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Treating Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder


Nearly 50% of people with alcoholism or addiction also suffer from a co-occurring mental health condition. When it comes to alcoholism, there is an identifiable link between alcohol abuse and bipolar disorder. People who suffer from both alcoholism and bipolar disorder experience overlapping symptoms between the two disorders. As a result, each disorder plays off the other and exacerbates the symptoms of the other disorder. 

If you are previously diagnosed with bipolar disorder, it is important to understand how alcohol abuse affects the symptoms of bipolar as well as how treatment for bipolar disorder and alcoholism works. On the other hand, people who develop an alcoholic drinking pattern are susceptible to also developing symptoms of bipolar disorder. Regardless of which condition came first, co-occurring alcoholism and bipolar disorder is a strenuous and difficult feat to overcome. Fortunately, dual diagnosis alcohol rehab programs effectively treat bipolar disorder and alcoholism at the same time.

The Connection Between Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder affects up to 3% of the population, and alcohol use disorder affects 13-18%. However, studies show that nearly 45% of people who suffer from bipolar disorder also suffer from alcohol use disorder.[1] Since the conditions co-exist so often, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of these co-occurring disorders. 

Bipolar disorder is characterized by extreme mood changes that vary in duration. Sometimes, they lead to manic or depressive episodes that may last for several weeks or more. Other times, these episodes may change day by day. Without proper treatment, coping with bipolar disorder is challenging. As a result, some people consume drugs or alcohol to momentarily reduce the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Some substances, particularly alcohol, significantly alter people’s moods and energy levels. While alcohol may provide temporary relief for bipolar disorder, it is almost always harmful to cope with a mental health condition using alcohol.[2]

How Alcohol Abuse Affects Bipolar Disorder

Comorbid alcoholism and bipolar disorder lead to longer withdrawal symptoms, increased severity of manic episodes, and more extreme depressive symptoms. In addition, alcohol abuse among people who suffer from bipolar disorder produces an increased risk for suicide and overall dysfunction in day-to-day living.[1] 

Alcohol abuse impacts bipolar disorder in many ways. For example, alcohol alters a person’s mood and lowers their inhibitions. This leads to increased energy and excitement, which enhances manic symptoms. However, mania is often associated with risky behaviors. Similarly, people are more likely to engage in risky behaviors, such as drunk driving, illegal activity, and unprotected sex while under the influence of alcohol. Consequently, the effects of alcohol abuse on bipolar disorder lead to more explosive and intense manic symptoms, potentially putting an individual in harm’s way.[2]

Unfortunately, alcoholism usually takes people to dark places that are entangled with depression and anxiety. When a person suffers from alcoholism and bipolar disorder, it can exacerbate depressive symptoms and lead to suicidal thinking/actions and self-harming behaviors. Overall, alcohol abuse greatly increases most symptoms of bipolar disorder, ultimately making the condition extremely difficult to deal with. Whether alcohol abuse occurs during manic phases, depressive ones, or both, it is dangerous and potentially life-threatening.[3] 

Treatment for Co-Occurring Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism

Due to the complications of co-occurring alcoholism and bipolar disorder, many people don’t receive adequate treatment for both disorders. Overlapping symptoms can make mental health conditions difficult to diagnose and mental health conditions can make alcoholism more difficult to overcome. Since alcoholism and bipolar disorder are commonly intertwined, people who suffer from both conditions benefit from dual diagnosis alcohol rehab.

Experts on alcohol use disorder recommend treating alcoholism and bipolar disorder simultaneously.[3] Treatment that combines alcohol rehab and mental health counseling is known as dual diagnosis treatment. Since the symptoms of both disorders play off of each other, they can be effectively treated using medications, behavioral therapies, and ongoing counseling. Dual diagnosis treatment programs offer individualized treatment plans that target each condition, allowing individuals to learn coping strategies to help them deal with each condition. 

Treatment for alcoholism and bipolar disorder typically begins with detox. Bipolar symptoms are known to make withdrawal symptoms worse, so it’s important for patients to become medically stable before starting therapy. After detox, patients should enter an inpatient or day/night alcohol rehab. Throughout rehab, specific levels of care should be based on the severity of the person’s bipolar symptoms and alcoholism. In addition, patients are usually prescribed mental health medications to further help manage the symptoms of bipolar disorder. After rehab, aftercare programs, counseling, and support groups help individuals sustain their recovery.

Dual Diagnosis Alcohol Rehab in Fort Lauderdale

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcoholism and co-occurring bipolar disorder, dual diagnosis alcohol rehab can help. Although there is no cure for either condition, rehab and counseling help people live lives that are not controlled by alcohol abuse. To learn more about alcohol rehab in Fort Lauderdale, contact one of our addiction specialists today. Our dedicated professionals are standing by and are eager to help you start the journey towards recovery today.



Call the Agape Treatment Center admissions team at 888-614-0077 to learn more about what our addiction and mental health facilities can do for you or your loved one.

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