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January 5, 2012

Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

The unpredictable and extreme mood swings that typify bipolar disorder can often be linked with addiction to drugs or alcohol. How is bipolar disorder connected to addiction, and how might it further complicate the illness? The nearly inextricable link between bipolar disorder and the use of alcohol and drugs exists for a number of reasons, the most common being the sufferer's attempt to self-medicate. People affected by bipolar disorder may try to manage their symptoms with depressants, such as alcohol or pain pills, in an attempt to "slow down" during manic episodes. Or turn to stimulants like methamphetamines or cocaine to cope with their depression symptoms. While drugs or alcohol may temporarily improve mood, using these substances can trigger, prolong or even worsen episodes of both mania and depression. Substance abuse or addiction can also increase the likelihood of risk-taking behaviors during mania, such as reckless spending, gambling or inappropriate sexual behavior. Drug or alcohol use may reduce the effectiveness of bipolar medications, exacerbate physical health issues and increase the risk of suicide. When a person is diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and an addiction, it's called a "dual diagnosis," meaning the person is suffering from a mental illness and a substance abuse problem. Research suggests up to 60 percent of bipolar sufferers experience a substance abuse problem at some point in their lives. Bipolar women are seven times more likely to develop alcoholism than other women. Bipolar men may be even more likely to suffer from alcoholism than women. Researchers also believe that bipolar men who are alcoholics are often more likely to have a family history of alcoholism and drug abuse, while alcohol addiction in women is more closely associated with anxiety and depression. Experts strongly advise that individuals battling both bipolar disorder and substance abuse or addiction be treated for both issues at the same time. Please seek immediate help if you or someone you know may be suffering from bipolar disorder and addiction. To learn more, see additional videos about bipolar disorder on this site.

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Last Updated:
December 20, 2012