Impulsive Behavior and Substance Abuse in Bipolar Disorder


A recent study published in Bipolar Disorder found that

“trait impulsivity is elevated and neurocognitive functioning is impaired in patients with bipolar disorder irrespective of whether they have a substance abuse history.” ~medwireNews

Does this mean we need not worry about how much we drink? Of course not! Alcohol is a depressant – not good for those of us on mood stabilizers. How can our medications, which have such a hard time managing our symptoms to begin with, stand a chance when we are mixing other mood altering substances with them? They don’t.

This was the type of logic my therapist used to get me to take a look at my own drinking habits. I found that when I tried to stop drinking or limit the amount I drank, I became irritable and restless. When I found that I couldn’t stay stopped even when I honestly wanted to, I finally realized I was an alcoholic.

Those with alcoholism feel the wrath of insanity at some point near the end of their drinking careers. Those of us with a double whammy of having alcoholism and a mental illness feel it like no other, which is why it is so important to get the help you need to become substance-free if you want to give your mental health regimen a chance to actually work.

I have been sober for over nine years in a row, now. Has this saved me from the throes of hypomania and serious depression? No. Has it saved my life? Yes. Because if I would have been drinking, I strongly believe I would not have been able to control my impulses to engage in risky behavior while manic, and to commit suicide while depressed.

Have you ever thought about the way drinking or drug use has negatively affected your mental health? It may be worth looking into if you are symptomatic, and desperate enough to get well.

If you think you have a problem with alcohol or drugs check online or in your local phone book for the nearest treatment center or Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) group. AA World Services can be found at


11 thoughts on “Impulsive Behavior and Substance Abuse in Bipolar Disorder

  1. I also have just over nine years of sobriety. I was a “functioning” alcoholic for most of my life and then I was fortunate enough to become addicted to crystal meth. I say I was fortunate because it helped me to reach my bottom very fast. Had I not gotten sober, I would likely never had been properly diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

    Sobriety not only saved my life, it made my life worth saving.


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  3. That’s three of us! I hit 9 years on July 16th. This is an insightful post. I wonder at times whether the mental illness brings about spiritual disease which we then try to medicate with alcohol, which of course, is exactly the worst treatment possible for spiritual disease. But I also observe the genetics involved with alcoholism, so it certainly is not limited to environment or behavior.


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