Dual Diagnosis: Alcoholism and Bipolar Disorder

Highest Standards, Nationally Recognized:

man holding multiple photos of self

There are several types of bipolar disorder (BPD), but symptoms most often involve extreme mood swings, with manic and/or depressive phases. Both may last weeks or months, with manic phases including symptoms of high energy, racing thoughts, reduced need for sleep, impulsive actions and loss of touch with reality – some describe this as feeling like a “god” or “on top of the world”. Depressive phases typically consist of feeling sad or hopeless, significant weight loss, feelings of worthlessness, insomnia or getting too much sleep, decreased ability to think or concentrate, and more. According to a 2013 study published in Current Psychiatry Reports, an estimate of up to 45% people with BPD also have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).

A 2015 study titled “Bipolar Disorder Comorbid with Alcohol Use Disorder: Focus on Neurocognitive Correlates” denotes that both BPD and addictions such as alcoholism share common mechanisms: high impulsivity, executive dysfunction, increased likelihood of sensitivity to stressors, and more. There are several reasons why an alcohol disorder may take place alongside BPD:

  • Genetic traits influencing a person’s susceptibility to addiction
  • A self-medication mechanism in response to depressive episodes
  • Impulsive activity related to manic episodes as a person feels euphoric with lower inhibitions

Either condition may be recognized first – sometimes, people with BPD rely on alcohol or other drugs before they are diagnosed with their disorder; other times, a person displays symptoms of BPD and later comes to rely on alcohol. Since those with BPD may have difficulty managing their emotions, diagnosis and treatment is very important to prevent the risk of also developing an addiction. If a person is diagnosed with both an alcohol disorder and BPD, this is considered a dual diagnosis.

Treatment for both disorders should be sought after at a program that specializes in dual diagnosis. There are still many programs that do not offer this – meaning they will only focus on one disorder and not the other. Treated simultaneously, a dual diagnosis treatment program will typically involve medication and psychotherapy, also known as “talk therapy”. With this, a therapist may employ motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), solutions-focused therapy (SFT), or another method to best meet the client’s needs.

Speak with someone from a reputable treatment center today to learn more about how dual diagnosis treatment could benefit you.

Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 888-958-7511 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you.







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