Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism: Understanding this Common Occurrence

Last Updated: Sep 20th 2019

Reviewed by Brittany Polansky

Alcohol abuse, also commonly referred to as alcoholism, is no stranger to most communities. In fact, every year, countless individuals become aware of an alcohol use disorder in their lives or in the lives of someone they love.

It’s always difficult to come to terms with the truth about an addiction problem. And it’s often very challenging to figure out what to do about the issue. It can be even more difficult when alcoholism is paired with another health concern, such as bipolar disorder.

Those who suffer from the co-occurring disorders of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and bipolar disorder often struggle to overcome either or both issues. This is mainly due to the way these disorders affect one another.

In many cases, bipolar disorder and alcoholism combine to create a really big problem in the lives of those affected by these disorders. Sometimes, alcohol use can worsen the effects of bipolar disorder and vice versa.

This is why treatment is so important. If you or someone in your life is struggling with an AUD and bipolar disorder, it’s time to truly understand the seriousness of this occurrence and learn what you can do to help turn things around for the better.

Defining Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism

First of all, it’s important to begin by understanding these two disorders. What exactly does it mean to have bipolar disorder and how does it affect those who are living with it?

Well, bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that causes people to become psychologically unstable. It’s a mood disorder that affects the way people think, feel, and behave. Often, the effects can be very drastic and intense.

Many individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder experience moments of extreme depression in addition to intense states of euphoria. Often, individuals deal with major shifts in emotions and moods. This can cause people to behave and act differently than normal.

Alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, is a problem that many people deal with. It is an uncontrollable use of alcohol. Since this substance is legal, it’s fairly easy to access. So, sadly, many people become dependent on alcohol and may eventually abuse is and develop an alcohol addiction problem.

When Alcohol Use and Bipolar Disorders Co-Occur

Perhaps, you’re wondering how or why people end up living with bipolar disorder and alcoholism. Well, the truth of the matter is that these co-occurring disorders affect people as a result of various factors.

In other words, the reason behind this occurrence varies from case to case. But, for many people, bipolar disorder leads to the development of alcohol use disorder. Those who suffer from the effects of bipolar disorder often struggle with deep depression because of their mental health disorder.

Sadly, it’s common for people who feel depressed to seek comfort in substance use. Some may turn to drugs. Maybe they begin using medications and prescriptions that are meant to help them overcome depression. But, after using the substance for a while, they may have grown dependent on and addicted to that drug.

This can also happen in cases where people turn to alcohol in order to cope with the negative effects of bipolar disorder. Some individuals seek comfort in drinking. But, the relief they feel is only temporary and leaves when the effects of alcohol wear off.

In order to escape from the unpleasant impact of bipolar disorder, including depression, uncontrollable thoughts, irritability, agitation, and low self-esteem, many individuals use alcohol. But, again, the stress-relieving effects that people get when they drink wears off after a while.

When reality returns, the desire to escape also comes back. As a result, some people may resort back to alcohol use. This can turn into a problem with excessive drinking. Eventually, these alcohol use habits can become extremely problematic.

Alcohol use disorder is dangerous for more reason than one. This addiction problem affects individuals’ lives on multiple levels. And the effects can be intensified when the alcohol use problem co-occurs with bipolar disorder.

How Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use Affect People

When a person suffers from bipolar disorder, he or she may experience some of the following symptoms:

  • Irritability
  • Agitation
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Poor judgment
  • Appetite loss
  • Manic episodes
  • Racing thoughts
  • Euphoric episodes
  • Excessive worry
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Loss of energy
  • Memory problems
  • Lack of concentration
  • Excessive or lack of sleep
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Suicidal ideation and thoughts of death

The intense changes in mood and emotions can cause people to feel very overwhelmed. It’s difficult to understand and work through the effects of bipolar disorder. So, it goes without saying that people who suffer from this disorder often struggle to lead regular and normal lives.

Bipolar disorder can impact people’s day-to-day lives. In many cases, people who are suffering from this mental health disorder have trouble focusing in school, keeping up with family responsibilities, establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships, and holding jobs.

All of these things can contribute to the development of alcohol abuse. And, if a person becomes addicted to alcohol, he or she may begin to experience even more difficulties in maintaining a normal schedule.

Alcoholism can cause people to feel:

  • Depressed
  • A lack of energy
  • Less motivated
  • Alone and isolated
  • Distanced from loved ones

No doubt, as these effects combine with the symptoms of bipolar disorder, individuals may struggle to manage their lives and may experience a downward spiral.

Unfortunately, this is has been the case in many people’s lives. But, thankfully, there is hope for those who are dealing with these co-occurring disorders!

Finding Hope and Help at 1st Step Behavioral Health

If you’ve been struggling with alcoholism and bipolar disorder, then you know just how difficult it can be to overcome these problems. Fortunately, though, a professional dual diagnosis treatment program can help you to find freedom and peace once and for all!

Here at 1st Step Behavioral Health, we work to help people to find the freedom they truly deserve. You don’t need to continue struggling with alcohol abuse and the effects of bipolar disorder. Let us help you! Just call us today to get started on the journey to recovery.

Reviewed for Medical & Clinical Accuracy by Brittany Polansky

Brittany PolanskyBrittany has been working in behavioral health since 2012 and is a Primary Clinician at our facility. She is an LCSW and holds a master’s degree in social work. She has great experience with chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health diagnoses as well as various therapeutic techniques. Brittany is passionate about treating all clients with dignity and respect, and providing a safe environment where clients can begin their healing journey in recovery.

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