Tornado Watch: Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism

FOR THOSE LIVING WITH bipolar disorder, this mood disorder is best described as a tornado violently ripping through your life with unpredictable episodes of mania and depression. Also known as manic depression, BD is characterized by emotional transitions between periods of euphoria/impulsivity and severe depression with hints of paranoia and anxiety. Extreme mood swings interfere with the functions of daily life at work, with family and other interpersonal relationships.

What Are the Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder?

Disorganized thinking (e.g., major evidence of clutter in the house and car)Inappropriate responses to upsetting triggers (e.g., laughing hysterically when you should be sad)Incessant, uncontrollable crying for no reasonUse of profanity when you generally don't curse at allRestlessness and euphoriaImpulsivity (e.g., making large purchases on a whim)Erratic behavior at work or inability to hold down a job

There are three main types of bipolar disorder: bipolar I, bipolar II and cyclothymic disorder. The first, bipolar I, usually requires psychiatric hospitalization in extreme circumstances, but symptoms vary widely from one person to another. The second, bipolar II, is a milder form, and cyclothymic disorder is characterized by brief episodes of depressive and manic symptoms. To cope with the emotional pain associated with bipolar disorder, individuals often turn to alcohol to numb feelings of worthlessness and suicidal ideations.

According to research, bipolar disorder is the highest-ranking co-occurring disorder associated with substance use disorders. Combined with alcoholism, or alcohol use disorder, individuals with SUDs are more likely to be hospitalized. Described as a complex comorbidity, bipolar disorder could be a drug-induced mood disorder or an affective disorder leading to substance abuse. According to Medscape, individuals with a family history of mood disorders are likely to develop BD after they start using or abusing drugs; if someone already has a pre-existing condition of BD, alcoholism would only worsen its clinical course.

How Is Bipolar Disorder Treated?

To effectively treat the comorbidity of bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder, these must be addressed in the same setting, such as a dual diagnosis treatment center for substance abuse addiction. Evidence-based practices like psychotherapy and pharmacologic interventions are utilized by addiction professionals. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one such form of psychotherapy, which, according to the American Psychiatric Association, is synonymous with "talk therapy," a face-to-face treatment modality used to elicit self-disclosure.

Nutritional counseling is also commonly used as a natural, holistic alternative treatment for manic depression. Having a well-balanced diet is essential to managing moods, and a skilled nutritionist helps clients develop a meal plan that will inevitably improve their overall recovery.

If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, alcoholism, or any co-occurring disorders please call us at (833) 818-3031 or visit