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How Addiction Relates to Bipolar Disorder

Addiction and bipolar disorder are unfortunately the rule, rather than the exception. People who live with bipolar disorder are at an increased risk for substance abuse, eating disorders, or sexual addictions. Bipolar disorder affects the person's moods, and the individual goes from periods of depression (low self-esteem, social withdrawal, sleep disturbances, appetite changes) to mania (greatly increased energy, ambition, drive, along with heightened self-esteem).

When a person with bipolar disorder is in a manic state, they may feel that they are on top of the world and that they can do anything. They may be more likely to take part in risky activities, such as consuming excessive amounts of alcohol, using drugs, or indulging in sexually reckless behavior. Addiction may be the result of the manic phase of the illness, as opposed to the reason for it.

The person in the manic phase of bipolar disorder may turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to try to stabilize their condition. When a person is on a severe "high," being able to shut down long enough to get adequate sleep can be very difficult, and an addiction to alcohol or drugs might come about because they are trying to slow down their thought processes long enough to get some rest.

In the depressive stage of the illness, a person with bipolar disorder is vulnerable to addiction because they are looking for something that will help them snap out of the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness they have. Alcohol or drugs may be seen as a type of anesthetic to help them get away from these kinds of feelings.

In between manic and depressive episodes, a person with manic depression does experience times when their moods are normal. They are aware of the highs and lows, and substance abuse may start off as a way to try to stave off the next wave of abnormal mood patterns. Bipolar disorder can be treated with Lithium and other medications, and an addiction to another substance will not help to control the symptoms of this disorder.

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