Bipolar Disorder and Addiction

Did you know that individuals with bipolar disorder are more likely to develop an addiction than those without the condition? In fact, one study found that up to 72.3% of people with bipolar disorder experience addiction at some point in their lives. It can be challenging to navigate the complex relationship between bipolar disorder and addiction as the two conditions often fuel each other in a vicious cycle. However, with the right treatment and support at a professional addiction centre like Banbury Lodge, it is possible to achieve long-term recovery and lead a happy, fulfilling life.

Bipolar and addiction

What is bipolar disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also sometimes known as manic depression, is a mental health condition that affects around 1.3 million people in the UK and impacts mood, energy levels and behaviour. It is characterised by episodes of mania and depression, which can last for days, weeks or even months.

Bipolar disorder symptoms include:

  • Extreme highs and lows in mood
  • Impulsive behaviour
  • Irritability
  • Racing thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating

There are three main types of bipolar disorder:

  • Bipolar I disorder: characterised by at least one manic episode that lasts at least a week and may be accompanied by depressive episodes.
  • Bipolar II disorder: characterised by at least one depressive episode and at least one hypomanic episode which is a milder form of mania that lasts at least four days.
  • Cyclothymic disorder: characterised by at least two years of numerous hypomanic and depressive symptoms that do not meet the criteria for a full manic or depressive episode.

What is the dual diagnosis addiction and bipolar disorder?

Dual diagnosis refers to the simultaneous presence of mental health and addiction disorders. Co-occurring bipolar disorder and addiction can be incredibly challenging both to live with and to treat as both conditions can exacerbate the symptoms of the other.

There are several reasons why addiction and bipolar disorder often co-occur. One of the most common reasons is self-medication as people with bipolar disorder may use drugs or alcohol to cope with the extreme mood swings and emotional dysregulation associated with the condition.

Another reason is that bipolar disorder can lead to impulsive behaviour and poor decision-making, making individuals more vulnerable to addiction. Additionally, some medications used to treat bipolar disorder can be addictive, leading to a higher risk of addiction.

How are addiction and bipolar disorder treated?

Addressing addiction and bipolar disorder simultaneously can be challenging, as each condition requires specialised treatment. However, many of the evidence-based therapies which are effective for addiction recovery also have major benefits for bipolar disorder.

At Banbury Lodge, if you suffer from both addiction and bipolar disorder, you must first stabilise your bipolar disorder before beginning rehab treatment. This is because unstable bipolar disorder symptoms can interfere with addiction treatment and make it difficult to achieve lasting recovery. Once the condition is stable, some of our addiction counselling therapies that can also help with the symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT)…

CBT is a form of talk therapy that can help people with bipolar disorder and addiction develop coping skills, manage triggers and develop a relapse prevention plan. CBT can address specific issues associated with bipolar disorder such as negative thought patterns, depression and anxiety and can also help you develop coping strategies for cravings, making it effective in treating addiction.

Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT)…

DBT is a highly effective talking therapy that is based on the principles of mindfulness and acceptance. DBT teaches you mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness skills to help you manage your emotions, cope with stress and improve relationships. DBT can be especially helpful for individuals with bipolar disorder and addiction, as these issues and symptoms are commonly associated with both conditions.

Motivational interviewing (MI)…

MI is a counselling approach that focuses on building motivation and commitment to change. MI can be particularly effective for individuals with bipolar disorder and addiction who may feel ambivalent about treatment. MI can address specific issues associated with bipolar disorder such as mood swings, impulsivity, and low motivation.

Individual therapy…

Individual therapy allows for a more personalised approach, allowing your therapist to focus on your individual needs and challenges. For individuals with bipolar disorder and addiction, individual therapy can address specific issues such as anxiety, depression and mood swings and also help you work through any underlying psychological issues that may be contributing to your addiction.

Group therapy…

Group therapy can provide a sense of community and support, allowing you to connect with others who are going through similar experiences. For individuals with bipolar disorder and addiction, group therapy can address specific issues such as social isolation, mood swings and impulsivity and help to build a support network both during and after addiction treatment.

Bipolar and addiction - group therapy


Aftercare is also an essential component of addiction treatment. Banbury Lodge offers free weekly group therapy sessions for a year to provide ongoing support and help you maintain your recovery. This ongoing support and connection can be particularly important for bipolar disorder sufferers who are prone to periods of depression when the motivation for recovery may drop.

Unique considerations for bipolar disorder sufferers in recovery

Individuals with bipolar disorder and addiction often face unique challenges and considerations that can make recovery more difficult. These considerations include:

Mood management…

Individuals with bipolar disorder can experience extreme highs and extreme lows which can interfere with the ability to fully engage in treatment. To address this challenge, therapy groups and individual therapy sessions can be used to focus on mood management and coping skills. These sessions can help you learn how to manage your mood swings and develop strategies to cope with them, such as mindfulness and self-soothing techniques. This means you won’t need to turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate which will prevent the risk of relapse.

Addictive medications…

There are various medications which can be effective in helping sufferers to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder but also carry the risk of addiction. To address this challenge, your doctor and the medical team at Banbury Lodge will need to take into account your unique needs and make any necessary medication adjustments for both your bipolar disorder and addiction.

The need for more specialised therapy…

Individuals with bipolar disorder and addiction may also benefit from more specialised therapy which takes the condition into account. For example, depression can be a major trigger of addiction and so if the root causes of depression can be addressed, recovery is more likely. However, as depression is a defining symptom of bipolar disorder, this is often more difficult and requires a more tailored approach to managing underlying depression during recovery.

Family involvement…

Family involvement is an essential component of treatment for individuals with bipolar disorder and addiction as family members can provide support, encouragement, and accountability throughout the recovery process. At Banbury Lodge, family therapy is an integral part of our addiction treatment programmes and will help your family to understand the challenges you face and learn how to support you in your recovery. Family involvement can also help you feel less isolated and alone in your struggles which can reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder and increase your chances of achieving long-term recovery.

Supporting a loved one with addiction and bipolar disorder during treatment

Supporting a loved one with addiction and bipolar disorder during treatment can be challenging but it can also be an essential component of their recovery. Here are some tips on how to support your loved one during this difficult time:

Educate yourself about bipolar disorder and addiction…

Learn about the symptoms, treatment options and potential challenges your loved one may face.

Be supportive and non-judgmental…

Let your loved one know that you are there for them and that you support their recovery. Avoid blaming or shaming them for their addiction or bipolar disorder.

Encourage treatment compliance…

Encourage your loved one to attend all therapy sessions, take their medication as prescribed and follow the treatment plan recommended by their healthcare providers.

Offer practical support…

Help your loved one with everyday tasks such as grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning or childcare. This can help reduce stress and allow them to focus on their recovery during their stay in addiction treatment.

Practice self-care…

Supporting a loved one with addiction and bipolar disorder can be emotionally taxing, so it is essential to take care of your own physical and emotional needs. This may include getting enough sleep, exercise and social support.

Join a support group…

Joining a support group for families and loved ones of individuals with bipolar disorder and addiction can provide valuable information, resources, and emotional support.

Remember that recovery is a journey, and there may be setbacks along the way. With patience, understanding, and support, you can help your loved one navigate the challenges of dual diagnosis and achieve long-term recovery.

How to get started

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction and bipolar disorder, getting help is essential. Banbury Lodge offers effective addiction treatment that can help individuals achieve lasting recovery with significant benefits for bipolar disorder sufferers. Contact us today and we can help you get started on the road to recovery.

Frequently asked questions

Is bipolar disorder the same as multiple personality disorder?
Bipolar disorder and multiple personality disorder (now known as dissociative identity disorder) are two separate conditions with distinct symptoms and diagnostic criteria. Bipolar disorder is characterised by extreme mood swings, while dissociative identity disorder is characterised by the presence of two or more distinct personality states.
Is rehab a cure for bipolar disorder?
No, rehab is not a cure for bipolar disorder; it is treatment for addiction. However, rehab can provide a supportive environment to address addiction and learn skills to manage bipolar disorder at the same time. Treatment for bipolar disorder may include medication, therapy, lifestyle changes and support from family and friends, all of which are key aspects of effective addiction treatment.
Which addictions are most common for people with bipolar disorder?
Bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction is particularly common with as many as 61.9% of bipolar disorder sufferers experiencing alcohol use disorder at some point in their life. Bipolar disorder and drug addiction is also a serious issue with many sufferers becoming addicted to cannabis, cocaine and opiates.
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