Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol: A Risky Cocktail

Bipolar Disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a mental health disorder that affects more than 5 million Americans. People with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings, including periods of mania (elevated, excessive, or irritable mood) and depression (low, sad, or hopeless mood).

Alcohol is a depressant that affects the nervous system and can alter mood and behavior. Although alcohol can temporarily increase feelings of happiness and relaxation, it can also make symptoms of bipolar disorder worse and increase the risk of an episode.

Here are some risks associated with the combination of bipolar disorder and alcohol:

1. Increased risk of suicide
Alcohol can increase impulsivity, aggression, and mood instability, which can heighten the risk of suicide among people with bipolar disorder. Individuals with bipolar disorder who abuse alcohol have a higher risk of suicide attempts compared to their peers without bipolar disorder.

2. Worsened symptoms
Alcohol can disrupt the equilibrium that medications aim to maintain, making it harder to manage symptoms of bipolar disorder. Even small doses of alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of mood-stabilizing medication, making it harder to regulate moods.

3. Greater risk of mixed episodes
Alcohol can trigger mixed episodes, where a person experiences both manic and depressive symptoms simultaneously. Mixed episodes are among the most dangerous and distressing states that individuals with bipolar disorder can experience.

4. Increased risk of addiction
People with bipolar disorder may be more likely to develop problematic drinking patterns and alcohol use disorders. Alcohol use disorders can exacerbate the symptoms of bipolar disorder and increase the risk of relapse.

5. Slow down recovery
In addition to slowing down symptoms control and management, alcohol slows down treatment progress and recovery from bipolar disorder. Alcohol delays response to treatment and complicates all forms of recovery.

If you have bipolar disorder or know someone who does, it’s important to take steps to avoid the negative effects of alcohol use. It is best to avoid alcohol altogether or limit it to very few drinks on special occasions under the guidance of a treating mental health professional.

Additionally, when alcohol use disorder has developed alongside bipolar disorder, professional support from addiction specialists, as well as mental health professionals, is critical for recovery. If someone is struggling with addiction, encouraging them to seek help from a qualified substance abuse treatment program is essential.

Overall, the combination of bipolar disorder and alcohol can be dangerous. Taking steps to control the risks associated with the combination of these two is essential. The best way to avoid the negative effects of alcohol is to abstain or seek treatment if an alcohol addiction problem has developed in individuals living with bipolar as alcohol use that can easily work against bipolar treatment efforts.

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