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.
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.