Addiction and bipolar

People confirmed to be suffering from a mental health condition separate from, but co-occurring with, their addiction has a dual diagnosis. One such co-occurring condition is bipolar disorder.

Individuals diagnosed with bipolar disorder are more likely to abuse alcohol, cannabis, and various addictive substances like opioids and cocaine. The lifetime occurrence of substance abuse disorder in individuals with bipolar disorder is estimated at 40%.

The connection between bipolar disorder and addiction is not straightforward, as the relationship works both ways. People with bipolar disorder are more prone to substance abuse; similarly, individuals who engage in substance abuse have an elevated risk of developing bipolar disorder.


Bipolar and addiction

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, formerly known as manic depression, is a mental health disorder with symptoms that are divided into two groups: depressive symptoms and manic symptoms.

Depressive stage

During the depression stage you may have memory problems, a sense of hopelessness, a lack of energy, restlessness, and a reduced appetite.

Manic stage

During the manic stage, symptoms can include trouble sleeping, extremely high energy and ambition, irritability, disturbed thinking, and excessive and/or rapid talking.

Being diagnosed with bipolar disorder requires experiencing cyclic episodes of both depressive and manic phases.

How are bipolar disorder and addiction connected?

When battling with bipolar, the fluctuation between depressive and manic states often leads to feeling a loss of control over your life, causing you to latch onto unhealthy coping mechanisms and, ultimately, addiction.

Regular substance abuse can give you an illusion of control over your emotions and reactions as you anticipate specific effects from the substances, despite the possibility of unexpected symptoms. Furthermore, when you begin to experience depression after a manic episode, it can feel incredibly demoralising after going from extreme highs to extreme lows. You may turn to drug or alcohol use as a form of self-medication, seeking temporary relief and returning to the high you experienced during mania.

Additionally, there is an increased risk of developing bipolar disorder in individuals who have chronically abused substances. While drug abuse alone is unlikely to be the sole cause of bipolar disorder, evidence suggests that it may contribute to the emergence of bipolar-like symptoms in some individuals over time.

What are the effects of addiction and bipolar?

Even when addiction and bipolar are diagnosed, and treatment is underway, you may deal with unpleasant symptoms. For example, as well as experiencing cravings for a substance, you may suffer depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and hopelessness or, conversely, restlessness, elation, unpredictability and unusually high energy levels. A disproportionate number of people with bipolar disorder may experience suicidal thoughts.

Fortunately, when you go to rehab for addiction and bipolar disorder, you will receive high-quality treatment that helps you overcome your addiction and manage the more challenging symptoms of your bipolar disorder.

Can rehab help my addiction even when I have bipolar disorder?

There are multiple therapies that can be highly effective in treating addiction while also addressing your bipolar disorder concurrently.

Some examples include:

  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT): DBT is a therapeutic approach that combines Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques with mindfulness practices. It is particularly beneficial for individuals with bipolar disorder, as it helps them enhance emotional regulation skills and avoid engaging in harmful behaviours as a means of coping, such as turning to drugs or alcohol.
  • Group Therapy: Group therapy involves people with similar issues participating in therapy sessions together. Group therapy can have huge benefits for sufferers of bipolar disorder, as the support and validation they receive from others who understand their experiences can be incredibly empowering and comforting.
  • Holistic therapies: such as meditation and yoga, offer a comprehensive approach to treating individuals with bipolar disorders. By addressing their physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing, these therapies provide relaxation and improve their ability to manage social anxiety and cope with stress. This, in turn, can significantly support their addiction recovery journey by reducing their dependence on substances.


Bipolar and addiction - yoga therapy


Recovery from addiction can present unique challenges for anyone with co-occurring disorders. These challenges can make the journey to sobriety more complex compared to those without a dual diagnosis. It is important to find the right rehab centre that can handle the emotional outbreaks and natural distrust anyone with bipolar can feel.

Is detox safe when you have bipolar disorder?

Detox is the process of meticulously allowing your body to rid itself of the toxins accumulated through substance abuse. Close monitoring and support throughout the detox process can help manage any mood-related complications due to your bipolar disorder and remain safe throughout.

Bipolar disorder can complicate the detoxification process due to the potential for mood fluctuations and the risk of triggering manic or depressive episodes. Therefore, it is essential to undergo detox under the guidance and safety of healthcare professionals.

Bipolar and addiction treatment with Oasis Bradford

Please consider joining our rehab programme if you are struggling with bipolar and addiction. Following a medically-supervised detox, you will begin a comprehensive rehabilitation programme based on an extensive range of evidence-based therapies and holistic approaches designed to heal your body, mind and soul, allowing you to overcome your addiction.

With our support, you may find that your bipolar disorder is more manageable after rehab. As well as being more capable of reading and articulating your own moods and mental states, you may well find that your bipolar disorder lessens in intensity when it is not being exacerbated by alcohol and drug use.

Before you begin your rehab treatment, you must ensure that you have already received treatment for your bipolar. Our dual-diagnosis treatment programmes are designed to help you overcome your addiction, even if you are battling bipolar.

If you want to learn more, contact us and we will answer any questions about what Oasis Bradford can offer you.

Frequently asked questions

Can I take bipolar medication while at rehab?
If you have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and are receiving treatment for it, you can take your bipolar medication with you to rehab. You must continue to take your medication, as it will allow you to focus on your addiction recovery without dealing with additional mental illness symptoms.
Will addiction treatment cure my bipolar disorder?
Curing an addiction does not directly cure bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition and typically requires a combination of medication, therapy, and lifestyle adjustments to manage.

Substance abuse can exacerbate your bipolar symptoms and make managing them more challenging. However, overcoming your addiction to drugs or alcohol can significantly improve the control of your bipolar disorder and overall improve the quality of your life.