Addiction and mood disorders: What’s the connection?

Mental health disorders are far more common among addicts than they are among the general population, and mood disorders specifically very commonly co-occur with substance abuse. More on the relationship between the two here.

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What’s the connection between addiction and mood disorders?

Mental health disorders are far more common among addicts than they are among the general population, and mood disorders specifically very commonly co-occur with substance abuse. Depression and bipolar disorder are frequently accompanied by heavy drinking, abuse of painkillers or sedatives, and/or use of a combination of different substances. When this occurs, the effect can be significantly impaired mental health symptoms due to the combined effects of substance abuse and the mental health disorder.

A co-occurring mood disorder with alcoholism or drug addiction can make treatment a challenge. So what can you do if you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of the need for dual diagnosis treatment? The most effective way to address both issues and stop the untreated disorder from sabotaging progress in the treatment of the other disorder is to enroll in a dual diagnosis rehab program that provides comprehensive care for both disorders simultaneously.


Many patients first experience symptoms of a mood disorder and attempt to use drugs and alcohol to “medicate” those symptoms. Because the symptoms of depression or the anger or mood swings associated with bipolar disorder are uncomfortable, patients may attempt to drink to change their mood or in an attempt simply to feel better.

In the same way, some patients may turn to prescription drugs like opiate painkillers or benzodiazepines, but ultimately find that nothing helps them deal with their symptoms effectively or for the long-term. Many, in fact, instead find that drug use only worsens the symptoms, but rather than turn to a more effective solution, the pull of substance abuse can create an even deeper hole of isolation and despair.

Substance Abuse as the Primary Disorder

For some patients, drinking and drug use may have appeared before the symptoms of their mood disorder began to manifest. Diagnosable signs of these disorders don’t usually begin until the early adult years, but prior to diagnosis, many patients begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Though it can begin as a social experiment, patients may develop a substance abuse problem that accentuates the issues stemming from their mood disorder. Unfortunately, the following problems can result when the two disorders are co-occurring:

  • Worsened mental health symptoms
  • Intensified cravings for drugs and alcohol
  • Increased periods of depression
  • Increased difficulty during detox

Treatment for Addiction and Mood Disorders

The natural inclination of many patients is to attempt to isolate and treat either the mood disorder or the substance abuse problem, depending upon which one appears to be most intrusive in their day-to-day lives. Though this may seem easier than taking on a comprehensive treatment program that addresses both issues, it ultimately only creates more work and longer time spent in treatment. A treatment program that attempts to isolate the issues attached to just the substance abuse disorder, (addiction and depression for example), won’t be as effective as one that recognizes that the symptoms caused by the mood disorder are intense triggers. Many patients will relapse because they are not getting help in addressing those symptoms in a healthier fashion. Similarly, those who attempt to treat the mood disorder while continuing to drink or use drugs will find that little progress will be made in managing their mental health symptoms because their substance use continually offsets the value of therapy and/or medication.

This is why the need for dual diagnosis and specifically designed programs for its treatment exist. Mood disorders are best treated simultaneously with substance abuse issues.

Questions about mood and substance use disorders

At Axis, we offer a comprehensive and personalized treatment program for patients who are struggling with a mood disorder and substance abuse. Your journey into recovery from both disorders can begin today. Call now to learn more about our comprehensive treatment programs. Or leave your questions for us in the comments section below. We’ll do our best to respond to you personally and promptly.

About the author
Tim has an extensive background writing for television, film, radio, and other diverse forms of media including apps, blogs, and social media. His latest creation, for the Axis Recovery Community, is the character of SoberMan, a sober superhero whose mission is to spread the word via Facebook about the importance of recovery, one meme at a time.
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