Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes extreme mood changes, including emotional highs and lows. People who struggle with this condition may experience mania (emotional highs) for weeks to months on end until they crash, leading to emotional lows known as a depressive swing. 

The emotions associated with bipolar disorder can become extremely difficult to cope with. Without proper treatment, many people who struggle with this condition begin self-medicating their emotions and mood swings with substances. This leads to the development of an addiction.

According to research, about 56% of individuals with bipolar disorder also suffer from a substance use disorder.[1]

When someone struggles with co-occurring bipolar and addiction, they must receive treatment for both conditions at the same time. Dual diagnosis treatment centers provide treatment for multiple conditions at once, offering the type of recovery that people with these disorders need. 

What are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

When it comes to bipolar disorder, individuals suffer from the symptoms of mania, hypomania, and depression. Mania and hypomania are episodes characterized by an elevated mood, impulsivity, and feelings of grandeur. On the other hand, depressive episodes are characterized by feelings of emptiness, suicidal thoughts, and an overall feeling of sadness or hopelessness.

The symptoms of mania and hypomania include:

  • Being abnormally upbeat, jumpy, or behaving oddly
  • Increased activity and energy 
  • Agitation or bouts of anger 
  • Poor decision-making and impulsivity 
  • Being easily distracted 
  • Racing thoughts 
  • Talkativeness
  • Insomnia 
  • Euphoria and exaggerated sense of confidence 

The symptoms of a depressive swing include:

  • Depressed mood
  • Loss of interest or feeling no pleasure
  • Significant weight loss 
  • Either insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Either restlessness or slowed behavior
  • Fatigue 
  • Feelings of worthlessness 
  • Being indecisive and having issues with concentrating 
  • Thinking about, planning, or attempting suicide

How Do Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Relate?

Oftentimes, people with bipolar disorder have a hard time coping with their symptoms, especially when they are not receiving treatment. This can cause them to seek outside forms of relief, which may lead to self-medication through alcohol and drugs. When someone with bipolar abuses drugs and alcohol, their symptoms will become worsened over time. 

People with bipolar disorder who abuse substances can experience:

  • More severe mood swings
  • A higher number of impulsive decisions and behaviors 
  • Longer episodes of emotional instability 
  • Increased number of suicide attempts 
  • A worsened quality of life 
  • Severe irritability and hostility towards others 

Additionally, people with untreated bipolar disorder are at a higher risk of abusing drugs at a severe level. This is mostly due to their propensity for impulsive behavior, which means that individuals with bipolar are more at risk for severe substance abuse during manic episodes. However, an individual may also abuse drugs during a depressive episode to cope with feelings of emptiness or worthlessness. 

How Are Addiction and Bipolar Treated?

Comorbid bipolar disorder and substance use disorder must be treated simultaneously. When only treating one condition, the symptoms of the other will cause a relapse. Dual diagnosis treatment centers in New Jersey provide comprehensive treatment for both disorders, consisting of:


Medication can help people cope with the symptoms of their bipolar disorder. Because bipolar disorder is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, using medications can help individuals calm mood swings and bring equilibrium to the individual’s life.

Some of the medications used to treat bipolar disorder include:[2]

  • Anticonvulsants 
  • Antipsychotics 
  • Lithium 
  • Benzodiazepines 

Each of these medications can help ease the symptoms of mania and depression. It is important to note that benzodiazepines are addictive drugs, so they may not be used during dual diagnosis treatment. 

In addition to medications for bipolar, patients may be given tapering medications to detox from a substance they were addicted to. This helps soothe the symptoms of withdrawal and prevent cravings.


When it comes to treating a dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and addiction, therapy is extremely important. Therapy can help individuals learn how to manage medication-resistant symptoms of bipolar and address the root causes of their substance use disorder.

Some of the most common forms of therapy used in a dual diagnosis treatment program include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Group psychoeducation 
  • Contingency management 
  • Rational emotive behavior therapy (REBT)
  • Family therapy 
  • 12-step facilitation therapy 
  • Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR)

Support Groups 

Lastly, support groups are commonly used to treat both bipolar disorder and substance use disorder. These groups are led by a licensed psychologist and usually follow a specific topic of discussion. People with co-occurring bipolar and addiction may attend a support group that includes other individuals who suffer from the same comorbidity. 

Being in a support group can provide patients with a sense of belonging and understanding that they have never felt before. Hearing other people discuss shared issues can help soothe any feelings of isolation the individual feels due to their diagnosis.

Find Treatment for Bipolar Disorder and Addiction Today

If you or a loved one suffer from both a substance use disorder and bipolar disorder, it’s time to seek help. Dealing with both conditions can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder, leading to overall poor quality of life. Additionally, the risk of suicide increases substantially among individuals who suffer from both addiction and bipolar disorder.[3] 

Treatment facilities like Moving Mountains Recovery Center have dual diagnosis programs that can help you overcome the symptoms of bipolar and addiction. Contact us today for more information on how to get started.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851027/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5310104/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6723289/
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