Understanding and Coping With Mood Disorders

Understanding and Coping With Mood Disorders

Mood disorders are common among people recovering from substance use disorder (SUD). They are often caused by the imbalance of brain chemicals resulting from substance use. Additionally, they may exist before the addiction, in which case they may be one of the contributing factors of the SUD. It is essential to understand mood disorders as individuals learn to cope with them without turning to substances.

Common Symptoms of Mood Disorders

Even without substances like drugs or alcohol, mood disorders can impact all age groups, including children, teens, and adults. Mood disorders usually have more intense symptoms than just feeling sad or depressed. Below are some common symptoms those with mood disorders experience:

  • Prolonged or ongoing feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Feelings of worthlessness 
  • Repeating thoughts of death or suicide 
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Irritability, hostility, or aggression

Various factors, including stress, traumatic events, challenging family dynamics, co-occurring mental illnesses, substance abuse, genetics, and more, can cause mood disorders. These conditions can also be exacerbated by medical conditions such as diabetes, hormonal imbalances, and gut or thyroid issues. 

Not Just Mood Swings

People going through mood swings experience low moods, anger, or high energy without a clear cause for extended periods. Mood swings may be caused by a person’s diet, sleep patterns, stress, weather, trauma, or substance use. These can generally be managed through self-care or, in more extreme cases, treatment.

However, mood disorders are more than just mood swings. For example, sometimes people feel sad without really knowing why, but this is different from depression, which is a mood disorder. Many people may have mood swings that eventually iron themselves out. However, if an individual has uncontrollable mood symptoms that interfere with their day-to-day activities, it may be time to seek professional help.

Diagnosing Mood Disorders

Mental health professionals may provide diagnoses for mood disorders. To do so, they usually need a complete medical history and psychiatric evaluation. Diagnosis of a mood disorder requires more than reports of occasional moodiness. When a person recovering from substance addiction struggles with mood disorders, they need a dual diagnosis.

Mental health professionals may use different assessment tools that help identify mood disorders. Take bipolar disorder, for example. People with bipolar disorder may experience different symptoms that fall into two categories: manic episodes and depressive episodes. Severe bipolar disorder may even trigger delusions or hallucinations. Professionals consider all these symptoms and results from other evaluations when diagnosing someone with a mood disorder.

Causal Factors for Mood Disorders

Mood disorders may come from a laundry list of potential factors. Genetics may play a big part in developing one of these conditions. People with a family history of a certain mood disorder are likelier to develop that disorder. Environmental factors also play a significant role. Adversity in life, including traumatic events, abuse, and neglect, may place people at a higher risk of developing mood disorders later in life. 

Lastly, there are biological factors, such as structural changes in the brain. This applies to people who develop mood disorder symptoms after repeated use of substances. For example, drugs and alcohol can negatively alter the brain’s amygdala and orbitofrontal cortex regions. These two areas are responsible for regulating emotions. 

Medical Treatment

The most common methods for treating mood disorders include mood-stabilizing medications and psychotherapy. However, discovering the proper medication and dosage for each person may take some trial and error. Furthermore, psychotherapy may need several sessions before individuals see results because it takes time to accept their diagnosis, recognize the warning signs, and develop coping skills.

Mood disorders often require long-term and continuous treatment. Dual diagnosis requires an even higher level of care because SUD and mood disorders need to be treated simultaneously. Individuals suffering from both conditions may need to stay in a treatment program longer. 

When there is a family history of mood disorders, a person in recovery may need to consider including family members in family therapy. A family therapist can help the recovering individual and their loved ones recognize the symptoms and learn coping tools. Improving a family system’s mental and emotional health ensures better support for ongoing recovery from addiction.

Learning to Cope With Mood Disorders During Recovery

Even when a person’s symptoms stabilize following residential treatment, they must continue to practice self-care to prevent future episodes. Doing so is an essential part of relapse prevention. Below are a few practical tips for effectively coping with mood disorders during addiction recovery:

  • Keep track of mood swing patterns: Journaling strong emotions throughout the day or the week can help raise self-awareness and understanding of triggers and symptoms. It allows for an honest space to reflect. 
  • Limit caffeine intake: Caffeinated drinks such as coffee or soda can exacerbate symptoms of mood disorders. Individuals should limit their caffeine intake, especially a few hours before bedtime. 
  • Build relaxation breaks into the day: Individuals with a dual diagnosis should take regular breaks during the day by taking short walks, engaging in a hobby, or practicing mindfulness meditation.

Mood disorders are common among recovering individuals. Although various factors can cause them, the chemical changes in the brain may worsen these mental conditions. In some cases, substance addiction and mood disorders may become co-occurring conditions. If you have co-occurring substance use and mood disorders, you need a higher level of care to treat both conditions simultaneously. As an addiction treatment center with expertise in helping recovering individuals with mood disorders, Laguna Shores Recovery has all you need. Our professionally trained mental health experts work closely with recovery specialists to design personalized treatment plans for you. We offer a dual diagnosis program to help you recover. Call us today at (866) 774-1532.