Substance Abuse and Bipolar Disorder

Contributor: Crystal Karges, MS, RDN, IBCLC Special Projects Coordinator at Eating Disorder Hope/Addiction Hope

Bipolar disorder is a classified as a type of mood disorder that causes extreme mood swings along with emotional highs and lows. Also referred to as manic depression, bipolar disorder can be a debilitating mental health illness that interferes with a person’s ability to live their life successfully on a daily basis. This psychiatric disorder involves mania (emotional highs) and depression. Bipolar disorder can vary based on symptoms and specific features, such as the following:

  1. Bipolar I Disorder: Individuals who have experienced at least one manic episode would be classified as having this type of bipolar disorder
  2. Bipolar II Disorder: This involves at least one major depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode.
  3. Other types of Bipolar Disorder: This can include other related disorders due to medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or stroke. Substance-abuse induced bipolar can fall under this category.
  4. Cyclothymic Disorder: This involves multiple years of hypomania symptoms and depressive symptoms.

How Bipolar Disorder Increases the Risk of Addiction

Individuals who struggle with bipolar disorder are at greater risk for developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol. Research statistics have revealed that over 50 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder had experienced an addiction to drugs or alcohol in their lifetime1.

People with bipolar disorder who reach for substances may do so in attempt to deal with the overwhelming symptoms they may commonly experience as a result of this psychiatric disorder

man makes a selfieThe simultaneous struggle of bipolar disorder with substance abuse may reveal the existence of a co-occurring disorder, which can present with many complex issues for the sufferer. If you find yourself dealing with mental illness and substance abuse, it is necessary to find professional help that can adequately addressing bipolar and substance abuse.

Rehabilitation Services for Substance Abuse with Bipolar Disorder

Emotional instability resulting from bipolar disorder can make it more difficult to recovery from an addiction to drugs and alcohol. Treatment for both bipolar disorder and substance abuse can help addressing these concerning disorders appropriately and effectively.

Many treatment programs offer rehabilitation services that are tailored towards individuals who may also be dealing with a mental illness, such as bipolar disorder. Be sure to reach out for help to connect with specialists who can help you address these concerns and move forward with the recovery process.

Community Discussion – Share your thoughts here!

What aspects of bipolar disorder can make recovering from substance abuse particularly complicated? If you are in recovery from bipolar disorder and substance abuse, what parts of your treatment have been helpful in your journey?


  1. ‘Bipolar disorder and addiction. Dual Diagnosis. Org, Integrated Treatment of Substance Abuse and Mental Illness, Accessed 10 May 2015

Last Updated & Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on June 2nd, 2015
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