Bipolar disorder (BPD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) are two common occurrences when it comes to dual diagnosis. Many people with BPD self-medicate with alcohol or other substances in order to help them cope with difficult emotions or urges; conversely, alcoholism can worsen a person’s symptoms when in a manic or depressive episode for BPD. For people with BPD, depressive episodes typically involve insomnia, feelings of hopelessness, guilt and more, while manic episodes involve feeling “on top of the world”, high energy, need for little sleep, etc. If you’ve been diagnosed with a co-occurring disorder of BPD and AUD, it can be beneficial to understand the interplay between episodes of BPD and their impact on one’s cravings for alcohol while in recovery.
A 2017 study published in the journal Addictive Disorders & Their Treatment sought to explore this very topic by assessing 44 men and women aged 18-65 with comorbid BPD and alcohol dependency. Over a three-month period, researchers examined the extent to which participants’ depressive and manic episodes were associated with their cravings for alcohol. Ultimately, results from the study indicated a link between both depressive and manic episodes to alcohol cravings. What does this mean for you?
By recognizing that either type of episode can trigger the craving to drink, we can take precautionary steps to prevent risk of relapse. Some of these steps may include:
- Taking medication prescribed as directed
- Recognizing when a certain episode is coming on
- Reaching out to your healthcare team or social network for additional support when feeling low or out of control
- Finding other ways to release anger, guilt, depression, and other difficult feelings such as through journaling, writing poetry or music, dancing, etc.
Having a comorbid disorder can be difficult to manage on one’s own, which is why it’s important to seek treatment when you can. If you haven’t already, speak with a professional from a reputable treatment center to learn more about options to best suit your needs. Recovery is possible, and you are not alone.
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