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The Relationship Between Mood Disorders And Substance Abuse

Dr. Gerardo Sison

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Gerardo Sison

April 1, 2019

Mood disorders and addiction often go hand in hand. Many individuals turn to substance abuse as a way to self-medicate their mood disorder and as a result, end up addicted to drugs or alcohol. In order to overcome addiction, it is important to treat the cause of the addiction as well as the symptoms with a dual diagnosis treatment program.

What Is A Mood Disorder?

There are several types of mood disorders that plague people all over the world. In fact, mood disorders can often be the hardest of disorders to detect, as someone may seem fine on the outside, but be struggling inside. A mood disorder is a disorder of the brain that causes you to feel elevated or depressive in a way that is often uncomfortable and uncontrollable.

While some of us may feel depression at some point in our lives, others are unfortunate enough to struggle with it every day. Major depressive disorder leaves a person uninterested in activities, fatigued for seemingly no reason, with deep feelings of worthlessness, and the disorder can impair concentration. Depressive disorders can make it very difficult to get through life on a daily basis.

Other disorders include bipolar disorder, which can lead to an over-inflated ego and unrealistic optimism. Bipolar disorder has very high highs and very low lows that can be hard to control. Persistent depressive disorder is a milder depression but it lasts longer than most bouts of depression. This can make facing daily life extremely difficult. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is unique in that it begins and ends at about the same time each year for those who suffer from it – usually in late fall into the winter months.


Each mood disorder has traits that differ from those of other disorders, but there are also several similarities in symptoms. Many mood disorders leave victims feeling sad, worthless, overly tired, and uneasy about facing the day. There are medications that are offered to keep these disorders under control or at bay, but oftentimes victims of mood disorders do not seek help through their doctor. Many feel embarrassed about their disorder and tend to keep it to themselves, finding their own ways to feel better.

It is easy to feel alone and even easier to turn to self-medication during times of embarrassment. When someone does not want to seek out medical treatment, or perhaps does not have the means to do so, self-medication commonly comes into play.

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Alcohol and other recreational drugs may seem like an easy fix for those suffering from mood disorders. Many with mood disorders turn to alcohol and recreational drugs because these substances facilitate forgetting negative situations or help to numb feelings temporarily. This increases the risk of abuse and addiction. When a quick-fix is found, it is easier to form a habit and spiral into the world of abuse. This can lead to co-occurring disorders.

Dual Diagnosis

A dual diagnosis occurs when someone suffers from both a mood disorder and an addiction. People suffering from addiction very often also suffer from a mood disorder and, at times, the mood disorder can lead to the addiction beginning. When you are diagnosed with both a mood disorder and addiction, it is important to seek professional help for both ailments.

Some say that mood disorders are a major cause of addiction, but which came first? It is only recently that people have begun to accept and admit that they are suffering from mood disorders, but there were many years prior to now during which people felt they had to suffer in silence. This silence may have led to drug and alcohol abuse. When people are afraid to seek help for their problems, they seek help in other ways that can include drug and alcohol abuse.

It may also be that those with addiction problems suffer from mood disorders when they are going through withdrawals or taking the steps to get sober. On the flip side, it is important to consider that those with addiction troubles may be contributing to a blossoming mood disorder that perhaps was not in emergence before substance abuse took place. Whichever came first, one disorder can and will often exacerbate the other.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

It is imperative that those suffering remember that they are not alone in dealing with mood disorders or addiction. If you or someone you know is suffering, entering an inpatient rehab facility can be extremely beneficial to recovery. Inpatient treatment allows for you to focus solely on recovering from both a mood disorder and any addiction you are facing. You will be surrounded by supportive professionals as well as other kindred individuals who are in a similar situation.

Overcoming addiction and learning to control a mood disorder both take time. When treating a dual diagnosis, one must treat both the addiction and the disorder at the same time, not just one or the other. Treatment programs offer you the time to head off both disorders and focus on physical and mental healing. When you have completed your inpatient program, you do not need to feel like you will be thrown back into a world that will leave you to fall into old habits. Instead, you can expect to receive outpatient service and follow-up aftercare treatments that keep you sober and healthy.

Outpatient programs are also of benefit to those suffering from co-occurring dual diagnosis problems. They allow for those in need to ease back into life or remain within a normal, everyday schedule during treatment. Help and support will still be there, but individuals in outpatient care will be able to continue working and stay at home after their daily treatment activities.

It is important to have someone to talk to when you are suffering from an addiction or a mood disorder. Counseling that is tailored to what you need when you need it is key in this stage of recovery. You are never alone and the sooner this can be accepted, the closer you are to taking the steps toward that goal of recovery.

Contact Us

If you find that you or a loved one are feeling overwhelmed by daily tasks or that you have struggled with self-medicating a mood disorder, please do not hesitate to contact us. You are not alone in this battle and you never will be. Our team at understands the struggles of addiction and are highly trained in getting you the treatment that you need. Contact us today, we are here to help you!

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