Author: John Carter

Bipolar disorder and alcohol: Is there a link?

Effects of Alcohol on Bipolar Disorder

By Geralyn Dexter, PhD, LMHCGeralyn Dexter, PhD, LMHC, is a mental health counselor based in Delray Beach, Florida, with a focus on suicidal ideation, self-harm, help-seeking behavior, and mood disorders. There is also the possibility that bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction symptoms will present concurrently, which adds a level of complexity to the diagnosis. In certain cases, psychosis with delusions or hallucinations can occur in people with bipolar disorder. Alcohol use has been shown to increase the severity of bipolar disorder, its symptoms and its complications. People who struggle with any substance use disorder and have bipolar are less likely to stick with their treatment. Because the symptoms of the two conditions are similar, proper diagnosis and treatment of bipolar disorder are often delayed.

  1. However, relying on alcohol as a coping mechanism is problematic and can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder over time.
  2. It’s also possible to experience episodes of depression with manic symptoms simultaneously.
  3. Other mental health conditions such as ADHD, depression, and schizophrenia may present with overlapping symptoms.

Bipolar disorder is defined by mood episodes that fluctuate between highs and lows. When coupled with alcohol use disorder, symptoms of either condition may worsen. There are a variety of treatment options, including talk therapy and medication, to treat these conditions separately or as they co-occur. Bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder (also called alcoholism and alcohol addiction) frequently occur together. It is estimated that 40% to 70% of individuals with bipolar disorder will be diagnosed with AUD during their lifetimes. Although the connection between these two disorders isn’t entirely clear, some factors seem to contribute.

Bipolar 2 Disorder

A person who is avoiding or cutting down on alcohol may find it helpful to replace the habit with an alternative feel-good solution . A person may need to work with their doctor for some time before they find a suitable medication and dose. On the other hand, the person may decide to skip their medication in order to drink more “safely.” However, not taking the medication can cause symptoms to return.

Effects of Alcohol on Bipolar Disorder

It is crucial to provide open and honest communication with healthcare professionals to ensure that the chosen medications are suitable and effective for individuals with comorbid bipolar disorder and alcohol use. Managing bipolar disorder requires a comprehensive approach that may include medication, therapy, healthy lifestyle choices, and a supportive network. However, understanding the role of alcohol in exacerbating symptoms and influencing the course of the disorder is crucial for individuals and their healthcare providers alike. There are many reasons to avoid drinking if you have bipolar disorder, including the potential interactions with medications. Therapy and other treatment strategies are important in managing bipolar disorder, but so is medication.

Is there a connection between bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder?

Another explanation for the connection is that people with bipolar disorder can exhibit reckless behavior, and AUD is consistent with this type of behavior. Some theorize that when AUD appears first, it can trigger bipolar disorder. Others have suggested that bipolar and AUD may share genetic risk factors. Treatment can help manage the symptoms of both conditions and improve quality of life.

Use of this website and any information contained herein is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement. Treatment for these conditions will depend on several factors and may include inpatient or outpatient programs. If you or someone you know are having suicidal thoughts, dial 988 to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline and connect with a trained counselor. Individuals with a first-degree family member, such as a parent or sibling, who has bipolar disorder are more likely to develop the condition. Alcohol use disorder (AUD) and bipolar disorder often occur together, and when they do, they can exacerbate each other. Both tend to occur more frequently in people who have a family member with the condition.

However, it may also be difficult to control the impulse to drink during shifts in mood. For bipolar disorder, medication and a mix of individual or group therapy have shown to be effective treatments. In people with bipolar disorder or AUD, it’s believed that the chemicals that regulate moods don’t work properly. Your environment as a young person can also influence whether you’re likely to develop AUD. You also must have experienced one or more hypomanic episodes lasting for at least 4 days.

Treating Co-Occurring Bipolar Disorder & AUD

While they may find temporary relief, alcohol increases the severity of symptoms over time. A person with bipolar disorder experiences mood swings and other symptoms. Alcohol can affect a person with bipolar disorder differently, compared with someone who does not have it. A person with bipolar disorder can also be more likely than others to misuse alcohol. Implementing strategies to reduce alcohol consumption is a pivotal step in the recovery process. Setting achievable goals, finding healthier alternatives, building a strong support network, and avoiding triggers can contribute to a more balanced and fulfilling life.

Providers may treat bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder sequentially (one before the other), independently (by themselves), or using an integrative approach (together). To diagnose AUD, a medical or mental health professional will conduct a thorough assessment, including exploring a person’s psychological and physical health history. They will also gather information about a person’s past and current behavior with alcohol and other substances. Alcohol can also increase the sedative effects of any mood stabilizers being used to treat bipolar disorder. As a result, a person with bipolar disorder may not get the correct treatment that can relieve their symptoms. In 2011, researchers noted that alcohol misuse can result in a misdiagnosis of bipolar disorder.

The relationship between bipolar disorder and alcohol misuse is complex. Both bipolar disorder and alcohol consumption cause changes in a person’s brain. Individuals with bipolar disorder already face a heightened risk of suicide and self-harm, and alcohol exacerbates this risk. Alcohol can impair judgment and decision-making abilities, lower inhibitions, and intensify depressive thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. This dangerous combination can push individuals towards impulsive and harmful behaviors, increasing the likelihood of self-harm or suicide attempts. Alcohol affects the levels of neurotransmitters in the brain, including dopamine and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which are involved in mood regulation.

The first is the “single-disorder paradigm,” in which patients are encouraged to think of themselves as having a single disorder, i.e., “bipolar substance abuse,” rather than trying to tackle two discrete disorders at once. Thinking of themselves as having a single disorder aids in the process of acceptance. The treatment plan may also include regular monitoring of medication effectiveness and potential interactions with alcohol.

Psychosis and Alcohol

Antidepressants, mood stabilizers, antipsychotics, and other drugs help manage symptoms and reduce the frequency and severity of mood cycles. It causes manic moods and depression, both of which can be debilitating and dangerous. Alcohol use disorder commonly co-occurs with bipolar disorder, and it increases the risk for complications, worsens symptoms, and makes treatment more difficult.

A person with bipolar disorder can usually remain healthy if they take their medication as a prescribed, and if they avoid alcohol. These difficulties, the possible side effects of the drugs, and the features of bipolar disorder itself can make it hard for a person to keep to a treatment plan. In 2006, a study of 148 people concluded that a person with bipolar disorder does not need to drink excessive amounts of alcohol to have a negative reaction. This may cause alcohol misuse and bipolar disorder each to trigger symptoms of the other condition. Read on to find out more about the links between bipolar disorder and alcohol consumption. If you have bipolar disorder, avoiding anything within your control that triggers or exacerbates your symptoms may help with recovery.