The National Institute of Mental Health reports that around 2.8% of adults in America experienced bipolar disorder within the last twelve months. Bipolar disorders are common co-occurring conditions with substance use disorders (SUD). A 2007 review of the literature concluded, “research has consistently shown that patients with bipolar I and II disorder have an extremely high rate of co-occurring SUDs. Among the bipolar spectrum, bipolar type I has consistently been shown to have higher rates of co-occurring SUDs than bipolar type II, bipolar NOS, and cyclothymic disorder.” 


Bipolar disorder is sometimes referred to as manic-depressive disorder. Among the variations of bipolar symptoms, shared characteristics include extreme mood swings corresponding with changes in energy and activity levels. These mood swings shift from episodes of mania (high levels of energy and elation) to depression (lethargy and sadness). Often this disorder interferes with a person’s ability to function in their day-to-day life. The three types of bipolar disorder are: 

  1. Bipolar 1 Disorder: Manic episodes lasting a minimum of seven days, or the symptoms are severe enough to require immediate hospitalization. Depressive episodes may last several weeks. Depression and mania symptoms mix in some instances. 
  2. Bipolar 2 Disorder: This type is characterized by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic (less intense manic) episodes.
  3. Cyclothymic Disorder (Cyclothymia): Hypomanic symptoms and depressive symptoms last a minimum of two years in adults and one year in children and young adults. The symptoms never reach the diagnostic requirement for full-blown hypomanic or depressive episodes. 


Mania and hypomania are both severe risk factors for developing substance use disorders. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that between 30-50% of people diagnosed with bipolar 1 and 2 disorders will develop SUD. According to their research, no other mental health disorder has a higher rate of comorbidity with substance use disorders. 

Bipolar disorder might be severely underdiagnosed because people often only go to a doctor for help with depressive episodes. Therefore, doctors might not discover the pattern of manic and depressive episodes that could lead to a proper diagnosis. SUD can make reaching a diagnosis more challenging. 


Any bipolar disorder could cause several common complications. For example, bipolar disorder will increase the risk of developing the following:

  • Substance use disorder 
  • Anxiety or generalized anxiety disorder 
  • Heart disease or other cardiovascular issues
  • Diabetes 
  • Obesity
  • Suicidal ideations


Another serious complication is the changes that take place with untreated bipolar disorder. When left untreated by medication or therapy, manic and depressive episodes have a higher chance of lengthening over time. Depressive episodes can increase to six-month increments when left to worsen, with manic episodes stretching for up to four months per year.


Bipolar disorders are often underdiagnosed, which means many people do not realize that they may be living with one of them. Below are some of the signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder, including features of all three types. As is the case with most mental health disorders, bipolar exists along a spectrum; you may notice some or all of the following to varying degrees: 

Manic Phase

  • Extreme emotions such as happiness, giddiness, and even irritability 
  • Grandiose ideas and unrealistic plans
  • Increased self-esteem 
  • Increased levels of energy, activity, and creativity
  • Changes to sleep patterns usually characterized by a lack of sleep 
  • Task-focused behaviors 
  • Inability to focus, racing thoughts, and unusual speech patterns
  • Easily distracted
  • Impulsive and risk-taking behaviors
  • Excessive spending
  • Changes to sexual activity 
  • Delusions or hallucinations 


Depressive Phase:

  • Decreased motivation
  • Feelings of sadness or low mood
  • Loss of interest in activities that previously held interest
  • Changes in sleep patterns usually characterized by oversleeping or insomnia
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Low self-esteem, including feelings of guilt, shame, or worthlessness
  • Suicidal ideations
  • No longer attending social events or interacting with social groups


A few of the risk factors known to play a role in the development of bipolar disorder include the following: 

  • Having a close relative who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder
  • Substance abuse
  • Chronic or acute stress
  • Trauma 
  • Some brain structures are more prone to bipolar (though the specifics are not yet known to science)


Doctors and therapists often treat bipolar with a combination of psychotherapy and prescription medication. You can recover from your addiction and find peace of mind by using programs designed to help you regain control. Some therapies that have been beneficial for individuals with bipolar disorders are listed below:

  • Psychotherapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 
  • Family-Focused Therapy 
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Interpersonal And Social Rhythm Therapy (IPSRT)
  • Family Therapy 


Usually, you will use one of those forms of therapy alongside one or more prescriptions. Medications often used to treat the symptoms and chemical changes caused by bipolar disorder include: 

  • Antidepressants often used with mood stabilizers 
  • Anticonvulsants like sodium valproate, carbamazepine, or lamotrigine
  • Antipsychotics like olanzapine, quetiapine, aripiprazole, or risperidone



Bipolar disorders are known to be a risk factor for developing substance use disorders. At the same time, substance use can trigger bipolar disorder in some individuals with other characteristics that predispose them to develop the condition. The manic and depressive episodes characterized by bipolar disorder can be devastating to recovery and impact your quality of life. Treatment for substance use disorders must include complementary treatment and therapy for those who have a dual diagnosis. White House Recovery and Detox has experienced staff who can easily accommodate the treatment for both disorders simultaneously. A trained care team can help you learn coping skills that will minimize the impact of bipolar.  

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