Turn your demons into art, your shadow into a friend, your fear into fuel, your failures into teachers, your weaknesses into reasons to keep fighting.”

– Andrea Halt

Bipolar disorder is one of the most commonly known mental illnesses, but also one of the most misunderstood. Those who have bipolar disorder find themselves experiencing extended periods of euphoria (known as being “manic”), and extended periods of depression. However, it’s far more complex than just switching between being happy and being sad. The problems aren’t just limited to how much a person’s mood can fluctuate. The unpleasantness of dealing with bipolar disorder symptoms can cause people to try to find ways to make themselves feel good in the short-term, therefore the potential for alcohol abuse among bipolar individuals is quite high.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?
When you imagine someone with bipolar disorder, you might think of someone who is laughing uproariously one minute and weeping uncontrollably the next. While this may speak to how those with bipolar disorder deal with the extremes of both ends of the emotional spectrum, simplifying it in those ways can make it far more misunderstood. What occurs more often for people with bipolar disorder is that they go through periods of extended glee or despondency. A person might feel like they’re unstoppable for days on end. Then, that feeling can crash and they may feel like there is no hope for them. This is an exhausting thing to experience, especially if one doesn’t have medication to help them control their symptoms.

Bipolar and Alcoholism
Having bipolar disorder is incredibly difficult. It can be helped through medication and therapy, but those who lack access to medical treatment can end up turning to substance abuse as a means of coping. Alcohol abuse is common among those with bipolar disorder, due to easy access and the way it provides feelings of relief and escape. When someone with bipolar disorder drinks, they may feel their negative feelings lighten. If they’re feeling particularly depressed, they can cover it up by drinking until they’ve numbed the pain enough to the point of feeling better or not noticing their negative emotions any longer. Someone with bipolar disorder may also use alcohol during a manic episode. This typically is done not to distance from their manic state but to heighten the feelings of mania.

Effects of Alcohol on Those with Bipolar Disorder
The consequences of drinking when one has bipolar disorder can be felt in the days after. If someone drinks when depressed, they might feel better at the moment but have the feelings of depression compounded when they wake up the next day. The alcohol could also cause them to do or say things they regret, particularly if they’re drinking while in a manic state. If they’ve been taking prescription medication to treat their condition, it could interact negatively with alcohol.

Treatment of Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol
In order for alcoholism caused by bipolar disorder to be treated, both conditions need to be addressed. Just quitting drinking isn’t enough if there hasn’t been a proper glimpse into what factors lead to the person starting to drink in the first place. This is called a “dual-diagnosis treatment.” It involves looking at two related conditions in tandem with each other. Bipolar disorder cannot be eliminated outright, but it can be controlled through proper treatment. Similarly, alcoholism is a disease that can always exist in someone’s life. However, it can be treated by finding means to avoid alcohol and developing coping strategies to avoid letting temptations grow.

At St. John’s Recovery Place, we understand just how complex substance abuse and addiction can be. Our clients are assessed thoroughly to guarantee the best treatment plan possible. If you or a loved one needs help, give us a call today to discuss treatment options.