Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders: Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)Co-occurring disorders are more common than you think. They can be brought on by simple environment and home life struggles. To become a victim of a co-occurring disorder means to suffer from substance abuse and a mental health disorder.

Bipolar disorder and addiction are common in the development of a co-occurring disorder. If you or someone you know has developed a co-occurring disorder like bipolar disorder and substance abuse, it is never too late to address them at Harmony Place.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a serious mental health disorder that causes sudden shifts in mood and behavior. Once known as “manic depression,” bipolar disorder is characterized by intense mood swings between emotional highs and lows.

Those who have bipolar disorder are known to have “episodes” where they experience radical shifts in their mood. These episodes can last for days or weeks at a time. They can also happen as often as several times a week or just a few times a year. Since bipolar disorder causes such radical changes in mood and behavior, it can also affect the energy and concentration of an individual.

Bipolar disorder can also be categorized into two groups: bipolar I and bipolar II. Individuals with bipolar I will experience more severe manic episodes and mixed episodes that are followed by major depressive states or hypomanic episodes. Those with bipolar II experience fewer depressive episodes, but still just as frequently, and are followed by hypomanic episodes.  

Bipolar Disorder Episodes

Those with bipolar disorder may experience four different types of episodes, including:

  • Manic episodes cause someone with bipolar disorder to be excessively cheerful or hostile. A manic episode can last a week or more and may require hospitalization.
  • Hypomanic episodes are very similar to manic episodes. In a hypomanic episode, the individual experiences less severe symptoms and for a shorter amount of time, usually about four days.
  • Major depressive episodes leave people highly depressed. Usually, they are also uninterested in their daily activities. To meet the clinical definition of an episode, the individual must be in a depressed state for at least two weeks.
  • Mixed episodes are only present in some individuals with bipolar disorder. A mixed episode includes traits from manic, hypomanic, and major depressive episodes.

Signs & Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

substance abuseBipolar disorder is brought on by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, or genetics from your mother and father. Furthermore, experiencing a traumatic event in your life is a risk factor for the development of bipolar disorder. 

Bipolar disorder can affect each person differently, including the different episodes one can experience. Furthermore, those that suffer from bipolar disorder and addiction find it more difficult to control their episodes.

Those individuals that experience severe manic episodes may be left unable to cope or function in a social environment as their symptoms are too extreme. If the episodes become too intense, they may require hospitalization. A manic episode is not usually caused by drug abuse, but the use of drugs or alcohol can make it harder to diagnose bipolar disorder. 

Some symptoms of a manic episode include:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Sleep deprivation
  • Extremely conversational and chatty 
  • Exaggerated self-confidence
  • Short attention span
  • Racing thoughts
  • Preoccupied

On the other hand, some episodes are less traumatic but still leave individuals unable to cope in social situations. Similar to manic episodes, a depressive episode is not the result of drug or alcohol abuse. 

Symptoms of a depressive episode may include:

  • Feeling a sense of self worthlessness
  • Feeling hopeless or depressed
  • Feelings of guilt or regret
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Trouble sleeping or feeling restless
  • Daily fatigue
  • Thoughts about death or suicide

If you have experienced these symptoms and relate to the signs associated with an episode, you may have a mild or moderate form of bipolar disorder. However, it is important to see a professional before making a self-diagnosis.

Effects of Bipolar Disorder

Detoxification and MedicationsThose with bipolar disorder may find that they have developed an addiction as they try to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. Those with bipolar disorder and addiction often struggle with financial issues, legal troubles, and relationship problems. 

The effects of bipolar disorder can vary from individual to individual, but most people who have it will experience episodes. To relieve the symptoms associated with an episode, an individual may be tempted to resort to drugs or alcohol. 

Using these substances gives the individual a way to ease symptoms related to their manic and depressive episodes. Although, after continuous use, the symptoms and effects of bipolar disorder and substance abuse can worsen. Those who also suffer from addiction to drugs or alcohol usually have more intense bipolar episodes and symptoms.


Addiction can be unforgiving to those who have been in its grips too long. The ability it has to cause changes in the brain and make drugs and alcohol feel pleasurable is challenging to overcome. The changes that are made to the brain reward system can lead to compulsive, drug-seeking behavior. 

Furthermore, the physical changes drug abuse causes to the brain can lead to mental health disorders like bipolar disorder. Even those who were once mentally healthy can develop bipolar disorder from their drug or alcohol addiction. The development of bipolar disorder and addiction is common among co-occurring disorders and requires treatment from professionals.

Dual Diagnosis: Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse

Many people who suffer from addiction develop a co-existing mental health condition, such as bipolar disorder. Studies by medical professionals have shown that approximately 60 percent of people with bipolar disorder also have a history of substance abuse.

Abusing drugs and alcohol often make the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse. While it’s not known why, the continuous use of these substances makes people more susceptible to the development of mental health disorders. People with no history of addiction or mental health issues can also develop bipolar disorder as a result of recurring drug abuse and alcoholism.

Getting Help

Bipolar disorder can be a tricky diagnosis, especially when coupled with addiction. The symptoms of bipolar disorder and their episodes often mirror the symptoms of addiction and drug abuse. For this reason, it’s important to seek help through a trained professional. Oftentimes, a manic episode can resemble a person on cocaine, and depressive episodes share symptoms with withdrawal periods.

A trained professional can tell apart symptoms of both conditions even when they overlap, such as bipolar disorder and addiction. At Harmony Place, there are many options available to treat co-occurring disorders. Our trained professionals work to treat both problems at once through CBT, inpatient or outpatient treatment, and detox with or without the use of medication.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is used by trained professionals to address the thoughts and feelings that people with conditions— like bipolar disorder and addiction— face regularly. 

By undergoing this therapy, individuals can better understand their thoughts and feelings that lead to episodes associated with the disorder. In the end, this prepares them for future episodes where they can manage it better.

Inpatient Therapy

Effects of Bipolar DisorderInpatient treatment or residential treatment is available for those who suffer from severe mental health and addiction issues, such as bipolar disorder and substance abuse. This type of therapy offers 24-hour care in a treatment facility where medical professionals can monitor the patient. 

The idea of inpatient therapy is to focus on overcoming addiction without the distractions of everyday life. A typical stay at a facility lasts anywhere from 28 days to six months. By taking part in an inpatient therapy program, medical professionals are able to make a diagnosis and perform a medically assisted detox to control the withdrawal period.

Outpatient Therapy

Unlike inpatient therapy, an outpatient program does not require individuals to stay overnight at a treatment facility. Those who take part in this therapy will visit the facility for wellness and prevention, such as counseling and drug abuse education.

This therapy can last anywhere from three months to a year. It also requires the individual to visit the facility for at least 10 to 12 hours a week. Those with mild to moderate symptoms of addiction find this the best option without having to distant friends and family through the withdrawal period. Those who can manage their addictions and withdrawal symptoms without supervision find this therapy just as beneficial as inpatient therapy.

Detoxification and Medications

Detoxification is the process of removing drugs and toxins from the body. The detox period can be completed in outpatient or inpatient therapy. The type of drug and how long the individual has been addicted will impact the detox period and intensity. 

A detox is designed to safely manage the withdrawal symptoms an individual experiences when they stop taking their desired drug. When performed in a treatment facility, medical professionals may administer medication to subdue the symptoms and keep the patient comfortable. 

Medications are helpful as they ease withdrawal symptoms and suppress cravings. Some medications for bipolar disorder include:

  • Anticonvulsants
  • Antipsychotics
  • Lithium
  • Benzodiazepines

These medications are helpful to those with bipolar disorder and substance abuse as they alleviate manic and depressive episodes.

Contact Harmony Place Today

Bipolar disorder and addiction can be dangerous and conflicting conditions. To get a better understanding of bipolar disorder and the signs and symptoms associated with it, contact us today.

We offer various treatment options for those struggling with co-occurring disorders. At Harmony Place, we aim to improve those feelings associated with mental health disorders and addiction, such as bipolar disorder and substance abuse. Give us a call today to start your journey!