Bipolar and addiction

Living with bipolar is a journey filled with complex twists and turns, much like navigating a maze where the hedges constantly move around with the ebb and flow of your emotions. When the additional burden of addiction is piled on, it further complicates an already demanding challenge. At Oasis Runcorn, we understand the hardships encountered daily by individuals grappling with the twin issues of bipolar and addiction and understand how the two conditions interact and fuel each other. We have assisted many bipolar sufferers in their battle against addiction, with our treatment programmes having a significant beneficial domino effect on bipolar symptoms.

Bipolar explained

Bipolar, also known as bipolar disorder and previously known as manic-depressive illness or manic depression, is a serious mental health issue marked by severe mood fluctuations. These can be severe or mild and alternate between phases of highs (known as mania) and lows (depression).

Symptoms of mania include:

  • Extreme happiness
  • Heightened energy levels and agitation
  • Irritability
  • Racing, out-of-control thoughts
  • Delusions of grandeur
  • Reduced need for sleep

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Constant feelings of sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of despair
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits

There are approximately 1.3 million people in the UK and around 45 million globally living with bipolar disorder. While the precise cause remains unknown, it is thought to be a blend of environment and genetics.

The three main types of bipolar

There are various types of bipolar which are characterised by the frequency of episodes of mania and depression:

1. Bipolar I

Defined by at least one episode of mania, possibly accompanied by episodes of depression

2. Bipolar II

Characterised by at least one episode of hypomania (milder mania) and one episode of depression

3. Cyclothymic disorder

A comparatively milder variant with less severe mood fluctuations

Understanding dual diagnosis addiction and bipolar

Dual diagnosis refers to the coexistence of a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder. When it comes to addiction and bipolar, the two disorders often compound each other, fueling a vicious cycle of distress and substance use. Regrettably, the two disorders co-occur frequently, with bipolar and addiction statistics showing that up to 72.3% of individuals with bipolar disorder also struggle with addiction at some point. This includes:

Drug addiction and bipolar

Drug addiction can amplify the symptoms of bipolar condition, leading to more severe mood swings, unpredictable emotions and an increased chance of self-harming behaviours or suicidal ideation. Bipolar can also make recovery more difficult as sufferers become dependent on drugs to self-medicate or deal with emotional turmoil.

Alcohol addiction and bipolar

Alcohol addiction can be particularly harmful to bipolar sufferers as it can cause a dramatic increase in mood and emotional instability. While alcohol may provide some initial relief from bipolar symptoms, it is usually temporary, and the depressant effects of alcohol ultimately exacerbate depressive episodes and the resulting behaviours. Alcohol misuse can also interfere with bipolar medication, adding to the complexity of the situation.

Behavioural addiction and bipolar

Bipolar disorder often goes hand in hand with addiction to certain behaviours or activities. When bipolar sufferers are in a high-energy manic phase, they may get involved in activities such as gambling because these activities match their heightened state of mood and energy. However, this can quickly become a compulsion where the negative outcomes of these actions can then lead to depressive phases. To deal with their depression, they may turn back to these harmful activities, using them as a crutch to cope with their emotional ups and downs.

Why are co-existing addiction and bipolar so prevalent?

There are several reasons why someone might have both bipolar and addiction at the same time:


Sometimes, people try to cope with the tough feelings and mood swings caused by bipolar by using drugs or alcohol. This is like putting a bandage on a wound – it might help for a little while, but it doesn’t solve the real problem. For example, a person with bipolar disorder might use drugs that make them feel high and energetic when they’re feeling low or drugs that calm them down when they’re feeling too excited or restless.

Emotional instability…

Bipolar disorder can also make people have strong emotions that they can’t control, leading them to do risky or dangerous things, including using drugs or alcohol.

Addictive bipolar medication…

In some situations, the medicines that doctors give people to help with bipolar can be addictive. This means that someone could become dependent on the very thing that’s supposed to be helping them.

Difficulties in rehab for bipolar and addiction sufferers

People who are dealing with both bipolar disorder and addiction may face specific problems when they are undergoing rehab. Both the medical and addiction recovery staff have to work together to help the person deal with these issues:

Managing medicines…

Juggling the medicines needed for bipolar disorder while coping with withdrawal symptoms from addiction can be complicated; however, it’s very important because it helps keep mood swings in check and stops a relapse.

Oasis Runcorn’s medical team will ensure that you receive any prescribed bipolar medication during your stay.

Controlling emotions…

During rehab, bipolar sufferers may have more extreme emotional ups and downs due to the demanding nature of the treatment. This can make it harder to deal with withdrawal symptoms during detox, stay committed to recovery and get along with the staff and other clients.

At Oasis Runcorn, we are highly experienced in helping people with dual diagnoses and will help to gear your therapy towards dealing with these emotions in a healthier way.

Handling triggers…

It can be difficult to figure out and deal with the things that trigger both the symptoms of bipolar disorder and substance use, especially when these triggers are connected or affect each other in complex ways.

Our rehab therapies will help you to identify your triggers so you can learn to avoid, manage and overcome them.

Choosing the right recovery plan

Not all rehab centres have the experience required to manage the special challenges of having bipolar disorder and addiction.

At Oasis Runcorn, we have a proven track record of helping people with a range of co-occurring mental health and addiction disorders, including bipolar. We will ensure you are kept safe and comfortable so you can benefit from our comprehensive recovery programmes.

Moving on to aftercare

Moving from rehab to aftercare can be a really tough step for people who are dealing with both bipolar disorder and addiction. They have to keep up their mental health care and stay sober from substances at the same time.

Oasis Runcorn’s aftercare programme provides weekly group therapy for the first year after you leave our centre to ensure the support you need.

Addiction treatment at Oasis Runcorn

Before you start rehab at Oasis Runcorn, it’s really important to talk to your doctor about getting your bipolar symptoms under control so you can minimise their impact and focus on addiction recovery.

Many of the rehab therapies offered at Oasis Runcorn can also make the symptoms of bipolar easier to manage, greatly improving your day-to-day life. These include:

  • Dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) is a special type of therapy that focuses on controlling your emotions, dealing with tough situations and getting along better with others. It teaches you to be more aware of yourself through mindfulness techniques and helps you better handle the strong feelings of bipolar disorder without turning to drugs or alcohol. It also gives you ways to communicate and stand up for yourself better in your relationships.
  • Family therapy brings your family into your recovery journey to provide critical support and improve communication. It deals with family issues that may be making the symptoms of bipolar and addiction worse. It also teaches your family how to handle the difficulties that come with having a loved one who is dealing with both bipolar disorder and addiction.
  • Holistic therapies aim to enhance overall wellness through activities like yoga, meditation or art therapy, which can help manage the intense mood swings associated with bipolar. These therapies also offer a safe and natural way to relieve stress and anxiety, which are often triggers for substance abuse. By fostering a sense of balance and peace, holistic therapies can support your journey towards recovery.

Begin your journey to healing

Oasis Runcorn offers a comprehensive approach that blends traditional therapies with holistic approaches to help you regain control of your life. We can help you overcome addiction while considering the unique needs bipolar presents. Don’t wait to start your journey towards a healthier and happier life. Contact Oasis Runcorn today to find out how we can help you.

Frequently asked questions

Does bipolar make people dangerous?
It’s crucial to know that bipolar doesn’t make people violent or harmful to others. They can sometimes take risks or act impulsively when they’re going through a manic phase, but they are more often a risk to themselves, especially during depressive phases when they may think about suicide or hurting themselves.
Is bipolar multiple personality disorder?
No, having bipolar disorder doesn’t mean a person has multiple personalities. People with bipolar disorder experience shifts in mood and energy, but this isn’t the same as Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID). DID, previously known as multiple personality disorder, involves having two or more separate identities or personalities.
How can friends and family support someone dealing with these co-occurring issues?
Educating themselves about both conditions, offering non-judgmental support and encouraging their loved ones to seek professional help are crucial steps. Additionally, participating in family therapy can provide a supportive environment for recovery.