Effects of Alcohol on Bipolar Disorder

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Bipolar disorder is a disease of the central nervous system that causes mood swings ranging from depression to mania. Another symptom of bipolar disorder is a mixed episode during which a person experiences agitation and depression at the same time. Because she symptoms of bipolar disorder are usually so unpleasant, many people try to self medicate by drinking heavily. Some researchers believe that nearly 50 percent of people with bipolar disorder have a co-existing alcohol problem. Alcohol and bipolar, though, can be a dangerous combination.

Bipolar Medication

Most people with bipolar disorder take a mood stabilizer like lamictal or lithium. Combined with alcohol, these medicines can cause nausea and dizziness. Another common medication for bipolar disorder is antipsychotic medication such as Zyprexa and Abilify. These regulate the neurotransmitters in the brain and can suppress hallucinations and delusions. Mixed with alcohol, they can cause rapid mood swings, also known as rapid cycling between depression and mania. Finally, taking large doses of medication and alcohol and suppress the respiratory system and lead to death.


When you are experiencing a manic state, sleep can be a hard thing to come by. Some people with mania stay awake for days or even weeks on end. While some people enjoy the mania, others find it upsetting. These people may self medicate with alcohol in an effort to rest. Unfortunately, passing out from drinking is not the same as falling asleep naturally. You may awaken even more agitated than you were before. Another problem with alcohol is that is it a central nervous system depressant. Too much alcohol may cause you to cycle from a manic episode to a depressed one.

Decreased Inhibitions

People who are in a manic state often how lower inhibitions than they have during non-manic episodes. Someone who is manic, for instance, might spend a lot of money on things they don't need or have sex with someone who might not otherwise attract them. Alcohol, too, can lower inhibitions, leading to behaviors like drunk driving or traveling at unsafe speeds. Mixing alcohol and mania are almost guaranteed to get you into legal or financial trouble.

Bipolar disorder is a serious disease, but it can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medication. One lifestyle change that can really hep is cutting back on alcohol or even giving it up entirely. If you find you are having trouble giving up alcohol on your own, talk to a substance abuse counselor or attend a meeting for people who have trouble with different substances.

Cite this page: N., Sam M.S., "Effects of Alcohol on Bipolar Disorder," in PsychologyDictionary.org, March 6, 2016, https://psychologydictionary.org/effects-of-alcohol-on-bipolar-disorder/ (accessed August 11, 2022).