Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder

Is there a connection between Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder? I saw this question posted on the Mayo Clinic Forum. Daniel Hall-Flavin, a doctor board certified in general psychiatry and addiction psychiatry answered:

Bipolar disorder and alcoholism often occur together. Up to half the people who have bipolar disorder also struggle with alcoholism.

Although the association between bipolar disorder and alcoholism isn’t clearly understood, these factors likely play a role:

Inherited traits. Genetic differences appear to affect brain chemistry linked to bipolar disorder. These same traits may also affect the way the brain responds to alcohol and other drugs, increasing the risk of alcoholism and addiction to other drugs.
Depression and anxiety. Some people drink to ease depression, anxiety and other symptoms of bipolar disorder. Drinking may seem to help, but in the long run it makes symptoms worse. This can lead to more drinking — a vicious cycle that’s difficult to overcome.
Mania. This upswing from depression is usually characterized by an intensely elated (euphoric) mood and hyperactivity. It commonly causes bad judgment and lowered inhibitions, which can lead to increased alcohol use or drug abuse.
Bipolar disorder and alcoholism or other types of substance abuse can be a dangerous combination. Each can worsen the symptoms and severity of the other. Having both conditions increases the risk of mood swings, depression, violence and suicide.

Someone who has both bipolar disorder and alcoholism or another addiction is said to have a dual diagnosis. Treatment may require the expertise of mental health care providers who specialize in the treatment of dual disorders.

If you’ve lost control over your drinking or you abuse drugs, get help before your problems become worse and harder to treat. Seeing a mental health expert right away is especially important if you also have signs and symptoms of bipolar disorder or another mental health condition.

Some General Information

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) causes serious shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior. There are highs of mania and lows of depression. More than just a good or bad mood, the cycles of bipolar disorder last for days, weeks, or months. And unlike regular mood swings, the symptoms of bipolar disorder are so intense that they interfere with your ability to function.

During a manic episode, a person might impulsively quit a job, charge up huge amounts on credit cards, or feel rested after sleeping two hours. During a depressive episode, the same person might be too tired to get out of bed, and full of self-loathing and hopelessness over being unemployed and in debt. The extreme highs and lows of mania and depression can hurt your job and school performance, damage your relationships, and disrupt your daily life. But you’re not powerless when it comes to bipolar disorder.
Our 800RecoveryHub site offers free and confidential help

The causes of bipolar disorder aren’t completely understood, but it often appears to be hereditary. The first manic or depressive episode of bipolar disorder usually occurs in the teenage years or early adulthood. The symptoms can be subtle and confusing; many people with bipolar disorder are overlooked or misdiagnosed—resulting in unnecessary suffering. But with proper treatment and support, you can lead a rich and fulfilling life.

No Longer a Stigma

Bipolar disorder is estimated to affect 5.7 million adult Americans – that’s 2.6% of the U.S. population. Some of those individuals happen to be household names. Catherine Zeta Jones got treatment for bipolar II disorder. The II part is characterized by episodes of hypomania (less severe highs and irritability) alternating with depression. Chris Brown checked himself into rehab and has been diagnosed with post traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) and bipolar disorder. Musician Sting has been very candid about his bipolar disorder. He has used his stardom to lead several campaigns raising awareness for bipolar disorder. The last one I will mention is, Jean-Claude Van Damme who has suffered from bipolar disorder ever since he was young. He has received treatment.

This is My Opinion

If you are sober and need help for a mental condition, please seek out treatment from a respected doctor. If you have someone (like a sponsor) that tells you “don’t take antidepressants because that would ruin your sobriety” ask that person to show you their medical credentials. Taking medication as prescribed does not contradict sobriety.

When I need physical or mental medical information, I see a doctor, therapist or psychiatrist.

When I need to find a job, I see a career counselor.

When I need advice on a balanced diet, I see a nutritionist.

I think you get the point. When I need help with sobriety, I talk to someone with the kind of sobriety I want.


Our family finds a lot of relief from our many disorders by maintaining a healthy diet (up to a point). We also believe that mild exercise is a bit of a “cure-all”.  Side note: I take that “mild exercise” a bit too literally. Meaning I exercise for an hour but hardly, if ever, sweat.

Click on the link below for some helpful nutritional tips to ease the discomfort of Bipolar Disorder.

Bipolar Diet
Home Remedies for Bipolar Disorder

20 thoughts on “Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder

  1. Thanks for the blog. I did not know much about bipolar disorder. I have PTSD and I have been sober 2 years. I have had people tell me if you take any medication than you are not sober. I take my prescribed meds every day. I think it is so true to seek the right professionals.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Many bipolar patients self medicate if not following doctors orders well or sticking to prescriptions. Like lithium. Alcohol reduces the chance (but not much) of mania setting in and cocaine and marijuana can pull people out of depression but those two psych-active drugs both easily trigger mania. Too often sepa kite fails because it is too overpowering and sets people I. Depression. Likewise lithium cuts off the highs beautifully but can’t prevent or shorten depression. Most can learn to pull out of depressions but manic episodes are uncontrollable except by physical intervention heavy Meds and a few weeks in the psych ward. Self medication never works long term. Lithium can. It’s sea salt do the side effects are few as long as patients drink water daily.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was never told when I was on lithium that I needed to drink plenty of water. I had been on it for 6 years and caught a bad case of the flu. I wasn’t eating or drinking and I became delusional. I was taken to the hospital and told I had an unprecedented lithium toxicity level. They automatically treated it as an overdose and I was not coherent to argue. My husband took in my pill bottles to show that I had not taken any extra (by the date). I was put on other medications after that and taken off the lithium.


      1. I am a big fan of treating medical conditions with medication – – but gosh — could the doctor give a little counseling along with that “script”? I feel bad for you. It would have taken only a few seconds to write the instruction “take medication with lots of water”. A few years ago, after a simple surgery, I got really sick because the anesthesiologist pumped me up with way too much medication. My heart rate went down to 30 and my husband asks what happened. The doctor said “oh we didn’t realize she was so thin”. Ok, but I wrote down my exact weight on the admitting form AND they weighed me before the procedure????

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I was told by a GP that a glass of wine was fine to help with my agitation and anxiety. There is a lot of rubbish info out there and navigating it when you aren’t at your best is HARD.
        Sometimes you’ve just got to do your own educating and trust yourself.
        Bravo for partners and support people that can stand up for us when we’re not up to it.
        Skinny Jeans Mum

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I know this all too well. My bf is in recovery and has bp. It can be very challenging not only for him, but for those close to him as well. It is so important to see a medical professional to get help with mental disorders. While there are a lot of homeopathic things that can help manage a mental illness, most chemical imbalances need a therapeutic dose of medicine to effectively manage the symptoms. Finding that dose can be a taxing process but it is worth the effort in the end.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I enjoyed your article. Being bipolar is helped by many things, such as the ones you mentioned. I also believe meditation and journaling are extremely beneficial. I wonder how many bloggers have this trait? I wouldn’t be surprised if the number was high.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Kathleen, I was diagnosed with bipolar and have an addiction.
      I experience extreme highs and lows.
      Before I was prescribe medication, I use to medicate my lows with addictive behaviors to remove loneliness, anxiety, and depression. Thanks,

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for this article. I have never struggled with alcohol, but have been diagnosed with bipolar, depression and anxiety attacks. I was given xanax for the anxiety and ended up dependent but sought help right away and got off it. But I do know people with bipolar who do struggle with addictions and your post has helped me understand it better.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Thank you and this is real eye opener for me as well. When I started blogging on eating disorders. The best advice I was ever given was to stick to facts and always backup my work with sound research. I have a friend who’s daughter is bipolar. This is very helpful


  7. Thanks for the very interesting and informative article. I’m an addict who is currently clean, and being treated for PTSD. If someone were to suggest that I quit taking my meds, you can believe I’d be asking them for their medical credentials. My sobriety sure wouldn’t last very long if all my symptomology came back. So I thank you for all the great information you included with your post, this is stuff a lot of people really need to know.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. The blog was a great re print of a great article through Mayo. I believe in what you are doing by bringing an awareness regarding dual diagnosis. However, the STIGMA to being bi polar is very much alive. I think it is fantastic that several successful TV series (Homeland) show a fairly accurate cycle of being manic. My daughter is bi-polar; my son is a drug addict with manic/depression (although I think it is beyond that). Being a parent to two children, raised so very differently and yet share the struggles this disease creates is horrendous.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Homeland does such a great demonstration of Bipolar. The information From mayo was credited and put in quotation form. I hope it didn’t come across as disingenuous. Thanks for your comments and sharing a bit about your children. I am a first time mother, facing some challenges too.


      1. Hi ! No your article was not disenginois at all! Keep up the great work! It is hard to parent in a “normal” world, but when the landscape changes with addiction and mental/nervous issues , we can all use a forum of support!


    2. I have two daughters that are bipolar. However, their dispositions are quite different. One is driven to alcohol to find relief. The other is driven to seek approval from other (very insecure). I am also bipolar. I was driven to an addiction but found relief. Thanks for your comment on Victoria B’s great article.


  9. Bi-polar runs a mean streak through some of my family, though alcoholism does not. My mother was a “light-duty” bipolar, having only a few episodes her entire life, though they were more frequent and gaining in strength the older she got. I also have one sister who is bi-polar and the meds kept her in a zombie-like state for about a decade. Then she went off her meds and that episode made mom look like a amateur. I myself am not bi-polar, though I do have a twinge of OCD running through me. I write my blog as a form of therapy and so far, it seems to work best. Keep up the good posts! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Alcohol, Meth, and Coke to keep me out of my personal Hell at a high price. 33 year marriage, 5 Years on the streets. Quadruple bypass. Bipolar, PTSD, and a whole bunch more acronyms. I’ve been clean and sober 7 or 8 years. Now I’m on legal meds and feeling better for it. Benztropine Mesylate, Lamotrigine, Bupropion HCL, Prazosin and Abilify. Once you get your diagnosis they’ll get your medications. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right combination, but it’s worth the time and effort. It’s better than what I was doing before. I’m telling you this to let you know you can get right if you really want to get away from that life. I missed over 30 years of my life being involved in self medicating and there isn’t a good reason for anyone to do that. Especially with “Obama Care”. You can email me at or my blog, Michael’s Lair if you need some direction to get started.

    Liked by 1 person

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