Effects of Alcohol on Bipolar Disorder


It has been well documented that bipolar disorder and alcoholism commonly co-occur. The feelings of depression and anxiety associated with bipolar can be a factor that leads to alcoholism. People with bipolar disorder may use alcohol or other drugs to self medicate these feelings, especially in instances where the person has not been diagnosed. However, alcohol makes the symptoms of bipolar disorder worse. Anyone who shows symptoms of bipolar disorder should seek the advice of medical professionals.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mental disorder that causes extreme mood swings between depression and mania. Depression is generally characterized by a lack of energy and motivation, and mania consists of periods of high energy, unusual thought patterns and sometimes psychosis. Those afflicted with bipolar disorder tend to have episodes where these two feelings can appear in their most extreme forms. These episodes can last days, weeks or even months.


Alcoholism is characterized by a strong dependency on alcoholic substances. Alcoholics continue to drink despite health problems and social consequences. Many believe it to be a disease or at the least an addiction because of genetic factors. It is said that 9 percent of the general population is predisposed to developing alcoholism based on genetics. Alcoholism can lead to serious health problems such as cirrhosis of the liver and heart disease. It has also been known to cause sexual dysfunction.


There have been many documented cases where alcoholism and bipolar disorder are concurrent. Some experts believe that manic depressives have a tendency to use alcohol or other drugs to cope with their depression. This is especially common among those who have not been diagnosed and are not taking any medications specifically for bipolar disorder. Alcohol can make the symptoms of bipolar worse and should be avoided by those afflicted with the disease.


It is never a good idea to combine alcohol with medications for bipolar or any other mental disorder. The medications can increase the effects of the alcohol causing severely impaired judgment, dizziness and uncontrollable urination. Medications for bipolar disorder include variations of lithium carbonate, carbamazepine and sodium valproate. It is recommended that use of alcohol be limited if not stopped with all of these medications.


Bipolar disorder is a genetic disease of the brain and cannot be prevented, but it can be controlled. Obviously people who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder should not drink in excess if at all. The true worry is with people who have bipolar disorder and have not been diagnosed.

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