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Self-Report Reasons for Alcohol Use in Bipolar Disorders: Why Drink Despite the Potential Risks?

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Thomas Meyer


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High rates of alcohol use and misuse are commonly reported for bipolar disorder (BD) and in many cases, these impact detrimentally on the course and treatment of the disorder. Therefore, knowing the reasons individuals with a diagnosis of BD give for drinking alcohol is essential for understanding this association and for treatment. This paper aimed to systematically review the literature relating to self-reported reasons and motives for alcohol use in BD. By using internet-based search engines such as PsycINFO and Medline, six relevant studies were identified and then quality-assessed using a set of criteria specifically developed for this review. Overall, the findings supported the intuitive notion that individuals with a diagnosis of BD use alcohol to relieve distressing mood states. However, there was evidence of other mood-related and mood-unrelated reasons-e.g., drinking to enhance euphoric mood or to be sociable. These findings are discussed in relation to the self-medication hypothesis and cognitive motivational models of alcohol use developed in the general population. The quality assessment also revealed several limitations including diagnostically heterogeneous samples and inconsistencies in measurement between studies, and recommendations for addressing these limitations are given. Copyright (C) 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Key Practitioner Message: Although implicitly alcohol use in patients with bipolar disorders is often been interpreted as evidence of a co-morbid alcohol use disorder or an inadequate coping pattern, it is essential to test this belief as a clinician. An adequate formulation has to consider that the motives to drink alcohol vary between patients with bipolar disorders and might also vary between mood states.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McDonald JL, Meyer TD

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Clinical Psychology & Psychotherapy

Year: 2011

Volume: 18

Issue: 5

Pages: 418-425

Print publication date: 25/09/2011

ISSN (electronic): 1063-3995

Publisher: John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


DOI: 10.1002/cpp.782


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