Bipolar and Addiction: Uncovering the Link

bipolar disorder and addiction

Mental illness and addiction have a close association, especially bipolar disorder. Those who have bipolar disorder cycle between manic and depressive episodes. Substance use is particularly risky for those diagnosed with bipolar disorder since drug use can trigger a manic or depressive episode. With the symptoms of this disorder exacerbated by drug or alcohol abuse and vice versa, then substance abuse and bipolar disorder together make for a truly dangerous combination and fuel a vicious cycle.

Why Are They So Closely Linked?

To answer this question, you must first understand bipolar disorder. Although there are different types of bipolar disorders, all of them commonly share having periods or episodes of high “highs” and low “lows” for those afflicted. Looking at a few of the believed causative factors for developing bipolar disorder helps to explain the correlation between high rates of co-occurring substance abuse and bipolar disorder.

By looking at how the brain is changed in bipolar disorder and substance abuse, you can see how they are so often connected. It is widely held that a chemical imbalance in the brain leads to bipolar disorder, and these same chemical imbalances may make a person more susceptible to developing an addiction. Substance abuse alone may be the initial trigger for developing bipolar disorder since the chemicals interact with a person’s brain and cause changes to the brain chemistry and specific regions of the brain, ultimately disrupting the communication between nerve cells.

Within these changes to particular structures in the brain, there have been findings that those with bipolar disorder have less gray matter in the brain network controlling emotional regulation and an increase in parts controlling the production of emotional responses. There have also been findings of disruptions in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the body’s productions of hormones in those with bipolar disorder, which profoundly affect a person’s stress response.

Because of how bipolar disorder and substance abuse affect the parts of our brains that regulate our emotions, stress response, and neurotransmitter balance, having either bipolar disorder or addiction makes one a more likely candidate for developing the other. If you or a loved one struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction, you must find the right treatment help. At Avalon, we provide tailored integrative care to our clients so that we can treat both your mental health disorder and co-occurring addiction safely and effectively. Living a happy, fulfilled life with a mental health disorder and addiction history is completely possible with the proper care. Call (844) 857-5992 for more information on how we can help you find the right treatment for you.

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