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About 6 million Americans have bipolar disorder, shares the University of Michigan Medicine. And according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 29.5 million people 12 and older in the US dealt with alcohol addiction in 2022. While each of these disorders are difficult in their own right, some people unfortunately can struggle with both bipolar disorder and alcohol use disorder at the same time. If that’s you, these co-occurring disorders can bring some real challenges.

Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Addiction, Defined

Bipolar Disorder

In examining the connection between alcohol and bipolar disorder, we need to understand both conditions individually to see how they can often interact with one another. Those with bipolar disorder can experience mood swings on an extreme level, experiencing dramatic, changing mood episodes that make day-to-day life feel unstable at times. Previously called manic depression, bipolar disorder is a mental health disorder characterized by intense mood swings that range from the highest of highs (called manic episodes) and the lowest of lows (called depressive episodes.

Depending on the individual, these mood swings can occur every so often or multiple times a year. And when they happen, they’re often debilitating, impacting your ability to function in your work, school, and daily responsibilities, as well as your relationships with others. The severity and duration of each episode will vary, depending on the type of bipolar disorder you have. Of the bipolar disorder types, three are most common: Bipolar I, Bipolar II, and Cyclothymic Disorder. 

Alcohol Addiction

According to Gallup, about 63 percent of American adults drink alcohol. While some are able to drink responsibly, there are others who can’t seem to stop—no matter the consequences. This uncontrollable alcohol consumption is called alcohol use disorder (AUD), but is also known as alcoholism, alcohol, abuse, and alcohol addiction. When someone—often called an alcoholic—has a compulsive need to drink regularly—they’ve likely developed both a mental and physical dependence on alcohol to function. 

People struggling with alcohol addiction will typically drink increasing quantities of alcohol, developing a stronger tolerance. Though they may want to stop drinking, they’re unable to, even sacrificing activities and interests in favor of more drinking. This struggle isn’t simply the result of a lack of discipline; alcohol use disorder can impact your brain. Over time, your brain can start craving alcohol more and more, needing increasingly large amounts to get the same desired buzz you used to achieve. 

Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Abuse: Debilitating Co-Occurring Disorders

So how do bipolar disorder and alcohol often intertwine? Typically it begins in the pursuit of self-medication. Bipolar disorder is a long-term condition without a permanent cure. When people with bipolar are struggling, they may seek out various coping mechanisms for their mood swings. As a result, some may reach for the bottle and eventually become addicted to alcohol. In fact, shares that 45 percent of people with bipolar disorder will also struggle with alcohol addiction. 

But when you’re struggling with both bipolar disorder and alcoholism, the consequences really start to add up. Rather than helping, alcohol and bipolar disorder combined result in co-occurring disorders that cause further damage, making manic and depressive episodes even worse and weakening the effectiveness of bipolar disorder medications—leading to the greater likelihood of mood swings. 

On the other hand, prolonged alcohol addiction can lead to the increased chances of developing mental health conditions like bipolar disorder due to the damage alcohol causes to your brain. If you find yourself dealing with both bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse, it’s imperative you get professional help for both conditions before they lead you down a path of irreversible harm. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Alcohol and Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction are both serious issues that benefit from professional treatment. Yet some who struggle with these co-occurring disorders may not view it that way, or they may choose a treatment center that only addresses one condition. When this happens, they remain vulnerable to relapse while the secondary condition is unaddressed. Before long, they’re back where they started. 

That’s why dual diagnosis treatment that can address both bipolar disorder and alcoholism at the same time is key to your long-term recovery. With comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment, you get a more holistic approach to treatment that incorporates a variety of care options. These can include medications to help you manage your bipolar disorder on your own, as well as group or individual therapy modalities to help you treat the root causes of both conditions. 

Access Holistic Alcohol and Bipolar Disorder Treatment at Sana at Stowe

If you or someone you love is struggling with both bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction, the right dual diagnosis treatment program can help. At Sana at Stowe we not only offer dual diagnosis treatment for alcohol and bipolar disorder, but also other co-occurring disorders—including alcohol and depression treatment, PTSD and substance abuse treatment, and more. 

And if you’re seeking rehabs in Vermont, we provide one of the best dual diagnosis treatment centers in the country, which is why so many of our patients travel to see us. If you’re ready to reclaim your life, contact us today to learn more about our treatment programs.