The Connection Between Bipolar and Alcohol

bipolar disorder and alcohol

Do you live with bipolar disorder and all of the challenges that come with this mental health disorder? If you also drink alcohol, you may be complicating your mental health and increasing the side effects. It’s important to understand the connection between bipolar and alcohol. Learning to manage your mental health may include addressing any use or abuse of alcohol in order to feel better.

What Is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder that used to be known more commonly as manic depression. It is classified as a mood disorder because of how it affects a person’s mood. This includes having mood swings that can go from extreme euphoria to deep levels of depression. Someone with bipolar disorder finds themselves unable to regulate their moods. This, in turn, can cause difficulties in their personal lives, relationships, careers, schooling, and more. No cure for bipolar disorder exists, but treatment can prove quite effective in helping to manage the symptoms. 

There are different types of bipolar disorder. A qualified doctor or therapist can perform an assessment in order to make the correct diagnosis for each individual. The different types of bipolar disorder include:

Bipolar I Disorder: Symptoms for this type include both manic and depressive types. The manic episodes, which include feeling high levels of joy, usually last at least seven days. The depressive episodes, which include extreme feelings of depression and hopelessness, typically last at least two weeks. 


Bipolar II Disorder: This type of bipolar disorder mainly includes depressive episodes. However, some people also experience hypomanic episodes afterward. Those are not as extreme as the ones associated with Bipolar I Disorder.

Cyclothymic Disorder: This type includes having hypomanic and depressive episodes that occur for at least two years or longer. They may be less intense than the ones associated with the other types of bipolar disorders. This condition is also called cyclothymia. 

Rapid Cycling: Someone with this type of bipolar disorder experiences a faster cycle through mood swings. They typically experience four or more episodes per year. 

Signs and Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder

The signs of having bipolar disorder vary depending on the type and the individual who has it. Common signs and symptoms include:


  • Excessive energy
  • Talking a lot
  • Inability to sit still or focus
  • Lack of sleep or sleeping too much
  • Feeling invincible
  • Engaging in risky behavior
  • Feelings of depression
  • Feeling guilty or hopeless
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Moodiness
  • Difficulty completing tasks
  • Suicidal feelings or thoughts

How Do Bipolar and Alcohol Interact?

Bipolar and alcohol often end up becoming a combination that can be quite dangerous. Often, a person who feels the effects of bipolar disorder wants to find a quick fix to quiet the symptoms. They may begin to drink alcohol as an attempt to self-medicate. Unfortunately, this can lead to the person abusing alcohol or becoming addicted to it. Instead of fixing one problem, they end up adding another one to the pile. 

Additionally, alcohol can be deceiving. Many people perceive it as a mood booster when alcohol is actually a depressant. Consuming it can increase the very feelings of depression the person is trying to ease. Conversely, abusing alcohol can increase the severity of the symptoms of a manic episode. Someone who is both in the midst of a manic episode and experiencing difficulty with impulse control that comes with being inebriated can increase their risk of getting into trouble. They may be more likely to do things like drive while intoxicated or have unprotected sex.

Another concern about combining bipolar disorder and alcohol involves medication. Most people with bipolar disorder take some type of prescription medication to help control their symptoms. Many of these medications should never be mixed with alcohol. Doing so can cause dangerous side effects and further destabilize a person’s mood. 

What Is Treatment for Bipolar Disorder Like?

Someone with bipolar disorder may initially feel that there is little hope for controlling their disease. However, the right treatment program can help people learn to manage their mental health and enjoy improved results. In fact, outpatient care can provide the help many people need. This type of treatment permits a person to receive focused care for bipolar disorder during the day. This allows the person to receive the care they need while not having to move into a residential facility.

Treatment for bipolar and alcohol abuse can happen at the same time. This saves both time and money when both issues are addressed concurrently. If a person with bipolar disorder (or any mental health disorder) also has a substance use disorder, this is called a dual diagnosis. About half of people who deal with an addiction to alcohol or drugs also have at least one mental health condition. At Tampa Bay Recovery Center, our mental health facilities in Tampa can help you recover from the devastating effects of alcohol and bipolar disorder.

Find Treatment for Bipolar Disorder Now

Do you have bipolar disorder and are also concerned about your alcohol consumption? Buckhead Behavioral Health understands the potential risks of combining a mental health disorder with substance use or abuse. We provide world-class outpatient treatment that helps teach you to manage your mental health. Additionally, we can treat any co-occurring addictions, including alcoholism. 

If you would like more information on the effects of bipolar and alcohol, visit our admissions page now. We are happy to answer any questions you have about how we can help you.