mood disorder and substance use

Exploring the Link Between Mood Disorders and Substance Use

Millions of people struggle with mental health issues, and a large portion are diagnosed with a mood disorder. A mood disorder is a mental health condition that affects your emotional state, causing sadness, elation and/or anger. Some of the most common disorders are depression, bipolar disorder, and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). 

There is a close connection between mood disorders and substance use, as many people who struggle from a mood disorder turn to substances to cope. This can lead to a destructive cycle where the individual becomes addicted and suffers from mental illness, causing an exacerbation of symptoms. 

Fortunately, it’s possible to recover from both a mood disorder and substance use disorder simultaneously. A dual diagnosis rehab like Awakenings Treatment Center offers integrated therapy that treats addiction and its underlying contributing factors. 

Let’s look deeper into the relationship between mood disorders and substance use. 

Dual Diagnosis 

Mood disorders often co-occur with substance use disorders. This co-occurrence is known as dual diagnosis or comorbidity. According to research, individuals with mood disorders are approximately twice as likely to also have a substance use disorder compared to those without a mood disorders. Conversely, those with substance use disorders are more likely to experience mood disorders.


One of the prevailing theories explaining the link between mood disorders and substance use is the self-medication hypothesis. This theory suggests that individuals with mood disorders turn to substances to alleviate their emotional pain, regulate their moods, or escape their depressive or anxious feelings. While substance use may provide temporary relief, it often exacerbates the underlying mood disorder over time.

Cycle of Escalation 

The interplay between a mood disorder and substance use can create a vicious cycle. Mood disorders can lead to increased substance use, which can worsen the mood disorder. This cycle can make it incredibly challenging for individuals to break free from addiction while effectively managing their mental health.

Environmental and Psychological Factors

Environmental and psychological factors can contribute to the development and perpetuation of both conditions. Childhood trauma, chronic stress, family history and social influences can all increase the risk of both mood disorders and substance use disorders.

Biological and Neurological Factors 

Neurobiological factors also play a significant role in the connection with substance use. Both conditions are associated with alterations in brain chemistry, particularly involving neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. Substance use can further disrupt these delicate balances, intensifying the symptoms of a mood disorder.

Treatment Challenges

The presence of both a mood disorder and substance use disorder complicates treatment. Treating one condition while neglecting the other can lead to relapse. Effective treatment often involves integrated approaches that address both the mood disorder and the substance use disorder simultaneously. This may include therapy, medication and support groups.

Hope and Recovery 

Despite the complex relationship, recovery is possible. Seeking professional help, developing healthy coping mechanisms, and building a strong support network are essential steps toward recovery. Many individuals have successfully overcome these challenges and lead fulfilling, sober lives.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment in Agoura Hills, CA 

The link between a mood disorder and substance use is undeniable, and its impact can be devastating. However, understanding this connection is the first step towards effective treatment and recovery. 

It’s essential to recognize that recovery is a journey that may involve setbacks, but with the right support and determination, individuals can break free from the cycle of mood disorders and substance use. To start your journey to recovery, contact Awakenings Treatment Center today.