Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a manic-depressive illness that is characterized by unusual behavioral patterns. A person who suffers from bipolar disorder might express major shifts in their mood, level of activity, energy and ability to complete daily tasks. It is difficult to maintain relationships when bipolar disorder is left untreated, and those who are bipolar often have trouble at school or work. Bipolar disorder is associated with increased levels of suicide, as well as co-occurring disorders, such as alcoholism.

It is believed that multiple factors work together to cause bipolar disorder. Some research has suggested that genetics plays a role, as bipolar disorder is seen as a hereditary trait in family lineage. However, the majority of children who have a parent or sibling who is bipolar will not develop the disorder. Because being bipolar can make it difficult to thrive, and also carries an increased risk of substance abuse, having a diagnosis and receiving treatment is important.

Impaired Impulse Control

Individuals who do not have a psychological disability are capable of consuming alcoholic beverages in controlled amounts. A rational thinker knows that drinking too much can have some fairly uncomfortable consequences and make an attempt to avoid them under most circumstances—not many people look forward to the morning after a night of heavy drinking. Those who suffer with bipolar disorder have an impaired ability to control their impulses. This makes it very difficult to stop drinking when the feeling of the “high” is so good, in the moment. Unfortunately, that feeling of utopia and increased energy is only a temporary band aid on a very big wound.

Manic Lows

Sobering up after a night of drinking can make people feel a variety of different emotions. For those with bipolar disorder, this is when alcoholism brings out the worst. Everyone with bipolar disorder is hypomanic or manic—it simply comes with the territory, but this cognitive disorder prevents the person from being able to recognize that they are in a slightly elevated mood, whether it be sadness or anger. As these people come down from the high that was provided by alcohol, the wheels of their mania begin to turn and are capable of gaining speed at an alarming rate. Once control is loss, the individual can be a threat to themselves and those around them.

Learning to Engage the Brakes

The major challenge that is faced by individuals who suffer from bipolar disorder is learning to recognize when they are experiencing a mood swing. Engaging the brakes and backing away can make the difference between getting back to being cool, calm and collected, and ending up in a dangerous state of mania. This can be learned through counseling services after a thorough diagnosis has been given.

Tackling Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder

Co-occurring disorders are experienced by thousands in the United States, though only a small fraction seek the help that they need to treat both conditions. Many with bipolar disorder also suffer from alcoholism, or another addiction. If you would like more information, visit our co-occurring disorder page or contact a representative with South Coast Counseling today.

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