Alcohol Is the Enemy of the Bipolar Brain

By Gillian May: For Complete Post, Click Here…

Combining bipolar illness with alcoholism may make both conditions much worse.

Asa former mental health nurse and recovering alcoholic, I write a lot about alcohol use and mental health. To my mind, not enough has been done to educate the general public about the dangers of alcohol use combined with mental illness. I have witnessed many people fall through the cracks in the health care system and I myself have struggled with severe depression and anxiety that resolved when I quit drinking.

Experts have found that mental health disorders (particularly anxiety) are exacerbated by alcohol use. This is because the same symptom of alcohol withdrawal is anxiety, and this symptom can occur after only one episode of heavy drinking (defined by more than one drink for a woman and two drinks for a man on one occasion). Anxiety is a symptom that is often at the root of many mental health disorders. Research is beginning to show that anxiety may even plague those who drink moderately. However, when alcohol use turns to binge drinking (defined by more than four drinks for a woman and five for a man in one episode), anxiety symptoms become even more pronounced.

The effect of alcohol on the brain and nervous system can be severe. Alcohol withdrawal causes the nerves to be extra excitable, which can trigger anxiety, insomnia, paranoia, hallucinations, and even seizures. To mitigate these effects, one has to continue drinking to keep the nervous system somewhat in balance. Every time a person drinks heavily and then stops, their body goes into withdrawal. So we don’t have to be alcoholics to experience the adverse effects of withdrawal.

Unfortunately, mental illness also can harm our brains and nervous systems. Psychotic disorders alone can cause anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, etc. When you mix in alcohol, the result is devastating.

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