Mood Disorders and Addiction

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Mood disorders and addiction are often connected. It’s not always clear what comes first, but many times, people with a mood disorder may self-medicate, leading to substance abuse and addiction. Similarly, an individual’s drug or alcohol abuse can potentially trigger an otherwise dormant mood disorder.

What are Mood Disorders?

Simply put, mood disorders are mental health problems that affect one’s emotional state. They can cause changes in a person’s behavior and can have a negative impact on daily activities and routines such as school or work. While changes in a person’s mood is normal, people with mood disorders suffer symptoms for weeks at a time. There are different types of mood disorders, with the most common being depression and bipolar disorders.

According to the World Health Organization, approximately 264 million people suffer from depression. After a traumatic life event, feelings like grief and sadness are common and people can experience bouts of depression. However, with clinical depression, those feelings of sadness are extreme and last for long periods of time.

There are multiple types of depression that can cause mood changes.

  • Major Depressive Disorder – Involves prolonged periods, of at least two weeks, of feeling extremely sad or hopeless
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia) – Chronic depression that lasts at least two years with symptoms that may occasionally lessen as times goes on
  • Postpartum/Peripartum Depression – Depression that occurs during pregnancy or immediately following pregnancy
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder – Depression that occurs during certain seasons, typically in autumn or winter
  • Psychotic Depression – Severe depression paired with psychotic episodes such as delusions or hallucinations

Bipolar disorder, also referred to as manic-depressive disorder, consists of severe mood swings of depression to mania. Depressive episodes can look similarly like clinical depression and can turn into manic episodes where the person might feel ambitious or irritable due to their increase in energy.

Types of bipolar mood disorders include:

  • Bipolar I – The most severe form of bipolar where manic episodes can last at least seven days and depressive episodes can last at least two weeks. May require hospitalization.
  • Bipolar II – Depressive episodes similar to bipolar I, but hypomania periods replace manic episodes and are less disruptive
  • Cyclothymia Disorder – A milder form of bipolar disorder categorized by continuous mood swings that can happen at any time
  • Unspecified Bipolar Disorder – Significant, abnormal changes in mood occur but symptoms do not meet the criteria of the other types of bipolar disorder

While depression and bipolar disorders are the most common types of mood disorders, there are a few others. These include:

  • Intermittent Explosive Disorder – Unwarranted anger and explosive behavioral outbursts that may be out of proportion to the situation at hand
  • Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder – Mood disorder that occurs seven to 10 days before menstruation and goes away within a few days after menstruation has begun
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder – Severe and persistent irritability in children resulting in frequent temper outbursts that are out of the norm considering age and circumstance
mood disorders

Studies show that more than half of those clinically diagnosed with bipolar disorder have suffered from drug or alcohol addiction at some point.

Signs of Mood Disorders

Depression disorders:

  • Feelings of extreme sadness
  • Lack of energy
  • Hopelessness
  • Feeling worthless
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Dramatic weight loss or weight gain
  • Loss of interest in people and activities that formerly brought you joy
  • Excessive sleep or lack of
  • Trouble concentrating or focusing
  • Suicidal thoughts or obsession with death

Bipolar disorder (hypomania or manic episodes):

  • Extreme energy
  • Rapid speech or movement
  • Irritability and restlessness
  • Risk-taking behavior
  • Insomnia or difficulty sleeping
  • Feeling on edge
  • Racing thoughts

Are Mood Disorders Linked to Drug Addiction?

It is common for mood disorders to go hand in hand with drug addiction as it is a way for people to self-medicate. A person may not realize that they have a mood disorder but try to cure the pain or sadness with drugs and/or alcohol. The drugs may help numb the extreme emotions temporarily, but can cause more harm in the long-run such as abuse and addiction.

According to the American Journal of Managed Care, about 56 percent of individuals with bipolar disorder who participated in a national study had become addicted to drugs or alcohol during their lifetime.

Diagnosing and Helping the Issue

If someone suffers from a mood disorder and an addiction, it’s known as a dual diagnosis. Dual diagnosis can make recovery more challenging as both issues must be addressed during treatment. It is important to note that it may not be clear which came first – the mood disorder or the addiction – but one will make the other worse.

If you or a loved one has signs of a mood disorder and drug or alcohol addiction, it’s important to get professional help. DreamLife Recovery is located in Donegal, PA, and is well-equipped to handle dual diagnosis treatment for mood disorders and addiction. Our professional staff use therapies and modalities customized to each patient for the best treatment program. Contact our admissions department today to get help.