Your teenage and adult life has felt like a season of Game of Thrones; your weeks are full of extreme ups and downs with very little calm in between. Some days, you’re completely wired and feeling on top of the world. You constantly need to be doing something to release the excess energy you have, so you engage in reckless and impulsive behaviors.

But then, this manic high is replaced with soul-crushing depression. You feel worthless and as if you can’t do anything right. In an attempt to make yourself feel better, you again indulge in impulsive behaviors.

One common behavior that comes from both manic and depressive episodes of bipolar disorder is alcohol abuse.

How are Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Abuse Related?

If you’re struggling with both bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse, this co-occurrence is actually pretty common. In a large epidemiological study of psychiatric disorders by the National Institute of Mental Health’s Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA), researchers studied the co-occurrence of bipolar disorder and substance abuse. They found that over 60 percent of people with bipolar I disorder and nearly 50 percent of people with bipolar II disorder also had a substance abuse disorder.

But the question that continues to drive scientists deeper into the research is, why? What is it about bipolar disorder that triggers the overconsumption of alcohol? Or what about alcoholism triggers bipolar disorder?

At this point in time, there are only proposed explanations and theories for the co-occurrence of bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse. One such theory is that genetics plays a role in the simultaneous presence of these two disorders. There’s some evidence that suggests family history of the two disorders puts you at higher risk.

Can Alcohol Cause Bipolar Disorder?

While there isn’t evidence that proves alcoholism can actually lead to bipolar disorder, research has suggested that alcohol use can trigger symptoms. For example, a study conducted in 1998 found that alcohol may affect neurotransmitters in the brain and change how the brain works in the same way bipolar disorder does.

What this means is alcoholism may prompt symptoms of bipolar disorder. People who aren’t aware that they have bipolar disorder may be able to notice symptoms or experience more extreme symptoms because of their alcohol consumption.

How Does Alcohol Affect Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder causes episodes of manic and depressive behavior, similar to how alcohol use can trigger intense feelings of pleasure and euphoria, but leave people feeling depressed and worn-down during withdrawal. As a result, alcohol abuse can make bipolar disorder symptoms worse.

Manic episode symptoms can include intense euphoria, rapid thoughts and speech, difficulty sleeping, irritability, impulsive behaviors and even psychosis. Alcohol consumption intensifies these feelings because of the way it floods the reward center of the brain with dopamine and lowers inhibitions.

During a depressive episode, symptoms oftentimes include extreme sadness and irritability, a sense of isolation, an inability to concentrate or focus, insomnia and even suicidal thoughts or actions. Since alcohol is a depressant that impacts the central nervous system, drinking alcohol during a depressive episode can significantly increase these symptoms and make them life-threatening.

If you’re struggling with bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse, the best course of action to take is to seek medical attention. Addiction and mental health treatment centers like Fountain Hills Recovery are fully equipped to treat your dual diagnosis disorder and can help you find a way to live a fulfilling and happy life, despite your bipolar disorder.

Get Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Fountain Hills Recovery

Fountain Hills Recovery is Arizona’s premier addiction and mental health treatment center. No matter if you’re suffering from bipolar I disorder, bipolar II disorder, cyclothymic disorder or an unspecified bipolar disorder, our highly experienced and compassionate team can help.

Once we are able to assess your current state and situation, we can create a personalized treatment plan that includes cognitive therapy, rational emotive behavior therapy, dialectical behavioral therapy and so much more. If you’re also struggling with an alcohol addiction that either started before your bipolar disorder diagnosis or developed as a way to cope with your symptoms, our expert team will help you get the alcohol out of your system and recover from the substance abuse.

Contact our expert staff today to learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment program and find out how to get started.