3 Things to Know About Alcohol Intoxication and Mood Disorders

May 19, 2014

A woman with her hand on her head drinking alcohol

Mood disorders can be extremely difficult to manage alone. To deal with the symptoms of these complex mental health conditions, many people abuse alcohol: they drink until they become intoxicated, because they think that they can keep their drinking under control while also using it to dull pain. But, this combination of a mental health disorder and drug abuse can be extremely dangerous. When a person with a mood disorder is intoxicated from alcohol, he is increasing his risk of physical and psychological harm.

A mood disorder is a mental health condition in which a person experiences extreme changes in her mood. These changes can include a combination of elevated and lowered moods, and each change, or episode, can last anywhere from a few weeks to several years.

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism identifies the following five types of mood disorders:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Bipolar I disorder
  • Bipolar II disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Hypomania

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that, according to the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, 9.2 percent of American adults had a mood disorder in the year before the survey. But, out of these millions of people who struggled with a mood disorder, only a percentage of them sought professional help. Other people either ignore their problems, or they try to control them through self-medication. But, before anyone with a mood disorder drinks alcohol, she should consider the following three facts about alcohol intoxication and mood disorders.

1. Combining Mood Disorders with Alcohol Consumption Can Lead to Co-occurring Disorders

Many people self-medicate troubling symptoms by drinking alcohol, but many people don’t realize that doing so while suffering from a mental health condition can make alcohol abuse or dependence more likely. When people develop these problems, they have co-occurring disorders, or two mental health conditions at the same time. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health estimates that 8.4 million Americans suffer from co-occurring disorders each year, and one of the disorders is usually substance abuse or dependence.

Additionally, Susan B. Quello, et al. estimate that 32 percent of people with mood disorders had a co-occurring substance use disorder, and that 16.5 percent of these people had an alcohol use disorder. They also report that people with bipolar disorder are especially likely to have a co-occurring substance use disorder, with 56 percent having a substance use disorder at some point in their lives.

2. Alcohol Intoxication Can Intensify Mood Disorders

When a person becomes intoxicated from drinking too much alcohol, he will often experience the following symptoms:

  • Decreased coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Blurred vision
  • Deep relaxation or feelings of fatigue
  • Impaired judgment

A person with a mood disorder will have these same symptoms when he intoxicated, but he may also have other negative side effects. Since alcohol affects the brain, and since a mood disorder is a mental health issue, many people with mood disorders find that their symptoms intensify with alcohol consumption. For instance, if someone feels depressed, alcohol might make him feel even sadder; if he experiences manic symptoms, he might feel even more aggressive, euphoric or irritable when drunk.

3. Treatment for Both Alcohol Use Disorders and Mood Disorders is Available

Trying to control a mood disorder with alcohol consumption may seem like the only option for people who think that nobody understands their conditions, but several effective treatment options are available for people struggling with co-occurring disorders. Treating all aspects of a co-occurring disorder is known as integrated treatment, and many rehab centers across the US offer this holistic approach to recovery.

In integrated treatment, healthcare professionals consider all of a person’s needs, realize that co-occurring disorders interact with each other in unpredictable ways and they help each patient work through physical, emotional and psychological issues.

Where to Find Help for Alcohol Use Disorders and Mood Disorders

If you or someone you care about struggles with a mood disorder and they abuse alcohol to self-medicate their problems, know that you are not alone. Thousands of people each year suffer from both mood and alcohol use disorders, but there’s no reason for you to struggle anymore.

Call us at 615-490-9376 to talk to our admissions coordinators about your questions and how to find a rehab center that will meet your specific needs.

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