Understanding Bi-Polar Disorder and Alcohol Addiction

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It can be challenging to be diagnosed with both a mental illness and a substance addiction, and many attempt to alleviate symptoms by self-medicating, either with drugs or alcohol. They believe that their self-medicating is either good enough as treatment and that they don’t need professional help, or they engage in these habits in spite of traditional treatment. This ultimately leads to alcohol addiction, and combined with bipolar disorder, it can be a complicated situation for either you or a loved one.

According to a study by the American Journal of Managed Care, nearly 56% of individuals with bipolar disorder have experienced drug or alcohol addiction during their lifetime. Additionally, 46% of participants had abused or became addicted to alcohol. Symptoms that rise from bipolar disorder, such as pain or depression, often lead individuals to find comfort in alcohol; alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among those afflicted with bipolar disorder.

Understanding more about bipolar disorder and the combined effects of alcohol addiction is the first step to finding your path to recovery and the necessary treatment.

Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol: How Are They Related?

Similar to alcohol abuse, an individual with bipolar disorder is at-risk for their overall emotional and physical well-being. Those with bipolar disorder have a higher rate of relationship problems, instability in their finances, accidental injuries, and even suicide than those without the illness. Bipolar disorder and alcoholism pose an unsafe combination because alcohol can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder.

According to Mayo Clinic, there are a few factors that may link bipolar disorder with alcoholism:

  • Hereditary traits – Bipolar disorder is hereditary, though some differences in genetic makeup can affect brain chemistry and how the brain responds to alcohol and other substances, which can increase the risk of addiction.
  • Mania – These “highs” lead to bad judgment, and can also lead to increased substance use.
  • Depression/Anxiety – While many turn to alcohol to ease the symptoms of bipolar disorder, it unfortunately has the opposite effect, making their symptoms worse.

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So What Exactly Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is defined as a mental illness that is marked by alternating periods of joy and depression. The condition carries a significant amount of symptoms, each correlate to the “highs” and “lows” of the disorder:

Symptoms of the “highs”:

  • Becoming more impulsive and making grand, unrealistic plans.
  • High energy and sex drive; has little need for rest.
  • Exhibits poor judgment in their decisions.
  • Excessively excited; causes rapid speech and loses focus on their work.
  • Sudden mood changes.
  • Alcohol and drug abuse.

Symptoms of the “lows”:

  • Sadness and feelings of hopelessness or insignificance.
  • Has trouble making decisions.
  • Irritability.
  • Has trouble concentrating.
  • Insomnia and needing more sleep.
  • No longer finding joy in things or hobbies that they once liked.
  • Uncontrollable crying.
  • Changes in appetite; can cause either weight gain or loss.
  • Thoughts and attempts at suicide

Keep in mind that with bipolar disorder, there is no fixed pattern in episode changes. Sometimes, an individual can have many episodes of the same temperament (either depressed or overjoyed) before suddenly shifting into the opposite mood. These periods can happen over a course of days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years.


In the past, bipolar disorder and alcoholism were treated separately at different facilities and with a different set of doctors and counselors. Today, more medical professionals realize the importance of treating both bipolar disorder and substance abuse at the same time, through what is known as “integrated treatment.” Integrated treatment boasts significant advantages, including:

  • Cohesive care provided in a single facility, with one team of professionals that consist of addiction counselors, psychologists and doctors.
  • Psychiatric medication to help manage bipolar disorder.
  • Psychotherapy sessions that focus on managing your emotions and to minimize relapse.

Contact us here at AlcoholTreatment.net to speak privately with one of our dedicated counselors to find out how you can get the help you need and to get back on your feet to a fulfilling life.Remember that you do not have to fight this battle alone. Contact us here at AlcoholTreatment.net to speak privately with one of our dedicated counselors to find out how you can get the help you need and to get back on your feet to a fulfilling life.

2 Responses to “Understanding Bi-Polar Disorder and Alcohol Addiction”
  • These symptoms are exactly how it is for me daily…. it’s a horror show…

  • I am sorry to hear that. Please feel free to give us a call. We would be happy to help you in any way we can. 877-512-1737

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