What is Bipolar Disorder?

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic depression, is a mood-based mental health disorder. It is characterized by extreme mood swings.

With often unpredictable or abrupt changes and extreme highs and lows, many individuals with bipolar disorder feel like they have lost control. 

The less formal name, manic depression, describes the two sides of the mood extremes associated with bipolar disorder.

Mania is an extreme high. The opposite extreme is depression or overwhelming periods of intense sadness. 

For those with bipolar disorder, these manic and depressive phases often shift rapidly and are therefore called episodes.

These episodes impact not only our emotions but can also alter our thought patterns, energy levels, and sleep habits. 

Is Alcoholism a Mental Illness?

Is Alcoholism a Mental IllnessOne thing that many people don’t understand about addiction is that it is also a mental illness.

It alters your brain chemistry and can lead you to feel, think, or behave in uncharacteristic ways.

Battling one condition that affects your mental state is a challenge. Battling two is even harder. But help is available, and hope is not lost. 

Root Causes of Bipolar Disorder

Drug and alcohol abuse are two common causes of bipolar disorder, as well as other common mental health disorders.

Unfortunately, individuals abusing alcohol to escape the symptoms of their bipolar disorder will soon find that alcohol and mood swings are also linked. 

Alcohol-induced bipolar disorder is also a possibility, even for those who were not previously suffering from a mental health condition.

These co-occurring disorders can occur in either order and feed off each other. Co-existing alcoholism and bipolar disorder is called a dual diagnosis.  

Of course, drugs and alcohol are not the only root causes of bipolar disorder. Approximately six million Americans have a bipolar disorder.

Like other mental health disorders, there’s no singular cause. Another common link to bipolar disorder is genetics. 

For many, this is one of the biggest risk factors. Addictive and mood-based disorders tend to run in families.

Whatever the root causes may be, we will help you identify and understand them, as well as triggers or unhealthy coping mechanisms that may be contributing to the cycle of abuse.

Understanding is the first step in overcoming.  

How Does Alcohol Affect Co Occurring Disorders?

Because so many individuals with bipolar disorder drink, many wonder: can alcohol trigger bipolar episodes?

The answer is yes. Alcohol can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder, and it can also produce additional symptoms and side effects. 

Your experience may vary depending on individual factors, like the amount you drink, how frequently, your weight, and your medical history.

But some of the most common symptoms of bipolar disorder include: 

  • Extreme mood swings
  • Depression and mania 
  • Suicidal thoughts 
  • Rapid shifts in energy levels – either high to low or low to high 
  • Feelings of hopelessness 
  • Difficulty sleeping or focusing 
  • Lack of interest in work, hobbies, loved ones, or other activities of daily life 

Are All Bipolar Disorders the Same?

Bipolar disorder occurs across a spectrum. Bipolar I and bipolar II are the two most common forms.

The two diagnoses can cause you to experience different symptoms from someone with a different type of bipolar disorder. 

In bipolar II disorder, depression is more common than mania.

Most people still experience both highs and lows, but the lows tend to be more frequent and overwhelming.

On the other hand, those with bipolar I disorder are likely to experience more episodes of mania or extreme highs. 

The third type of bipolar disorder, called cyclothymic bipolar disorder, lands somewhere between the other two.

Someone with cyclothymic bipolar disorder may experience extreme highs and lows in equal measure. 

Bipolar Alcoholic Traits

Bipolar Alcoholic TraitsAddictions and common mental health disorders are similar enough that they produce many overlapping symptoms and side effects.

This can make it difficult to distinguish between the two. And it also makes it necessary to treat both conditions at once. 

Treating one and leaving the other behind will only leave room for relapse later, as they tend to feed off each other and each other worse.

This means that if you treat the addiction and not the bipolar disorder, the symptoms of the bipolar disorder may remain and lead you to drink to cope. 

Similarly, if you treat the bipolar disorder and not the addiction, your drinking may spark the symptoms of the same or another mental health disorder.

The symptoms listed above are common signs of trouble and enough to warrant asking for help.  

Mixing Bipolar Medication and Alcohol

Lithium and other mood stabilizers are prescribed to help control the highs and lows associated with bipolar disorder.

As we mentioned earlier, drinking can worsen the symptoms of bipolar disorder. Drinking while on bipolar medication is also not recommended. 

Lithium prescriptions come with explicit warnings against drinking with the pills in your system.

Drinking on bipolar medication can decrease the medication’s benefits, worsen your condition, and increase the adverse effects of the medication. 

Bipolar and Alcohol Blackouts

Alcohol-induced mania or extreme highs are the goal for most bipolar individuals who also drink.

But these extreme highs can lead to overwhelming crashes.

When you mix bipolar meds and alcohol, you are combining two mood-altering substances, and it can be hard to say with certainty how your body and brain will react. 

Often, drinking on lithium can increase or intensify your depressive episodes, cause a loss of interest, or make you tired or irritable.

Depending on the dose and other individual factors, more severe side effects are also possible. 

One of the most concerning of these is suicidal thoughts, and any sort of suicidal ideation should be taken seriously.

Please reach out to our professional team now, or other mental health clinicians, should you or a loved one have experiences of suicidal thoughts and/or planning.   

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Centers

Dual Diagnosis Treatment SettingsIf you or someone you love is battling this or another dual diagnosis, treating the conditions simultaneously is the best way to find a long-term solution.

Bipolar disorder is one of the most common mental illnesses in the country. 

It makes sense that it would be so frequently involved in addiction treatments.

While it may feel overwhelming now, help is available to make the path to recovery smoother and more manageable.

Dual diagnosis treatment centers like ours are designed to guide you through each stage of the recovery process, from detox to aftercare. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment Settings for Co-Occurring Disorders

Dual diagnosis treatments often involve inpatient or residential care.

This gives you 24-hour access to the support, care, and guidance of our team.

Throughout the day, you will attend behavioral therapy sessions, support group meetings, and healthy habit and coping mechanism training, among other proven treatment techniques. 

You will also enjoy downtime, nutritious meals, activities, and outings.

We often recommend these full-time programs as the start of our recovery plans.

From there, most move on to a partial hospitalization program or intensive outpatient program when they feel more stable. 

These part-time programs balance flexibility and high-level, personalized care.

While this is the path we recommend for most, it will not be the same for everyone.

If you have a milder addiction, a stable support structure at home, or work or family obligations that prevent a full-time stay, a part-time program may be the better place to start. 

Pathfinders Recovery Center for Co-Occurring Disorders

At Pathfinders Recovery Center, we know that every addiction is unique. Every mental health disorder is unique.

Every client is unique. You are more than a number. We personalize our programs to meet our clients’ needs. 

We prioritize personalized care, proven treatments, and a compassionate, holistic approach.

Call (866) 263-1820 to learn more about our dual diagnosis program and other available options.


  • 7580 E Gray Rd Suite 201 Scottsdale, AZ 85260
  • (877) 224-0761
  • Mon-Sun: 24x7


  • 2953 S Peoria St. Suite 230 Aurora, CO 80014
  • (877) 224-0761
  • Mon-Sun: 24x7

Our Newsletter

See how much of your treatment is covered by insurance

(877) 224-0761

Addiction Counselor Available 24/7

Skip to content