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Can Drinking Cause Bipolar Disorder?

There is still little evidence of what exactly causes bipolar disorder, but most research shows the disorder is determined by a genetic component. Environmental factors and lifestyle issues, such as stress and substance abuse, may also play a role in the development of bipolar disorder. Although the exact cause of bipolar disorder is still unknown, doctors do know that lifestyle issues, including drinking alcohol, do affect the severity of bipolar disorder. The development of bipolar disorder is contributed to an imbalance in the brain’s chemical neurotransmitters, and alcohol is a substance that directly affects these same chemicals. Drinking alcohol alters chemicals in the brain. This may contribute to the development of bipolar disorder, but drinking definitely magnifies the symptoms of the disorder and can trigger depressive or manic episodes.

Drinking Alcohol Can Trigger Bipolar Episodes

Bipolar disorder is an illness caused by the dysfunction of certain neurotransmitters or chemical messengers in the brain, such as norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Alcohol is one of many external factors that can affect these brain chemicals. Interfering with a bipolar individual’s brain chemical levels can trigger a bipolar episode or make one worse. This is especially true when it comes to triggering depressant episodes because alcohol acts as a depressant to the brain’s central nervous system, calming chemical receptors like dopamine that activate the brain’s reward center.

Drinking Alcohol Can Mask Bipolar Disorder

Drinking alcohol can mask the symptoms of bipolar disorder, which prolongs or even prevents the disorder from being discovered, diagnosed and treated. Undiagnosed bipolar disorder can create many continuing problems for individuals, but they may be unaware that they can do something to fix this. Drinking alcohol can mask bipolar disorder because both the individual and others may blame or identify any strange behaviors or symptoms with the drinking instead of a serious underlying mental health illness.

Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Abuse

Bipolar individuals who drink alcohol risk aggravating their symptoms. Alcohol can intensify symptoms of bipolar disorder, as well as increase the risk of experiencing rapid cycling and mixed forms of mania. People with bipolar disorder who drink alcohol are more likely to behave erratically and need the help of medical professionals. Because alcohol can magnify the symptoms of bipolar disorder, these symptoms can reach levels to where psychosis, hallucinations, delusions and other frightening psychological reactions arise.

Unfortunately, people with bipolar disorder are at high risk for substance abuse and addiction because their condition pushes them to self-medicate. Alcohol abuse is an issue that many bipolar individuals struggle with because the affected individuals are attracted to the euphoric, calming and inhibiting effects that come from drinking. Co-existing bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse is a dangerous combination. If bipolar episodes arise while someone is under the influence of alcohol, the person’s actions or behaviors can be extremely unpredictable and reckless.

Find Treatment for Co-Occurring Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Abuse

If you are struggling with bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse problems or both of these issues, we can help you find specialized treatment to address your specific recovery needs. To learn more about your options for treating bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse or other co-occurring issues, call our toll-free number now where you can speak with a trained addiction counselor. Our addiction counselors are here to take your call 24 hours a day and can provide you with answers to your questions, as well as all the information you need on treatment and recovery services. If you are ready to find treatment, call and let us help you find what you need today.