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Struggling With an Addiction When You Have a Mood Disorder?

Stressed woman covering face
If you have a diagnosis of a mood disorder like bipolar disorder or major depressive disorder, you may become so entrenched in and focused on dealing with that health issue that you overlook some other serious issues you face. One such issue that you might have dismissed as unimportant in comparison to your mood disorder is an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
Addiction is a serious disease that many people, whether they struggle with mental health or not face. However, when you have both bipolar disorder and an addiction, you should know some things. Get to know some of the important facts about these co-occurring disorders so you can get the help you need to overcome your addiction while managing your mood disorder.

Rates of Addiction in Those With Mood Disorders Are High

One of the main things to know is that addiction rates among people diagnosed with a mood disorder are higher than the average population. Having bipolar disorder, for example, can double the likelihood that you develop an addiction.
In cases of people with anxiety disorders or depression, the rates are similar. These people are between two and three times more likely to develop an addiction than the average population says the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. In fact, about 20 percent of people with such disorders have addictions.

Mood Disorders and Addiction Occur Together

While doctors do not always know exactly why cases of mood disorders and addiction occur together so often, they have a pretty good idea. Both substance abuse disorders and mood disorders affect the brain chemistry.
People with depression, for example, may have deficiencies in three neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation. Those are dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These deficiencies are the root of the chemical imbalance in people with depression.
Drugs and alcohol can also have an effect on these neurotransmitters. Alcohol and opioids, for example, increase the rate of release of dopamine in the brain (to excessive levels). This is partially why you get a feel-good or euphoric effect from these drugs temporarily. Many people report improved depression or anxiety symptoms when abusing drugs and alcohol because of the dopamine increase.
However, what drugs and alcohol also cause is the further depletion of these neurotransmitters in the brain. After an excess surge of dopamine, the brain assumes that dopamine will not be needed again for a prolonged period of time and will produce even less, which can further exacerbate mood disorders.

Treating Your Addiction Helps You Manage a Mood Disorder

When you have a mood disorder, it does not mean that you cannot also get treatment for your addiction. In fact, getting your addiction under control can often have positive effects on the management of your mood disorder.
The first thing you should do is find an expert in the medical management of addiction treatment. These doctors have the necessary medical expertise to be able to treat your addiction as you go through detox and the recovery process while remaining cognizant of your mood disorder.
They will be able to manage the medications used in treating the addiction (like Suboxone or Antabuse) as well as your mood disorder medications to ensure they don’t react. If you are taking benzodiazepines for anxiety issues with your mood disorder, the addiction treatment doctors will also likely help you wean off those and find alternative treatments, as benzos are highly addictive as well.
Addiction treatment while managing a mood disorder may present a few more challenges to you and your treatment providers. However, a high-quality medical team will be able to get you through the process and on your way to a better life with little trouble. Call an addiction treatment specialist today to get the process started.