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Bipolar disorder is a life of extremes. Days can shift from normal to very fast, very sad or a combination of both.

Your energy can flow in several different directions: even keel, euphoria, impulsivity, anxiety or paralyzing depression. As your triggers stare you in the face and moods shift rapidly and uncontrollably, you search for normalcy and stabilization.

Alcohol has a way of always promising these things, and it may be your go-to substance to shift your focus and slow your reality.

The equilibrium you desire, however, will never be delivered via the effects of alcohol. If you live with bipolar disorder and depend on alcohol to get you through your days, it’s worth taking the time to understand the link between bipolar disorder and alcohol. Learn how you can prevent or treat a vicious co-occurring cycle.

The Link Between Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol

As a bipolar individual, you are acutely aware of how the disorder affects your emotional and physical well-being. It can hinder relationships, pose challenges in the professional realm, cause financial instability and significantly increase the likelihood of an addiction forming to drugs or alcohol.

According to the American Journal of Managed Care, alcohol is the most commonly abused substance among bipolar individuals. The Epidemiologic Catchment Area (ECA) study, conducted by the National Institute of Mental Health, revealed that:

  • 60.7% of bipolar individuals had a lifetime diagnosis of a substance use disorder, such as an alcohol or other drug use disorder
  • 46.2% of that group had an alcohol use disorder
  • 40.7% had a drug abuse or dependence diagnosis

The study further states that alcohol dependence was twice as likely to co-occur in bipolar individuals than in those with unipolar depression, such as depression without mania. Furthermore, it was found that mania and alcohol use disorders are 6.2 times more likely to occur together.

Without question, bipolar disorder and alcoholism are co-occurring disorders, and, thus, can become complex – demanding a thorough understanding of how the two can affect life and the treatment progress.

Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism are Co-Occurring Disorders

A co-occurring disorder is when a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder is present at the same time.

According to the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), approximately 7.9 million adults in the U.S. had co-occurring disorders.

Co-occurring disorders can be challenging to diagnose, as the mental health disorder and the substance use disorder often feed off one another. This makes signs and symptoms of one disorder hard to identify and differentiate.

SAMHSA states that people with co-occurring disorders typically receive treatment for one disorder while the second disorder is often left untreated. When it comes to progressing away from addiction towards a healthy lifestyle, this fact is detrimental to the therapeutic process. The untreated disorder will exacerbate the addressed disorder and eventually derail progress made in recovery.

The Treatment of Bipolar Disorder and Alcohol Addiction

Co-occurring disorders pose unique, often severe, conditions:

  • Co-occurring disorders are keenly intertwined.
  • Co-occurring disorders often deliver more severe and chronic medical, social and emotional problems.
  •  Co-occurring disorders significantly increase one’s relapse risk.
  • Co-occurring disorders can present more crises.
  • Co-occurring disorders require a treatment plan that’s rooted in dual diagnosis therapy.

Treatment models that only screen for one disorder at a time lack the vital understanding and importance of recognizing all present disorders.

Because mental health is paramount to relapse prevention and living a prosperous life, simultaneously treating bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction is imperative for an effective, sustainable recovery.

Successful co-occurring rehab programs take an integrated approach to help individuals understand how their bipolar disorder and alcohol addiction are deeply connected. These programs guide individuals through all-encompassing therapy sessions that highlight the impact co-occurring disorders have on their life and, above all, design an individualized treatment plan that supports a strategic, personalized recovery plan.

Faith-Based Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment at Covenant Hills

Living with bipolar disorder can let a lot of uncertainty and confusing feelings into your life. Learning how to forgo alcohol and focusing your attention upward can help you make sense of all you’re experiencing and help you build an essential foundation of greater self-worth and hope.

At Covenant Hills, you are empowered and supported to rid your life of substance abuse and begin to forge a healthy, sustainable life with bipolar disorder. Through our faith-based co-occurring treatment program, your whole-person health is our focus. We make it our mission to help you return to the clean, healthy person God made you to be.

Learn about our faith-based, co-occurring treatment programs, or contact us for a free and confidential assessment.


1 Hirschfeld, Robert M.A., MD, Vornik, Lana A., MSc. American Journal of Managed Care. Bipolar Disorder”Costs and Comorbidity. Accessed May 17, 2018.

2 Sonne, Susan C., PharmD, Brady, Kathleen T., M.D., Ph.D. The National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism. Accessed May 17, 2018.

3 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Behavioral Health Trends
in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Accessed May 17, 2018.

4 Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Co-Occurring Disorders. Accessed May 17, 2018.