What is Bipolar Disorder?

a woman talking to her doctor about Bipolar Disorder Treatment Program UTAccording to the National Alliance of Mental Illness, more than 10 million people in America have bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is sometimes referred to as manic-depressive illness, or simply manic depression. Individuals with this disorder, experience episodes of excessively elevated energy, emotions, and cognition which is known as manic behavior. They also experience opposite episodes of depression. People can experience either a manic episode or depressive episode for hours, days, or even weeks depending on the severity. Bipolar disorder is often linked to clinical depression and anxiety disorders, many bipolar individuals are treated for all three disorders. Alcohol and other drugs often make bipolar symptoms worse and can even cause bipolar disease in someone with no prior mental health issues. Those diagnosed with bipolar disorders by doctors are usually placed into one of following severity groups.

Bipolar I

Typically have difficulty in school, keeping jobs, or staying in relationships because of their wild mood swings between depression and mania. Manic episodes lasting at least seven days or are so severe they need immediate hospital care. Depressive episodes usually last about two weeks. They can also have episodes of mixed features where they experience manic and depressive symptoms at the same time. They have had at least one manic episode or mixed episode and most have had at least one depressive episode.

Bipolar II

Typically can maintain relationships and keep a job but they can suffer with their depression sometimes. Typically have a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes which are less severe than full-blown manic episodes. They have experienced one or more depressive episodes with at least one hypomanic episode.


Is the mildest form of bipolar disorder. The disorder may still cause some disruptions in their life but they do not feel such severe highs and lows. They experience multiple periods of hypomanic and depressive symptoms lasting at least two years (one year for children and adolescents). The symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a manic or depressive episode.

Symptoms of Bipolar

While it is normal for people to experience mood changes throughout the day, those with bipolar disease have extreme mood cycles with no reason for the changes to their energy, sleep patterns, and activity levels. Sometimes they may have a mixed feature episode which has symptoms of both mania and depression. They may also experience hypomania instead of a full manic episode; hypomania is a less severe form of mania that usually lasts at least four days. Without treatment, this disorder tends to become more severe. Those with bipolar disorder are at a higher risk for suicide, early death due to dangerous behavior or inability to care for oneself, committing crimes, thyroid disease, migraine headaches, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, substance abuse, and acts of violence. Bipolar disease tends to run in the family but anyone can get it.

Manic Behavior is characterized by:

  • Extreme happiness
  • Abundance of energy
  • Elated
  • Motivated
  • Powerful
  • Racing thoughts
  • Easily distracted
  • Over Self-Confidence
  • Hyperactivity
  • Risky behavior
  • Inflated sense of self-esteem
  • Agitated or irritable
  • Talkative
  • Impulsive
  • Sexually charged
  • Grandiose
  • Less sleep

Depression Behavior:

  • Irritable
  • No appetite or overeating
  • Decreased activity level
  • Anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Shame or guilt over deeds done during mania
  • Pain
  • Hopeless
  • Severe sadness
  • Lonely and isolated
  • Suicidal

During both depressive and manic episodes people may experience delusions and hallucinations. These are symptoms of psychosis and the delusions or hallucinations tend to match their extreme mood.

Bipolar and How it Relates to Addiction

While there is some evidence suggesting that bipolar disorder can be caused by the long-term use of drugs and alcohol, how they are linked is not completely understood. For those with naturally occurring bipolar disorder, drugs that cause hallucinations, anxiety, and paranoia contribute to the disorder by intensifying an individual’s symptoms of mania. Similarly, depressants and sedatives can contribute to the disorder by intensifying an individual’s symptoms of depression.

Bipolar disorder is another mental health condition that often coexists with substance abuse because many addicts use alcohol and drugs to artificially alter their emotional states. They try to self-medicate and change their extreme moods with alcohol and other substances. Individuals who were previously able to manage their disorder may become completely unmanageable as a result of chemical dependency.

Treating Bipolar and Substance Abuse

As part of the psychological treatment at Recovery Ways, an integrated approach is used to teach patients that there is life outside the confines of drug addiction. Each patient is encouraged to be involved in social and spiritual activities that foster awareness of the world around them. By learning to cope with life, our patients are better able to manage their emotions and mood swings. With these under control, it’s easier to form a better outlook on life which, in turn, helps recovering addicts resist the urge to relapse.

Bipolar disorder is most commonly treated with a combination of medication and therapy. As with all mood disorders, bipolar disorder is amplified when an addict begins the withdrawal process. If not properly treated, these patients can represent a serious threat to their own safety and the safety of others. The clinical staff at Recovery Ways is fully trained to support bipolar clients and the specific challenges their disorder presents.

As a client in our residential treatment program becomes clean of drugs and alcohol, the experienced medical staff at Recovery Ways assists in stabilizing their mood to prevent alternating episodes of depression and manic behavior. Guided by masters-level therapists, our clients then learn to recognize psychological triggers, effectively express emotions, and appropriately modify their behavior to reduce the likelihood of an episode occurring.

Bipolar Disorder and Substance Abuse Treatment in Utah

Recovery Ways, accredited by the Joint Commission, offers treatment excellence to those suffering from substance use and mental health disorders. If you or your loved one is struggling Bipolar Disorder and addiction, please contact us today for help finding a dual diagnosis program. You can reach our admissions team by calling 888.986.7848.