Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use – A Deadly Combination

Last Updated: August 7, 2019

Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use

Have you been experiencing severe mood swings between sadness and depression, and extreme joy and hyperactivity over the past year? This could be important because those are symptoms of bipolar disorder. When you combine bipolar disorder and alcohol, the effects could be disastrous.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that is biologically based and comes from brain chemistry being off or other problems with the nervous system. It comes with depression and mania or hypomania.

The depressive side of bipolar disorder is the same as major depression. It comes with feelings of sadness, guilt, hopelessness, anger or possibly no feeling at all. Some people report it makes them feel blank or dead inside. It can also come with sleeping too much or not enough, changes in weight, unexplained aches and pains, and in some worst cases, thoughts of suicide.

The mania is a very frantic and energetic period, with the person feeling overjoyed and unstoppable. The person with bipolar disorder will not be able to sleep which will eventually cause them to deteriorate and lose touch with reality eventually and become delusional. They also will be hypersexual, take unneeded risks, and spend money frivolously.

There are two main types of bipolar disorder to be aware of:

Type 1 disorder
The patient shows a mix of extremes; emotions exhibited are just like poles of the earth. It may be hard to diagnose this until the first manic episode happens, as it is essentially a major depressive disorder without that. Although it may seem like the same thing, it is treated with different medication due to the mania. This has a high correlation between bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction.

Type 2 disorder
The presence of hypomanic episodes marks it. Just like type 1 to diagnose type 2 a depressive episode is necessary for the diagnosis of the condition, followed by one episode of hypomania. Hypomania is a lesser form of mania, although not as dangerous, it still interferes with life, and puts the person with type 2 bipolar disorder at risk for alcohol abuse.

Bipolar disorder can be a complicated disease to manage. Many try to cope with their illness with drinking. Alcohol and bipolar disorder are illnesses that are closely related with one study suggesting over 27% of people with it abusing or addicted to alcohol. This number is more shocking considering almost 3% of the population can be diagnosed with this. Drinking is a long-term unhealthy way to turn off their brains when bipolar and alcoholic traits are causing misery.

Is It Dangerous to Drink When Someone Has Bipolar Disorder?

While bipolar disorder itself does not cause physical problems with alcohol, it can still be dangerous to drink when suffering from this illness as it can combine with the mental effects of alcoholism. One major danger with alcohol and bipolar disorder is the chance of addiction. It is an unfortunate fact that having a mental illness puts you at significantly higher risk of developing alcoholism or other substance abuse issues like side effects of alcohol abuse.

Another major problem with bipolar disorder and alcohol is the changes that it causes in the nervous system. Alcohol effects on brain cannot be underestimated. The disruptions to routine and the wake/sleep cycle that come from drinking too much alcohol disrupt the mental well-being of a person much worse. This can cause deterioration of the mind and psychological health faster and may require hospitalization to stabilize.

What Can Trigger Mania?

A person needs to learn to keep balance and manage their illness and recovery. Alcohol abuse and bipolar disorder are two destructive illnesses that disrupt the lives of those who suffer from them as alcohol and rape or other violent crimes often go hand in hand. It can have a terrible impact on their state of mind and physical well-being. The danger is so real that it is best for people with this disease not to drink alcohol ever. The risk is so grave that it puts a person at five times the risk of developing alcoholism. With this risk, bipolar and alcohol cannot mix. Post alcohol depression is also a common thing that is a bad mix with a bipolar disorder.

Caffeine is another drug that can cause problems with bipolar disorder. Caffeine is a stimulant that speeds up the system, gives people energy and cuts down on their sleep. This is a problem with someone with bipolar disorder, whose rest can be so crucial to their mental health. It also has the potential to trigger a manic episode, which is a risk all stimulants have.

Fatty foods can also be a problem. Foods like red meat, cheeses, and other high-fat items tend to increase the duration in which the bipolar disorder medication takes effect in your body. Different people can suffer hypertension from certain foods, and thus these foods should be avoided as it might trigger a depression episode or mania.

Treatment Options for Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Use

Alcohol abuse and bipolar disorder are two conditions that are lifelong. While they are complex and impact every area of a person’s life, most mental illnesses and alcohol addiction are treatable conditions. Medication is one of the primary treatment methods for bipolar disorder, especially when it comes to easing alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and some of the medication has the added benefit of lowering alcohol consumption as well. Lamotrigine and alcohol in bipolar disorder have been studied, and when taking the drug, it is reported that alcohol cravings are lower and the amount of alcohol consumed is less as well. On the right medication, mood swings are regulated, and the mania and depression are held off.

Talk therapy, education, and support are other treatments that can help those with bipolar and alcohol disorders. Talk therapy, like cognitive behavioral therapy, can help a person identify any negative or unhelpful thoughts and find new and healthier ways to look at the problems. Education is a major component of treatment for mental illness and alcohol abuse, as it is vital for anyone with both conditions to know what the risks are, how to stay healthy, and how to keep to balanced routine and lifestyle that limits the risk of mood swings. Support groups are also beneficial and common with it comes to alcoholism. There can be specific support groups, like 12 step groups, for individuals with a mental illness like bipolar disorder and alcoholism.

While mania in bipolar disorder can leave a person feeling invulnerable, their body and minds are breaking down from the illness and will likely end up in the hospital, where they can get help. Bipolar and alcohol treatment resistance can be the major hurdle to overcome, as support is available and recovery likely from these diseases. Still, treatment for alcoholics with bipolar disorders is likely to be successful if carried out by recovery professionals in specialized medical facilities aimed at alcoholism recovery. Both inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation is possible, although residential programs tend to be more effective in case of co-ocurrent mental conditions.

Recovery is possible for both alcoholism and bipolar disorder. It is thought of similarly for both diseases, the person understands what triggers a relapse, either in alcohol consumption or mood swings, and works to avoid those things that trigger or find new ways to manage the triggers, so they do not cause a relapse. It is about learning what works and what does not to control these diseases, and how to live a healthy life without them.


Brian Obinna Obodeze

Brian Obodeze

Content Writer

Brian Obinna Obodeze is a professional health-niche content developer for with six years of experience as a research writer. He is an expert in medical content development, especially in the field of addictions, general health, homeopathic medicine, and pharmaceuticals.

Brian has a bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from the University of Benin and has worked as a Lab Scientist and as a public healthcare officer. His hobbies include physical fitness, reading, and social entrepreneurship.

Medical review by Dr. Gregory Okhifun

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