How Will You Know if You Have Bipolar Disorder? Learn the Symptoms

It is very common for bipolar disorder to be mistaken for depression. This is only to the detriment of those being diagnosed. Bipolar disorder is so much more than depression.

It's important to know the symptoms of this mental illness; especially if you feel you suffer from it. However, the two different moods people display have their own, unique symptoms.

Some of the symptoms of the mania that occurs with bipolar disorder may include:

  • Becoming very upbeat
  • Feeling jumpy or wired
  • Exaggerating about how good one feels
  • Feeling extremely self-confident
  • Having a sense of euphoria
  • Less sleep at night
  • Becoming unusually talkative
  • Experiencing racing thoughts
  • Becoming easily distracted
  • Taking dangerous risks
  • Exhibiting poor decision-making skills
  • Hallucinations or delusions

Some of the symptoms of the mania that occurs with bipolar disorder may include:

  • Feeling sad, empty or hopeless
  • Becoming easily tearful
  • Not having any interest in favorite activities
  • Experiencing weight loss
  • Insomnia or too much sleep
  • Feeling restless
  • Exhibiting slowed behavior
  • Fatigue during the day
  • Having no energy
  • Feeling worthless or guilty for no reason
  • Not having the ability to concentrate
  • Becoming indecisive
  • Thinking about committing suicide

As you can see, bipolar disorder can be very dangerous. It is a condition that tends to get progressively worse if it is not treated right away. Ongoing treatment is absolutely necessary because it is possible for symptoms to return.

Bipolar Disorder Information

After looking at these symptoms, it's possible that you wonder if you have bipolar disorder. Maybe you were diagnosed with major depression, but those symptoms don't quite fit. It can be helpful to take a quiz that can give you some more insight.

Answer the following questions about yourself honestly:

  • Do you frequently have racing thoughts that are hard to express to others?
  • Do you have periods of time when you are very goal-oriented?
  • Do you ever participate in reckless activities that you know you shouldn't?
  • Do you get very little sleep, but find that you still have a lot of energy?
  • Is it difficult for you to maintain a conversation without getting distracted?
  • Do you ever interrupt other people's conversations without regard for them at all?
  • Do you ever feel like you're on top of the world?
  • Do you ever become very irritable or angry?
  • Do you have periods of time when everything makes you feel sad?
  • Are you struggling in your relationships with your family?
  • Would you rather be isolated from others most of the time?
  • Have you ever thought about committing suicide?
  • Do your moods tend to change rather quickly?
  • Do you cry for no real reason?
  • Have you recently lost weight without meaning to?
  • Do you feel tired during the day?

These questions are split into mania and depression categories. If you answered some with a yes from both categories, you may have bipolar disorder.

If you do have bipolar disorder, there's no reason to be ashamed or feel guilty. It's important to identify what the problem is so that you can get the help you need to recover.

The most important thing you can do if you have bipolar disorder is to get treatment. Both phases of this disorder are serious, and so, treatment should begin right away.

Therapists and doctors use a few different methods to treat bipolar disorder. These methods depend on the symptoms and the type of treatment the patient needs. You might experience:

  • Medication Therapy: There are a number of different medications that have proven to be effective in treating bipolar disorder. In fact, this method is often the cornerstone of treatment.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy can help people manage their bipolar symptoms effectively. It can also help to prevent a relapse. Individuals learn how to use various coping techniques to control their emotions.
  • Family Therapy: It can be very helpful to get family members involved when someone they love is in treatment. Quite often, therapists are able to help restore and strengthen these important relationships. The ultimate goal is to be a strong source of support.
  • Group Therapy: For those who have bipolar disorder, it can be a very lonely mental illness. They frequently feel like no one understands what they're going through. Group therapy offers them the peer support they desperately need.
  • Interpersonal/Social Rhythm Therapy: This is another type of behavioral therapy that has proven to be effective. It concentrates on improving personal relationships. It also establishes daily rhythms to improve the quality of life for bipolar patients.

There are a number of different medications that are frequently used to help people with bipolar disorder. These include:

  • Lithium
  • Valproic Acid
  • Equetro
  • Lamotrigine
  • Gabapentin
  • Haloperidol
  • Risperdone
  • Latuda
  • Symbyax

Medications can be a very important part of treating bipolar disorder. However, they should never be viewed as the only form of treatment. Therapy is critical for anyone with this condition.

There is no real cause for bipolar disorder. However, researchers do know that a number of risk factors play a role in it.

  • Family History: Bipolar disorder is an inherited disease. More than two out of three people with it have a close relative suffering from it as well. According to NIMH, when one parent has it, the risk to children is as high as 30%. When both parents have it, the risk increases to as high as 75%.
  • Chemical Imbalance: Bipolar disorder is a condition that occurs in a specific part of the brain. When neurotransmitters aren't able to communicate with each other, this can easily lead to bipolar disorder. These problems can develop at any time, and they often remain dormant for years.
  • Environmental Factors: If someone is predisposed to having bipolar disorder, any event can trigger it.
  • Physical Health: Certain health conditions can trigger episodes of bipolar disorder. For example, hormonal shifts or other health conditions can play a role.
  • Some Medications: For those who are more susceptible to bipolar disorder, manic episodes can be triggered by antidepressants. Drugs like Zoloft or Prozac are excellent examples.

Because the symptoms of bipolar disorder can change so quickly, the substances people abuse are also likely to change.

For someone who is in a manic state, he or she may choose to drink alcohol or use marijuana. These drugs have calming effects on the body that can counteract the symptoms of mania.

For someone who is in a depressive state, he or she may choose something to help them feel better. Again, alcohol is a common choice. Stimulants like Adderall or even cocaine might also be valid options in their minds.

By now, you may understand why bipolar disorder and addiction are often linked to each other. The goal is to minimize symptoms, regardless of what state a person is in at the time.

Drinking alcohol or using drugs can help this to occur for a short period of time. However, people generally find that it isn't long before their symptoms return. In some cases, they may even become worse. To help with this, people will increase how much or how often they use substances.

Integrative addiction treatment or dual diagnosis treatment is important for those with this condition and addiction. It's so important to treat them at the same time. Doing so improves outcomes for patients and leaves them less susceptible to a relapse.

A treatment plan is created specifically for each patient that outlines his or her own specific needs. Therapies are combined and complement each other.

Find Help and Support for Your Co-Occurring Disorders at Northpoint Washington

How long have you suffered with bipolar disorder and addiction? When the two conditions occur together, it can be so difficult. At first, using drugs or alcohol seemed like it would help you cope. However, you soon realized that it didn't help as much as you would have liked.

Maybe you've reached the end of your rope, and you're desperate for a way to feel better. You no longer want to use, but you're not sure where to begin, or how to start recovering. We want to provide you with the help you really need.

At Northpoint Recovery, we specialize in dual diagnosis treatment for those with co-occurring disorders. Bipolar disorder can quickly take over your life. It only gets worse when you add in the addiction component. You need a way to improve and regain control of your life. That is what you'll find when you work with us.

Is it time for you to consider getting help for your bipolar disorder and addiction? We want to provide you with the support you need to recover. To learn more, contact us.

Northpoint Washington: Opening April 2019

Our facilities currently open for services:

Ashwood Recovery at Northpoint

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Boise, Idaho.

Northpoint Recovery

Our National Medical Detox and Inpatient Addiction Facility.

The Evergreen at Northpoint

Outpatient drug and alcohol rehab and addiction counseling located in Washington State.