Mood Disorders And Addiction

Understanding Depression And Bipolar Disorder

Mood disorders are defined by a prolonged disturbance in mood, often accompanied by other signs and symptoms, as described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). Two of the most common mood disorders are Depression and Bipolar Disorder.


Depression is a medical condition that causes a person to experience sadness or loss of interest. Depression affects day-to-day functioning, and most people benefit from treatment involving a combination of psychotherapy and medication.

Risk Factors For Depression

Depression can result from any number of potential causes; certain risk factors play a role in the illness, including genetics, history of depression, isolation, health problems, and trauma.

Diagnostic Criteria For Depression

Diagnosing depression involves an assessment of the person's mood, behaviors, and medical history. A person with depression exhibits five or more symptoms listed in the DSM for a duration of, at minimum, two weeks, with one of the symptoms being a sad mood or loss of pleasure. Symptoms of depression may include the following:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of pleasure in activities once enjoyed
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Change in sleep patterns and appetite
  • Low self-esteem
  • Tiredness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Suicidal ideation or preoccupation with death/dying
  • Physical complaints

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is a mood disorder characterized by manic episodes, which may alternate with episodes of depression, with each episode lasting anywhere from hours or days to months at a time. Bipolar disorder can cause major disruptions in a person's life functioning; however, the illness can often be controlled with proper treatment.

Risk Factors For Bipolar Disorder

Risk factors, including genetics, isolation, drug abuse, and life stressors, may help to predict an individual's predisposition to bipolar disorder.

Diagnostic Criteria For Bipolar Disorder

To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the patient must fit the criteria defined by the DSM. Three types of bipolar disorder are listed in the DSM: (1) Bipolar I is characterized by at least one manic or mixed episode; (2) Bipolar II involves a state of hypomania (less extreme than a full manic episode) with alternating states of depression; (3) Cyclothymia is characterized by cycles of mild depression and hypomania. Some general symptoms of bipolar disorder include:

Manic Phase:

  • Euphoria and increased energy
  • Racing thoughts and rapid speech
  • Decreased need for sleep
  • Impulsivity
  • Sudden overconfidence
  • Increased spending
  • Increased sex drive

Depressive Phase:

  • Sadness
  • Loss of interest
  • Low self-esteem
  • Slowed movement and speech and difficulty concentrating
  • Tiredness
  • Suicidal ideation and preoccupation with death/dying
  • Physical symptoms

Mood Disorders And Addiction

Dual diagnosis indicates the presence of an addiction in addition to another psychiatric illness, often a mood disorder. It is often difficult to delineate which disorder began first, but both pose a risk to the other. In other words, a mood disorder may lead a person to "self-medicate," or use alcohol and/or other drugs as a means of temporarily alleviating the pain or painful emotions. Similarly, a person's abuse of alcohol and/or other drugs may trigger the onset of a mental health disorder. It is important that both disorders be treated simultaneously.