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·         There are several mood disorders, including major depression and bipolar disorders.
·         People with substance abuse disorders are twice as likely to have a co-occurring mood disorder.
·         Mood disorders often exacerbate substance disorders and vice versa.  The two types of disorders have a complex relationship.
·         Effective treatment requires treating both the mood disorder and the substance disorder, often at the same time.
·         Effective treatment requires a multidisciplinary treatment team using integrated treatment modalities.


Understanding Mood Disorders
Mood disorders is a category of mental health (psychological) disorders that include major depression (sometime referred to as clinical depression); bi-polar disorders (sometimes referred to as manic-depression); and several others, such as dysthymic disorder and cyclothymic disorder.  People with substance use disorders are about twice as likely to suffer from mood disorders as the general population, a phenomenon that has been fairly consistent in national U.S. population studies since the 1980s.

Mood disorders impact more than one’s mood and emotions.  Like most mental health problems, there are many ways a person is impacted.  Mood disorders often erode a person’s ability to function, whether it be at work, school, or raising a family.  One’s ability to concentrate often worsens, energy levels drop, accompanied by feelings of self-doubt, worthlessness, and a loss of hope.  Anger and aggressiveness are more common in men, while women are more likely to experience negative internal feelings and poor self-esteem. Sleep and appetite problems are also very common with mood disorders.  For those with bipolar disorder and who are in a manic state, excessive energy, restlessness, and excitation predominate that can ultimately lead to total exhaustion.

A person suffering from both a mental health disorder and at the same time has a substance(s) abuse or dependency disorder is referred to as having co-occurring disorders.  That is to say that at a given time, the person meets the diagnostic criteria for two or more disorders, such as major depression and alcohol dependence.  This is also referred to as co-morbidity.  Co-morbid or co-occurring disorders are in fact common – and also more complex to treat – as that more than one condition requires treatment, and often both disorders need to be treated at the same time.

The relationship between substance abuse and mood disorders is complex and overlapping.   For example, there are rarely clear lines of causality between substance abuse and mood disorders.  For some, the onset of mood disorders occurs first, and substance abuse follows, particularly when the individual is self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to relieve or block feelings of depression, sadness, or emptiness that are frequently encountered in mood disorders.

For others, substance abuse – and the many problems that accompany substance abuse – such as legal, job, and family problems – lead to a downward spiral that result or trigger the onset of a mood disorder.  Frankly, there are very few happy people with drug and alcohol disorders (obviously, otherwise they would not even be a disorder).  And not surprisingly, as depression and mood worsen, substance use and abuse often increases.  It is often a vicious and frightening circle.

Finally, both mood disorders and substance problems are impacted by genetic predispositions and vulnerabilities (such as a family history of bi-polar disorder or alcoholism), underlying brain and neurological deficits, and early exposure to stress and trauma.  Again, rather than thinking in terms of direct causality, it is more accurate to frame co-occurring mood disorders and substance disorders in terms of increased risk, vulnerabilities, and predispositions.  As one problems begins and worsens, it becomes increasingly likely for additional problems and disorders to emerge and worsen.  This is precisely why people need and deserve expert, professional help.

Treating Mood Disorders with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse Disorders

At Q Health, we understand the importance of treating the whole person and co-occurring disorders.  And there is reason for hope.  Research clearly demonstrates several important aspects that lead to successful treatment and lasting, positive outcomes.

First, sound treatment requires a thorough assessment, which is the detailed process of gathering information and coming to a well-informed, in-depth understanding of the person, their symptoms, challenges, and treatment goals.  Accurate diagnoses and the treatment that follows is only as good as the information it is based upon.   Consistent with best-practices, Q Health uses a multi-stage assessment process and incorporates information from multiple sources, including the client, and when possible, supportive family members and friends, as well the entire Q Health clinical team.

The Q Wellness Model leverages our on-site, multidisciplinary treatment team comprised of psychiatrists, medical doctors, therapists, nurses, social workers, nutritionists, and addiction specialists.  Each member of the clinical team brings valuable expertise and perspectives, which working hand-in-hand with the client becomes the foundation for a comprehensive, individualized treatment plan.

When treating mood disorders with co-occurring substance use disorders, research clearly points to the need for a multi-modal treatment approach.  That means there are several types of treatment that are used in combination to treat the entire person with more than one disorder.  Possibilities include treating mood disorders with medications, such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers, individual psychotherapy, group therapies, family therapy, and complimentary therapies ranging from acupuncture to yoga and creative arts therapies.

Q Health is committed to using evidence-based treatment to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that offers the greatest possibilities for positive client outcomes and lasting success.  This is the foundation of the Q Health Wellness Model.   In essence, the overall treatment plan is rather like a large puzzle, where many people come together with different pieces to put a complete, whole picture together.  The end result is a picture of the client leading a rich, satisfied, productive life.  This is our mission and purpose for being.