I have often wondered about bipolar and alcohol and how they relate to each other. I used to drink socially, but I don’t drink anymore because it gives me ridiculous heartburn. Several years ago I tried to manage my bipolar symptoms with alcohol, to ill effect, might I add.
It got me thinking how many other people with bipolar have also tried to self-medicate with alcohol; for one thing, trying to keep stable with it. Most will not tolerate alcohol because of their medication. Some may still drink even though they are not meant to, and I have known others only to use alcohol to manage their condition.
I wanted to know what impact alcohol has on the bipolar brain, and it surprised me to discover whichever mood a bipolar person is in, alcohol will increase it. I had always thought a drink would help to subdue a hypomanic brain, a false thought I had been given years ago.
It turns outs, depression will become worse, and hypomania will be increased with the potential for full-blown mania to ensue. It can also create hallucinations and bipolar rage.
I hate to admit it, but this whole website I write is the bare bones of mental health and my experiences, and I have experienced bipolar rage, induced with alcohol. I was like a predator, hunting my prey, it was not a thing I am proud of, and after experiencing this, I lessened my alcohol intake, and now I don’t drink at all.
I have full experience of bipolar and alcohol. Still, I want to know what the researchers and medical journals think happens to the bipolar brain when alcohol is consumed, so I went researching, and I’m glad I did.
Bipolar and Alcohol with Hypomania
I’m not sure I know any other person with bipolar who can stop at one drink, and there is a reason for this, the same as we might not be able to stop at one purchase or one partner if we are in a hypomanic state. Alcohol creates extra intensity to the high we are already feeling.
According to research done in 2006, you don’t have to be a heavy drinker to experience the effects of alcohol on your bipolar brain.
Despite low volumes of consumption, alcohol was associated with measures of illness severity in bipolar disorder among both men and women. The adverse effects of alcohol on bipolar disorder may occur over a range of consumption, rather than being confined to heavy drinkers.Psychiatrist.com
The problem many face is that when alcohol is consumed and there is already a heightened mood, combining bipolar and alcohol, feels good. But it is not a good place to be; one more drink can flip that feel-good mood into psychosis.
I know I cannot be the only one who has experienced mood changes with alcohol; even people without bipolar will experience this. In fact, some people who are addicted to alcohol can be diagnosed with bipolar because of mood fluctuations.
If it can happen to the average brain, its impact on a bipolar brain can be devastating.
Bipolar Depression and Alcohol
Alcohol is a natural sedative and can cause the person with bipolar to feel extremely depressed, enough for possible self-harm. It reduces inhibitions, and as another one of my home truths, when I have attempted suicide in the past, it was fuelled by alcohol consumption, this was many years ago.
Only once in my years with bipolar has alcohol not impacted self-harm; all the times I have done something stupid, it was involved. It took me from the thought through to the action because it flicked my inbuilt safety switch off.
I can say that drinking alcohol when depressed or hypomanic is not a good thing from my perspective, and call me old fashioned, but a cup of chamomile tea is my best option these days.
If you drink alcohol and have bipolar, I would advise you to stop regardless of whether you are drinking once in a while, once a week, and definitely if you are drinking every day.
Alternatives to Alcohol
As I said before, chamomile tea is one way I go, and if I am invited out, I will stick with water or fruit juice. If you like the taste of alcohol, then there are plenty of alcohol-free alternatives.
Instead of using alcohol to alleviate your symptoms, you can view it as making your symptoms worse; you may think alcohol is helping you, but believe me, it is not. At first, it may seem like it, but soon it will trigger unwanted effects, and then this is when you could end up in trouble.
I’m not an expert when it comes to bipolar and alcohol, all I know is how it affected me, and another medical website stated this:
The combination of bipolar disorder and AUD (Alcohol Use Disorder) can have severe consequences if left untreated. People with both conditions are likely to have more severe symptoms of bipolar disorder. They may also have a higher risk of dying by suicide.Healthline
There are plenty of reasons not to drink alcohol when you experience bipolar. I haven’t found one good one in my research and from my own experience. I’m thankful my dodgy stomach put a stop to drinking. Otherwise, my situation could have been different.
I implore anyone who is reading this to consider giving up alcohol and focusing on improving their medication.
If you have had similar experiences, please leave your comments below or offer help to those reading this and require more anecdotes on why it is better to be free of alcohol than let bipolar be affected by it.
Peace & Blessings