Picture an individual who’s struggling with bipolar disorder. 

They go from experiencing inconsistent (but frequent) emotional highs and lows, from feeling exhilarated to feeling depressed. They’re tired of the mental and emotional rollercoaster.

So, the next time they start feeling low, they pour themselves a shot to bring up their mood. When they’re in a high, they pour themselves another drink, either to enhance their elation or to attempt to calm a perhaps erratic mind. Soon, they’re drinking more than they ever intended.

Bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction are closely related. The presence of one disorder does not always lead to the development of the other, but they do exacerbate each other.

In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at bipolar disorder and alcoholism, and the different ways these two disorders can affect each other, as well as the individual as a whole.

How alcoholism affects the brain

Alcohol has been around for a very, very long time. It has forever been the drink of choice for celebrations, from the ancient Roman times all the way to 2023 New Year’s Eve parties. 

Alcohol is the most widely, socially acceptable substance to indulge in. Some people still find blacking out to be a matter of bragging, but a lack of self-control or a substance use disorder is nothing to be proud of. Binging alcohol is unhealthy at best, and fatal in the worst cases. 

To contribute further to the socially supported habit of alcoholism, is a lack of education and awareness around how alcoholism affects the brain. When many people think about the negative impact of alcohol on our health, their mind immediately goes to the liver. 

Alcoholism can have detrimental effects on the brain, including:

  • Brain atrophy (shrinking of the brain)
  • Neurological imbalances and malfunctions
  • Problems with attention, memory and focus
  • Damage to your nervous system (resulting in numbness and weakness)
  • Decreased mental and emotional intelligence
  • Increased risk of mental health disorders
  • Increased risk of chronic illnesses and diseases

Every person’s body is different, so it’s important to remember that the symptoms that manifest in one person may not manifest in another. Or, while it may take decades of chronic alcohol consumption to trigger symptoms in one person, it could only take a few years in another. 

One factor that plays a large role in the exacerbation of addiction is mental health.

Mental health and addiction

A mental health disorder or illness is characterized as a condition that significantly impacts a person’s thoughts, emotions, mood and overall behavior. They are complex conditions that are usually treatable with personalized care that addresses the full spectrum of a person’s health, but when left untreated, can wreak havoc on our lives.

The exact factors that contribute to the development of a mental health condition will vary per person. Sometimes two conditions can be completely unrelated, while other times a pre-existing condition can make a person vulnerable to developing the additional illness. 

For example, struggling with a mental health disorder makes people more prone to developing substance use disorders in an attempt to cope with their symptoms. Similarly, struggling with a substance use disorder tends to create a negative ripple effect in the individual’s life that often lends to the deterioration of their mental health and well-being.

Bipolar disorder is a complex mental health condition that still leaves many mental health professionals confused, curious and questioning. There’s often neurological and chemical imbalances in the brains of these individuals, but not always; one thing that is common in people struggling with bipolar disorder is the presence of an alcohol disorder. 

Bipolar disorder and alcoholism

There are two ‘episodes’ that people with bipolar disorder experience: manic episodes and depressive episodes; consuming alcohol with this mental health condition is always a risk.

A person who drinks alcohol during a manic phase is at a higher risk for engaging in impulsive behavior that would have already been considered dangerous before alcohol was involved. Those who consume alcohol during depressive episodes increase the chances of engaging in  suicidal behavior.

Because of the frequent emotional highs and lows that these individuals experience, their mental health is more likely to be unstable and sometimes dangerously unpredictable. Their symptoms can feel crushing, overwhelming, frighteningly exhilarating — and alcohol is an easily accessible, quick ‘fix’ to calming a churning or chaotic mind. 

Not everyone struggling with bipolar disorder and an alcohol addiction simultaneously have a black-and-white picture of which disorder developed first, or if one caused the other. Both of these conditions are complex and can be extremely difficult to navigate, which is why professional help is always encouraged when a disorder is suspected or present.

If you or someone you love is struggling with a mental health disorder, substance use order or a combination of the two, send a message to our team today. 

Begin your healing today

Here at Silvermist Recovery, we provide a variety of forms of care to individuals seeking to optimize the full spectrum of their health. 

Mental health treatment, drug and alcohol addiction recovery, dual diagnosis (multiple, simultaneous disorders), trauma-specific treatment — these are just a few of the ways we provide premium care to our clients. Your safety and comfort are our top priorities.

Both bipolar disorder and alcoholism can be overwhelming to think about separately let alone together, but we’re here to support you and provide guidance every step of the way. You’re not alone; we’re here to help.

To speak with one of our intake specialists and learn more about the different services we have to offer, send us a message or call us today at 724-268-4858.