Good Example Of Alcoholics With Bipolar Disorder Essay

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Alcoholism, Alcohol, Disorders, Alcohol Abuse, Health, Social Issues, Psychology, Medicine

Pages: 9

Words: 2475

Published: 2021/02/19

Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a disease that causes unusual shifts in energy, and activity levels. It annihilates the ability to carry out routine tasks, and causes extreme fluctuations in moods ranging from euphoria to severe depression, interspersed with spans of normal behavior.
Studies have revealed that the disorder has a genetic component, and people with certain genes are prone to developing it. Statistic says that the genetic factors account for 80 percent of bipolar cases. Children with one parent suffering from the illness have 10 percent chances of developing it. Children with both bipolar parents carry 40 percent chances. Likewise, children with family history of the disorder are more likely to suffer from it.
However, genes solely are not responsible for it. Research has revealed that the twin of a person, suffering from the disorder, may not develop the illness. It negates the previously-held thought that genes are the primary cause. Advanced research on the issue suggests that factors beyond genes are also responsible. Imaging studies show that the brain functioning of a bipolar person is different from a healthy individual. An MRI study shows that brain's prefrontal cortex is smaller and less functional in bipolar individuals thereby stymieing the capability of decision-making and problem-solving.
The illness may involve various environmental, behavioral, and physical factors. Studies have linked bipolar development with childhood trauma and stressful events in life. Some scholars have put a bit of responsibility in medical illness. Certain medications and illicit drugs have been identified as stimulating maniac behaviors.
Scientists have not exclusively discerned those factors; little they know that how different factors interact to cause the illness. For instance, there have been confusions whether alcohol can cause the disorder or just responsible for making it more severe. There has been varied research concerning the association between these two.
This paper examines alcohol as a cause/catalyst of bipolar disorder. It highlights the combined effects of alcoholism and bipolar on health, relationships, and overall well-being. More precisely, the paper highlights following points:

Association between alcohol and bipolar disorder

Reasons for alcoholism in bipolar individuals
Main effects of alcohol on bipolar disorder
Effects of bipolar alcoholic individuals in health and other aspects of life
Alcohol dependence, also termed as alcoholism, is characterized by a craving for alcohol and a high-level of physical dependence on it. Alcohol abuse, though, is not characterized by just craving. It is defined as a drinking pattern causing the inability to perform responsibilities at school, work, and other places. The exact cause of alcoholism is also unknown, but scientists have mentioned some risk factors including depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, poverty, social isolation, shyness, and so on.

Association Between Alcoholism and Bipolar

More often than not people suffering from depression view alcohol as a soothing friend, which is one of the biggest mistakes. Alcohol can only make this disorder worse. It is not an anti-depressant, rather a depressant that hampers excitability and induces depression. Researchers have asserted that alcoholism and bipolar make a vicious cycle, i.e., a person suffering from the disorder can feel that the alcohol reduces his mental botherations. However, these feelings are only illusory and alcohol, rather, aggravates the depression thereby putting the person into a never-ending cycle of depression-alcohol-depression.
Various studies have identified an association between mood fluctuations and alcoholism. Two primary studies on the issues have been conducted by:
1. Mental Health's Epidemiologic Catchment area( Reiger),
2. National Comorbidity Survey (Kessler et al 1996).
ECA study revealed that around 60 percent people suffering from the bipolar disorder were also diagnosed with substance abuse( alcohol or other). Specifically 46 percent of those having bipolar were detected with an alcohol abuse disorder. The research further revealed that people suffering from bipolar spectrum were twice as likely to have alcohol dependence, compared with people with the unipolar spectrum.
Nevertheless, whether alcohol abuse causes the bipolar disorder is not yet confirmed. There are studies proposing a strong relationship between them; the exact association is not well-understood. An explanation suggests that bipolar disorders and other psychiatric issues enhance the risk of falling into substance abuse. Alternatively, symptoms of bipolar disorders may come forward during chronic alcoholism.
The discussion point to an important two-way association between these two. Alcoholism catalyzes the symptoms of the disease, on the other hand, depression may induce an individual to fall into alcohol abuse or substance abuse. Studies have further suggested that withdrawing from long-term alcoholism may also trigger the disorder. Researchers have identified that both bipolar disorder and alcoholism affect the same chemicals in the brain, i.e., neurotransmitters thereby allowing one disease to change other's course. Considering various equations between these two features, some scholars have asserted that the association is bidirectional and complicated. It is not a linear relationship simple to understand.

How Bipolar Individuals Develop Alcoholism: Effects of Alcoholism on Bipolar Disorder

It is imperative to discuss that factor that causes alcoholism in bipolar individuals. The factor is: self-medication. Bipolar individuals feel the requirement to self-medicate their symptoms, especially when they are in the phases of high depression. During the maniac episodes, they may feel that the intake of alcohol makes them feel normal and helps in recreation. It is because of this feeling that these individuals fall prey to the drug abuse.
Alcohol intake can cause the disorder to remain undiagnosed for a long time thereby worsening the mental and physical well-being of patients. It can also destabilize the disorder by spurring episodic highs and lows. Both diseases have overlapping symptoms and a drunk may act maniac under the influence of alcohol. It may create confusion and hinders the diagnosis. Alcoholic people may feel frequent mood swings, and it may become difficult to ascertain that if he/she a is maniac or just an alcoholic. More often than not, withdrawal from alcohol also induces depression and spurs mood fluctuations. For these reasons, alcohol intake exacerbates the disorder and hardens its treatment. Changing chemical composition in the brain, alcohol affects the way a body should react to bipolar treatment. For a bipolar person who still drinks, severity and cycles of depressive episodes may change permanently or temporarily. So, it is not recommended to consume alcohol if an individual feels high or low phases of depression.

Effects of Bipolar and Drinking

The effects of the bipolar disorder are far-reaching the patients and people surrounding them. It affects work, health, psychology, social relations, and overall well-being. In early 1990s, it was estimated that the loss of productivity due to the disorder incurred around 15 billion annually.

Physical Effects

Coupled with alcoholism, the illness causes a severe impact on physical health. These include:
Social withdrawal
Loss of Energy
Significant changes in appetite and sleeping patterns
Problems in breathing
Weight gain
Heart issues
Alcohol distorts the functioning of brain's communication pathways thereby affecting its working pattern. These commotions affect a person's mood, behavior, and capacity to think and coordinate. An alcohol abuse carried over a long period can damage the heart, liver, pancreas, and other body organs. Additionally, it can aggravate the risk of developing cancer cells by reducing the immunity for certain infections.

Psychological Effects

Psychological upshots of the disorder include prolonged illness, guilt feeling, distractions, and paranoia. Patients have poor concentration levels and flight of ideas. For the reason, they do not enjoy their former hobbies and prefer to stay alone. It degrades their psychological well-being. Coupled with alcoholism, they constantly live with the fear of being rejected or hated in the society. It crops up long spells of sadness and loneliness in their minds.
Studies have identified that memory issues are also common in bipolar people, especially when they are treated with electric shocks and drug therapies. Some cases have revealed that maniac people experience delusions and hallucinations. Combined with impulsive behaviors, these behavioral traits may crank up suicidal tendencies.

Socio-Economic Impacts

Bipolar does not cause only individual illness; it is an exorbitant social cost in the form of productivity loss and public health expenditure. It is the most expensive mental health care diagnosis for health insurance plans and patients. Studies have calculated that the economic toll of bipolar is significantly high. This cost increases if the bipolar individual is further suffering from substance abuse. American economy incurred $185 billion as a social and economic cost of alcohol.
It places a colossal burden on health-care systems and other statutory services. In UK society, it was estimated that around 600 bipolar people committed suicide every year. It constitutes 11 percent of total numbers of suicides in the country. The unemployment rate among these people was found to be 46 percent. Conversely, the unemployment rate among UK population was estimated to be only 3 percent. Associated indirect cost of workplace absenteeism was calculated 152 million pounds per year.

Familial Impacts

Consequences of bipolar individuals in the family can be devastating. Members may feel difficulty in dealing with the patient's expectation, especially if he/she becomes extremely manipulative. Frustration, stress, and sadness are likely to ripple across other family members thereby making it difficult to handle the situation. Typically, nearly all relatives of the patient may have a guilt feeling about the condition of their near one. The sin adds on if the family faces social ostracism for having a relative with mental illness. Some recent studies reveal that parents, to an extent, are responsible for their child's mental illness. It may be the reason that they(parents) fall into bipolar guilt for their past wrongdoings. Related with this is the feeling of shame and anger as mental illness still carries a social stigma. The networks of the family start shrinking and it often feels embarrassed because of varied symptoms of a sick relative.
Irrespective of which member is unwell, role relationships usually take a shift. For instance, if the disorder has grappled the father, the mother has to bear an extra burden of supporting the family with finances. A direct impact of mother's burden trickles down of children who may put on the responsibilities of caretaking. In short, the impact of bipolar disorder on the family is varied, and members can feel unease for various reasons.

Effects on Marriage

Researchers have studied the effects of bipolar on marital relations in depth. They have identified that bipolar has even a higher impact than the cardiac disease. Around 90 percent marriages come to an end if one of the partners is bipolar. Divorce rates are thrice than ordinary marriages. There is a complex interplay between marriage and tensions arising from a bipolar spouse. He/she may exhibit a high level of vulnerability to normal marital issues thereby aggravating misunderstandings. Though doctors have recommended for the normal partner to behave calm and compose, it's not easy to talk the walk. There may be times when the responses to bipolar behavior may be negative or unpleasing. It may put the couple in a downward spiral causing issues in the relationships. The life of a couple with a bipolar spouse ripple under blame, anger, resentment, and anxiety. It makes the association uncertain and turbulent. Specifically, there are following bipolar behaviors that have been proved destructive:

Anger outburst

Reckless spending
Sexual obsession
Lagging in co-parenting
Likewise, alcohol abuse not only affects an individual but the family and society at large. Studies have identified a positive linkage between alcoholism and high rates of workplace absenteeism. Alcoholism is also found to increase the crime rate in society. Federal research shows that alcohol is one of the major factors in 40 percent of the crimes. Alcoholism paired with bipolar disorder can be more dangerous to the society; a person in depression loses self-control and indulges in different kinds of unpleasant behaviors.


Alcoholism and bipolar make a dangerous combination of disorders that affect a person's mental peace and physical status. As discussed, there is a bidirectional relation between these two; various equations make their relationship difficult to understand. If a bipolar individual is also suffering from alcoholism, it may mean further degradation in health as the disorder may go undiagnosed because of alcohol intake. Succinctly, both disorders exacerbate each other and make a complex combo for the doctors to treat.
As symptoms are overlapping, so are the effects. More typical impacts are related to physical, mental, and psychological health. Maniac and alcoholic people face issues in maintaining personal and workplace relationships. People with such issues are not work enthusiastic and have high workplace absenteeism.
These disorders put a huge burden on social and economic cost of the country. As such, it is not recommended to consume alcohol while suffering from the bipolar disorder.


Black Dog Institute. (2013). Causes of Bipolar Disorder. Retrieved April 13, 2015, from
Borchard, T. J. (2013). Being Married to a person with Depression or Bipolar: 6 Survival Tips. Retrieved April 6, 2015, from
NCADD. (2015). Alcohol and Crime. Retrieved April 12, 2015, from
Oliwenstein, L. (2004). Psychology Today: Taming Bipolar Disorder. Sussex: Penguin.
Soares, J. C., & Young, A. H. (2007). Bipolar Disorder: Basic Mechanism and Therapeutic Mechanism. CRC Press.
Sonne, S. C., PharmD, & Brady, K. T. (2002). Bipolar Disorder and Alcoholism.

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