Mood disorders refer to a category of mental health conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder. The conditions are often debilitating and lead to mental anguish and physical ailments. Mood disorders can affect anyone of any age although the symptoms in children are different than in adults. If left untreated, mood disorders put individuals at risk for other conditions such as substance abuse.

Researchers don’t know exactly what causes mood disorders, but it’s believed that these conditions have something to do with a chemical imbalance in the brain. Genetic and environmental factors may also play a role in the onset of mood disorders.

The Dangerous Cycle of Mood Disorders and Substance Abuse

Everyone experiences feelings of fear, anxiety or sadness at times, but mood disorders are more intense and difficult to manage. This is why substance abuse and mood disorders are often linked. People use drugs and alcohol to escape feelings of sadness and depression. The drugs and alcohol provide them with a temporary high where they feel happy, confident and on top of the world.

This is a dangerous cycle as the symptoms of drug abuse can be easily confused with symptoms of mood disorders. Family and friends can have a difficult time telling the difference between the two and may not be sure what type of help to seek. The only way to treat both conditions is to create a comprehensive treatment approach that identifies and evaluates the drug or alcohol abuse and the mood disorder.

Common Mood Disorders

Let’s take a closer look at the most common mood disorders.

  • Major depression: Depressed mood or a noticeable decrease of interest in usual activities for a two-week period or longer, along with other signs of a mood disorder.
  • Dysthymia: A chronic, low-grade depression or irritable mood for two years or more.
  • Manic Depression: Also known as bipolar disorder, manic depression involves at least one episode of a depressed mood and one episode of a manic mood in one year.
  • Mood disorder due to a general medical condition: Many medical conditions can trigger symptoms of depression such as cancer, injuries, and infections.
  • Substance-induced mood disorder: Depression that is caused by the effects of medication, illegal substances or exposure to toxins.

Symptoms of Mood Disorders

When diagnosing a mood disorder, the individual must have symptoms of depression or irritability, coupled with other symptoms such as the following:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness and helplessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Decreased energy
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling inadequate
  • Excessive guilt
  • Loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • Difficulty with relationships
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Frequent physical complaints
  • Thoughts of suicide or death

Treating Mood Disorders and Drug or Alcohol Abuse

Although it’s common for drug abuse to occur with other mental illnesses, this does not mean that one caused the other, even if one appeared first. In fact, it can be extremely difficult to establish which one came first, especially when symptoms are intertwined. It’s possible that overlapping environmental factors and genetic vulnerabilities lead to the onset of both diseases. The best approach is to develop a comprehensive treatment regimen that includes antidepressants, psychotherapy, family therapy and neurofeedback.

All patients are given a full assessment before being admitted to The River Source for treatment. This way, we can establish an effective treatment program that addresses both the mood disorder and the substance abuse. Interestingly, many addicts and alcoholics and their families are unaware of an underlying mood disorder before coming to us. The fact that the persistent sadness and depression can be given a name is reassuring. It gives our patients a starting point that allows them to move forward with their lives.

Recovering from Both Conditions

Some fear that recovering from an addiction and a mood disorder is harder than if the person just suffered from substance abuse, but this isn’t necessarily true. The key is dealing with the underlying reasons for the continued abuse, which, in this case, is the mood disorder. By treating the mood disorder at its core, some patients find that their drug or alcohol addiction is easier to manage, lessening the urge to use drugs and alcohol to mask their feelings.

If you suspect that you or a loved one is suffering from more than addiction or alcoholism, contact The River Source. We are experienced in identifying and treating mood disorders in conjunction with an addiction and are prepared to help your family.