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Can Alcohol Abuse Cause Bipolar Disorder?

Alcoholism is a common problem in America, affecting nearly 30 million people aged 12 or older in 2021.[1] Unfortunately, if you have any underlying mental health conditions, abusing alcohol can cause your symptoms to get worse. For example, people with bipolar disorder might experience worsened symptoms of mania or depression when they abuse alcohol.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that causes dramatic shifts in energy and mood. People with this condition will experience manic and depressive episodes that changes in brain chemistry or external influences in the environment can trigger. One of the ways these episodes can be triggered is by excessive alcohol abuse.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “4.4% of U.S. adults experience bipolar disorder at some time in their lives.”[2] If you abuse alcohol, it can make your symptoms arise if you are predisposed to bipolar disorder already or worsen your current symptoms.

Is Alcohol Abuse and Bipolar Disorder Connected?

Alcoholism and bipolar disorder are connected in a few different ways. Many people who suffer from bipolar disorder seek out ways to cope with their symptoms, which can lead to using alcohol as a form of self-medication. Unfortunately, this only exacerbates the symptoms of bipolar disorder over time.

Some people with bipolar disorder might also have a genetic link to alcoholism. In other words, they are predisposed to abusing alcohol because someone in their immediate family also struggled with an alcohol use disorder.

In addition, people with bipolar disorder might begin abusing alcohol during a manic episode. Manic episodes cause impulsive behavior that puts people at risk of engaging in risky situations. This might make a person more likely to drink alcohol in excess.

Either way, bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse share an extensive history. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 39.2% of people with bipolar disorder suffer from alcoholism.[3]

Does Alcohol Abuse Cause Bipolar Disorder?

Alcohol abuse cannot directly cause someone to develop bipolar disorder. Since bipolar disorder is mainly caused by genetic links, you must be predisposed to have the condition before you will develop it.

Even though alcohol abuse cannot cause bipolar disorder, it can cause someone to experience the first symptoms of the condition. If you are predisposed to bipolar disorder because it runs in your family, drinking excessive amounts of alcohol could cause the symptoms to arise. This is because alcohol exacerbates the symptoms of mental illnesses like bipolar disorder.

Additionally, if you already have bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse could cause your symptoms to become worse. Unfortunately, this may lead to a vicious cycle of abusing alcohol to numb your emotions, experiencing worsened symptoms of bipolar disorder, and so on.

Signs You Need Help for Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism

If you believe that you have co-occurring bipolar disorder and alcoholism, you should seek help from a dual-diagnosis rehab program. These treatment centers can provide you with services to help you recover from both alcoholism and bipolar disorder at the same time, setting you up for long-term success.

However, the first step in recovery from bipolar disorder and alcoholism is recognizing that you have a problem. The following symptoms indicate that you need help for bipolar disorder and alcohol abuse:

Symptoms of Mania

Manic episodes are characterized by hyperactivity and impulsiveness. Unfortunately, this can lead to risky behaviors like substance abuse, spending sprees, reckless driving, and unsafe sex.

The symptoms of mania include:[4]

  • Appearing hyperactive or uncharacteristically energetic
  • Feeling excited, elated, or inspired
  • Experiencing insomnia
  • Racing thoughts or trouble concentrating
  • Being unusually chatty
  • Irritability and agitation
  • Lowered inhibitions and impulsivity
  • Engaging in illegal or risky behaviors
  • Inflated self-esteem

Symptoms of Depression

Depressive episodes cause people with bipolar disorder to feel extremely down, and hopeless and have very little motivation. Depressive episodes can be dangerous without treatment because they can lead to suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors.

The symptoms of depression include:[4]

  • Feeling down, worthless, anxious, guilty, or empty
  • Lacking interest in previously enjoyed activities
  • Having very little energy
  • Forgetfulness and indecisiveness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Changes in sleep and appetite
  • Self-harming behaviors
  • Thoughts of death and/or suicide

Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcoholism causes you to be unable to control how much you drink, even when you are experiencing adverse effects from alcohol.

The symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Drinking to cope with uncomfortable emotions
  • Being unable to socialize without drinking alcohol
  • Having a hard time limiting how much alcohol you drink
  • Frequently blacking out when you drink
  • Making excuses for your drinking habits
  • Experiencing uncontrollable urges to consume alcohol
  • Developing a high tolerance for alcohol
  • Failing to meet responsibilities because of alcohol abuse
  • Social isolation and withdrawal from loved ones
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you cannot drink alcohol

Get Connected to a Top-Rated Dual Diagnosis Rehab for Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Abuse

If you or a loved one suffers from both bipolar disorder and alcoholism at the same time, it’s time to seek help. Dual diagnosis rehab programs like Mandala Healing Center can offer you the skills you need to achieve long-term recovery.

At Mandala Healing Center, our programs provide specialized care tailored to address both conditions simultaneously. By addressing the complexities of dual diagnosis, we aim to provide comprehensive support, therapy, and tools for managing symptoms, fostering sobriety, and improving overall well-being.

To learn more about our treatment program for bipolar disorder and alcoholism, contact us today.


  1. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA): Alcohol Use Disorder in the United States, Retrieved December 2023 From
  2. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH): Bipolar Disorder, Retrieved December 2023 From
  3. The National Institutes of Health (NIH): Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism, Retrieved December 2023 From
  4. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): What is Bipolar Disorder, Retrieved December 2023 From