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Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

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Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Approximately 38% of people with substance abuse disorder have a concurrent mental health disorder. People with bipolar disorder are more likely to have a co-occurring substance abuse disorder than individuals with other anxiety, mood or psychotic disorders. Therefore, it’s important to understand the link between bipolar disorder and addiction.

How are Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Linked?

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that is characterized by significant fluctuations between moods. People with this mental health condition usually experience mood episodes that range from depressed to manic. While everyone experiences shifts in their mood from time to time, people with bipolar disorder may exhibit dramatic changes in behavior, an inability to function normally and difficulty with everyday tasks.

The reason for the high rates of comorbidity between bipolar disorder and addiction are largely unknown. However, experts have a few explanations. One is that people with bipolar disorder self-medicate with substances to cope with intense and unstable emotions. Because a symptom of bipolar mania is risky behavior, people with this condition may be more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol.


Burning Tree Ranch Offers the Best Long Term Dual Diagnosis Treatment for the Chronic Relapser


Addiction Can Mimic Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

In some cases, the side effects of substance abuse can look like signs of bipolar disorder. For example, someone who is high on cocaine may seem manic. If the cocaine use is chronic or cyclical, the manic symptoms may also come in waves. This can make it seem as though the individual has bipolar disorder.

On the other hand, symptoms of bipolar disorder can mimic signs of addiction. For example, someone who becomes depressed in between binge drinking episodes may seem as though they have cyclical depression. However, the symptom is only brought on by the substance abuse.

Some overlapping symptoms of bipolar disorder and addiction include:

  • Increased risk-taking behavior
  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in sleep needs
  • Changes in appetite
  • Restlessness
  • Problems with cognition and memory

Getting an Accurate Diagnosis for Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

It’s difficult to provide an accurate diagnosis while an individual is experiencing active substance abuse. It is often important for the person to eliminate the drugs from the system before a medical professional can diagnose and treat a co-occurring mental health disorder.

When working with mental health professionals, it’s essential to disclose your patterns of drug use so that you can receive the right treatment. Establishing an open, trusting and ongoing relationship with a mental health professional helps you get the right diagnosis.

Doctors use a wide range of criteria to evaluate your symptoms. Developing a strong relationship with your therapist enables you to get the best care.

Addiction poses a challenge to diagnosing and treating bipolar disorder accurately. When seeking treatment for addiction, it’s important to look for a dual diagnosis treatment center. Otherwise, signs of bipolar disorder can be missed during addiction detox and treatment. Professionals who are experienced with bipolar disorder and addiction have the resources to make and treat a co-occurring disorder.

Can Substance Abuse Cause Bipolar Disorder?

There is no exclusive cause for bipolar disorder. Some factors that increase your risk of developing the mental health condition include:

  • Genetics – People with siblings or parents that have bipolar disorder are more likely to be diagnosed with the same condition.
  • Brain chemistry – Chemical messengers in your brain influence your mood, and imbalances in those chemicals are linked with bipolar disorder.
  • Environmental triggers – Stressful events can induce the onset of bipolar disorder or cause symptoms of relapse.

Substance abuse is linked to each of these factors.

Drugs alter your brain chemistry. Heavy or long-term use affects your neurotransmitters, causing changes that can lead to mood disturbances. Alcohol abuse has especially strong links to bipolar disorder. Withdrawal from drugs and alcohol can also trigger the mental health condition.

A traumatic event that occurs due to your substance abuse could trigger the onset of bipolar disorder symptoms. Furthermore, the ongoing stress produced by addiction can also give rise to bipolar symptoms.

If you are already predisposed to developing bipolar disorder because of hereditary factors, abusing drugs and alcohol increases your risk. In fact, any of the risk factors above can increase your chances of developing the condition.

The symptoms of bipolar disorder that are induced by substance abuse often disappear after detox and withdrawal. However, manic and depressive episodes may persist if you don’t get the right treatment.

It’s Important to Treat All Disorders

If you have a dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and addiction, it’s essential to treat both conditions. Treating bipolar disorder can reduce drug and alcohol cravings. Learning to cope with the stressors of bipolar disorder makes it easier for you to stay sober.

Resiliency, the ability to regulate your emotions in the face of stress, also reduces the level of distress that you feel from traumatic events. This can further reduce factors that threaten your stability throughout your recovery. Untreated mental health conditions contribute to relapse.

But getting a comprehensive screening and assessment is the first step toward making a dual diagnosis and getting effective treatment. Understanding the source of your symptoms allows you to develop tools for monitoring and managing all of your mental health conditions.

In the past, bipolar disorder and addiction were treated as two separate disorders. Although they are distinct conditions, they need to be addressed concurrently during treatment.

That’s why an integrative care model works best for people with a dual diagnosis. A broad spectrum of therapeutic options helps you manage your unique needs when you struggle with co-occurring bipolar disorder and addiction.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Burning Tree Ranch

Burning Tree Ranch offers a wide variety of approaches to help you become your best self. Our programs help you manage and prevent chronic relapse by addressing the needs of each individual. Using traditional and alternative methods, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and equine therapy, we help our patients develop the skills to manage their conditions in every day life. In addition, we tailor our programs to help you create a meaningful, stable life beyond recovery.

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Find Recovery, Not Just Sobriety.

KRISTINA ROBERTSON, LMSW, LCDC

KRISTINA ROBERTSON

LMSW, LCDC | Counselor
Kristina Robertson serves as Counselor at Burning Tree Ranch. Holding both a Bachelors and Masters Degree in Social Work, Kristina’s greatest joy is “watching our clients learn to love themselves again.” An avid equestrian, mother to twenty-one horses, and all-around animal lover, Kristina serves as a bright shining example of long-term recovery in action. Her commitment to whole person health: mental, physical, emotional and spiritual makes her an invaluable member of the Burning Tree Ranch clinical team. As a distinguished Phi Theta Kappa and Alpha Zeta member, Kristina believes deeply in each client’s pursuit of becoming their best selves.

"who is a burning tree client?"

Beth Legacki, Burning Tree Ranch Alumni