Why Is Self-Medicating With Alcohol Dangerous for Patients With Bipolar Disorder?

Living with bipolar disorder can come with many challenges. One day an individual can wake up on top of the world! Sometimes even feeling like a superstar. Feeling like somebody highly important with a major increase in confidence. Tremendously full of euphoric thoughts. So much, so that the individual may even feel invincible. Ready to tackle the day’s tasks. For a week he or she may act out of impulse. Manically going on spending sprees, excessively taking part in substance use, and having a revolving door of partners. 

Next two weeks or so, he or she may have difficulty getting out of bed. Sleeping through the alarm and dragging through muddy waters to just get through the day. Resorting to alcohol to numb all feelings of hopelessness. 

It can be extremely difficult to manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Practicing self-help strategies and surrendering to professional mental health treatment can significantly improve one’s quality of life. 

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, bipolar disorder is a mental health condition that causes sporadic shifts in an individual’s energy, activity levels, and overall mood. Due to these effects, the individual may experience an extreme lack of concentration which makes it incredibly hard to finish the simplest of day-to-day tasks. 

The onset of bipolar disorder typically persists in the late adolescent years or early adulthood. Bipolar disorder can sometimes be diagnosed in younger children. The mental health disorder requires lifelong treatment to manage the condition. There is no cure for this condition. 

Research and clinical studies have discovered many health factors that may contribute to a person’s risk of developing bipolar disorder. An individual’s brain structure and functionality can play a role. A person with bipolar disorder’s brain may differ from a typical person’s brain structure. When determining a patients diagnosis a practitioner may do a series of: 

  • Diagnostics testing
  • Brain imaging- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or a computerized tomography (CT) scan 
  • Reviewing the individual’s family history 
  • Gathering personal medical information

Relationship Between Bipolar Disorder and Substance Use

Conforming to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, individuals with bipolar disorder have a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder (SUD). Alcoholism and bipolar disorder frequently co-exist yet the relationship between the two is unfortunately misunderstood. As stated previously, individuals with bipolar disorder present impulsive behaviors. Not thinking before saying or doing something can be done out of impulse. Therefore, a dual diagnosis of bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder (AUD) is quite common. 

Bipolar disorder can cause irregular sleep patterns and insomnia. Many people with bipolar disorder try to self-medicate with alcohol. This works by temporarily making one feel moments of stability but often backfires. Alcoholism can make it extremely difficult for one to finish priorities at school, work, or at home. Drinking with bipolar disorder can often lead to relationship issues and problems with law enforcement. This can be caused by aggression, irritability, and mood swings. Alcoholism is typically a precursor to AUD. 

Alcohol Interferes With Treatment

Binge drinking or even consuming alcoholic beverages on occasion can alter one’s mood and negatively impact one’s mental and physical health. Bipolar disorder and alcoholism can be a dangerous mixture. Drinking alcohol can increase the severity of negative symptoms associated with the condition. Withdrawal from alcohol can increase depressive thoughts, and cause irritability, violent behaviors, and suicidal thoughts.

Drinking alcohol in combination with prescription medications prescribed to an individual with bipolar disorder can make the condition extremally difficult to treat. Even skipping doses to consume alcohol can significantly interfere with one’s psychiatric medical treatment plan. Staying sober and avoiding alcohol altogether with a bipolar diagnosis can greatly improve one’s outcome.

Moving Forward in Healthy Practice

Practicing self-help strategies and seeking professional help rather than consuming alcoholic beverages can make a huge difference for individuals facing challenges with bipolar disorder. Alcohol is classified as a “downer” therefore it is strongly advised by mental health professionals to avoid drinking alcohol as it can significantly impact an individual’s mood and physical health. There are various effective treatment options to explore to help manage one’s mental health disorder. 

Researching the facts on bipolar disorder and surrendering to professional help can come with many different health benefits. Speaking with mental health professionals such as a psychiatrist, therapist, and family practitioner to develop an individualized treatment plan of care can help one place a healthy routine. Following a medicated-assistant treatment (MAT) plan can be a safe option as well. This works by attending psychotherapy in combination with prescription medications.

For a more holistic approach, practicing mindfulness meditation in combination with cognitive-behavior therapy (CBT) can be an effective choice for treatment too. Sleeping at least seven to nine hours a night, following a healthy diet plan, staying active, avoiding alcohol, and spending time with family and friends can help an individual maintain their health outside of professional treatment to live a better quality of life. 

Bipolar disorder can make a person feel euphoric or extremely depressed with periods of normality. Going through these waves and shifts in mood can be difficult to manage without professional help. Learning to recognize the signs that may lead up to a manic episode can decrease impulsive behaviors. As a licensed and Joint Commission Accredited Mental Health Treatment Center, 12 South Recovery is a leader in Orange County mental health treatment. Our team can help you or a loved one cope with your mental health condition and overcome the effects of addiction. Psychotherapy and taking a holistic therapy approach can provide great benefit. Contact 12 South Recovery at (888) 830-8374 to figure out what can best treat your condition! 

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