A Personal Story
Bipolar disorder and addiction are both very severe mental illnesses.
When someone has both diseases, it is known as a “dual diagnosis” or comorbidity. Studies show that someone with bipolar disorder is more likely to have addiction problems. Also, 40-60% of individuals with addiction issues suffer from some other form of mental illness, such as bipolar disorder. One does not necessarily preclude the other; they are both brain disorders that can manifest themselves.
Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder that exhibits bouts of extreme mania followed by severe depression. These episodes are usually present for extended periods of time before the other occurs. During episodes of mania, an individual may engage in behaviors that are dangerous and uncharacteristic, resulting in consequences not even considered. There is a sense of reckless abandon. There is also a sense of extreme self-importance. This is very common for someone living in addiction.
Although not brought about by a drug in bipolar disorder, the addicted individual will engage in the same types of behavior: persistent and uncontrollable behavior in which consequences are simply not a factor.
The depressive aspect of bipolar disorder is commonplace and not necessarily brought on by outside influence, it just happens.
As an alcoholic in recovery and someone diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I can unequivocally say this is true. As an alcoholic, which means that I used a substance considered a depressant, drug use exacerbated the situation. There was a constant sense of “I can rule the world” and “I just cannot get out of bed today.”
Bipolar disorder and addiction can co-exist. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder before I got sober. Medication did help. I did find some relief in the ups and downs of bipolar disorder. I must say that true freedom came from getting sober in a 12-step program. That is where I have learned about the deep-seated causes for my behaviors as a whole. I still take my medication for bipolar disorder. It is a mental illness. I know today that the spiritual aspect of my life though my 12-step program is what brings me the whole-life balance I need.
In my 12-step program, I learned that I have the ability to choose to take action when I am feeling a little low. Everyone gets a little down now and again. I do not have to use alcohol to compensate for those times. I can do something. It sounds so simple, which the best things in life usually are, but it is true. Sometimes it is a matter of just calling someone to see how they are doing; not focusing on myself and looking outward. That is a dynamic that is life changing.
I am coming up on three years of sobriety. I can live today simultaneously with bipolar disorder, using prescribed medication, and work a program of recovery for my other disease, alcoholism.
Bipolar disorder and addiction are not life sentences. You can have freedom from either or both of these mental illnesses. Take some action and see what might happen. It will be well worth it.
Comorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses. National Institute on Drug Abuse. Retrieved February, 2017.
Bipolar Disorder. Centers on Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved February, 2017.