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To understand alcohol induced mood disorders, it’s important to know who is affected and why. The Journal of the American Medical Association defines alcoholism as a chronic disease where genetic, psychosocial, and environmental factors influence development and manifestations. Often thought to be both progressive and fatal, it’s characterized by continuous or periodic impaired control over drinking, the preoccupation with the alcohol, continued use despite adverse consequences, and the presence of distorted thinking, especially in the form of denial.
The development or presence of alcoholism often leads to one of many mood disorders. While there are many other disorders alcohol may play a part in, the most common alcohol induced mood disorders are: alcohol intoxication delirium, alcohol withdrawal delirium, alcohol-induced persisting dementia, alcohol-induced persisting amnesic disorder, alcohol-induced psychotic disorder, alcohol-induced depression, and alcohol-induced anxiety disorder. One of these disorders, alcohol-related psychosis, is most often an indication of chronic alcoholism, and is associated with medical, neurological, and psychosocial complications.
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There is no one specific cause or reason for the development of alcohol induced mood disorders. Many factors – including genetic or biological, psychological, social and/or cultural – have been shown to play a role in both alcohol addiction and resulting mood disorders.
An individual born to a parent who suffers from an alcohol induced mood disorder can be up to eight times more likely to develop alcohol addiction and/or a disorder of their own. These biological or genetic influences have been contributed to factors such as nutritional deficiencies, allergic reactions or responses, and biochemical abnormalities of the brain and body.
Various factors, situations, and conditions make up the psychological causes for the development of alcohol induced mood disorder. The use of alcohol to cope with stressful situations, in an attempt to reduce anxiety, to decrease symptoms of other mental illness (and in some cases, physical illnesses), avoidance issues to family, friends, or work, or the need to feel “uninhibited" or increase a feeling of self-esteem are all attributed to these types of psychological variables.
Social / Cultural
Attitudes toward social drinking create situations that contribute to the development of disorders related to alcohol use and abuse. Easy availability of alcoholic beverages is evident, even for children as young as middle school age. Those who live in excess are at risk as well. In addition, cultures or lifestyles that condones group drinking, or drinking in excess numerous times per week, and have a factor of peer pressure, increases the likelihood of mood disorders of this type developing.
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Alcohol induced mood disorders are most commonly characterized by the presence of a depressed mood, and a lack of interest in what would be considered an individual’s normal activities. In addition, when an excessively or extremely irritable, elevated, or open and outgoing mood develops after a period of heavy drinking, they may also be contributed to the presence of a mood disorder. Symptoms may occur either during alcohol intoxication or withdrawal, and may be present as manic, hypomanic, depressive, or a mixed state (depressed and crying, but extremely energetic; lethargic and non-active, but excessively happy and talkative).
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At this time, the only proven effective treatment for alcohol induced mood disorders is abstinence from alcohol. However, it is recommended for long-term success, individuals learn coping skills for stress, anxiety, or other emotions that may have resulted in previous alcohol use. In addition, supportive services and programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous, psychotherapy, group therapy, and nutrition counseling, and attention to any medical issues should be included in the treatment program.
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Professional Guide to Diseases. Eighth Edition. Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins. (January 27, 2005)
St. Louis Psychologists and Counseling Information and Referral Network. (December 2010). Accessed at http://psychtreatment.com/index.htm March 20, 2011
The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Accessed at http://www.ncadd.org/ March, 2011.