Many people believe moods to be emotional states that are controlled internally and directed by the conscious part of the brain. If someone is in a “bad mood,” we probably mean that she is melancholy, irritable, sad or lethargic, and we assume that her behavior is in some way a choice she is making. “Snap out of it,” we say; “just choose to be in a good mood.” While this kind of conscious mood change is certainly possible, many people find that they cannot control their moods any better than they can control the weather: some other force has a reign on their emotions. They often feel helpless or even despondent in response.
However, the truth is that moods are controlled by an intricate system of chemical triggers and responses in the brain. Slight imbalances in the amount of these natural chemicals can seriously disrupt someone’s response to experiences and challenges—some people overreact to frustration with outbursts of abusive language or behavior, some withdraw from society and suffer alone while some become suicidal.
These mood chemical imbalances can be caused by any of the following problems:
- Hereditary factors
- Posttraumatic stress disorder
- Drug or alcohol abuse
Sometimes these chemical imbalances can be treated through behavioral therapy, but other cases require long-term use of medication.
How Mind-altering Substances Affect the Brain
Alcohol, marijuana, opiates, hallucinogens and psychotropic medications all impact the brain’s ability to manage mood. These chemicals give users a temporary feeling of euphoria during which physical and emotional pain is masked and everything seems wonderful. However, once the body metabolizes these chemicals, the user crashes down, so the brain then craves the rush on a deep, psychological level. As drug users continue the process of getting high and crashing, their tolerance to the substance grows, which means they will eventually need larger, more frequent doses to feel the desired effects. Eventually, tolerant drug users will need a near constant supply of the drug to function, but they will not feel the desired high any longer. In response, they will try new drugs or combine substances, which can be deadly.
While artificial mood chemicals are present, the brain stops producing natural “feel good” substances such as serotonin and endorphins. The longer and more intensely someone uses mind-altering substances, the more serious her withdrawal symptoms will be when she quits. The following are some of the most common withdrawal symptoms from painkillers:
- Intense pain throughout the muscles, bones and joints
- Nausea and vomiting
- Excessive sleep or lethargy
- Suicidal thoughts or actions
Most people tend to pass through the physical phase of withdrawal in a matter of days, but the emotional cravings can last for months or even years. Lasting recovery requires addicts to reprogram their brain’s; they must learn new ways to feel good and to connect their awareness with their emotions.
Non-Pharmaceutical Ways To Boost Mood
Many natural methods elevate the level of “feel good” chemicals in the brain, such as the following practices:
- Physical activity/exercise
- Serving others
- Creative expression
- Exposure to sunlight
- Good books or films
- Eating healthy foods
Many people live being passively swept up and moved along by their emotions instead of actively directing them. Certain types of therapy can help such people gain control of their emotions and reduce negative consequences related to anxiety, depression or other issues.
Recovering addicts can also aid their own healing process by engaging healthy activities that boost mood. Many recovering addicts find that they are most likely to experience drug cravings when they are bored, frustrated, angry or feeling other negative emotions. By becoming mindful of those problems, recovering addicts can avoid relapse for the long haul.
Substance Abuse Helpline
The chemical process that controls the brain’s mood changes is intricate and fragile. Something as seemingly innocuous as a cloudy day can greatly impact emotional states, but the radical changes caused by drug or alcohol abuse devastate this natural system even more. Long-term mental health depends upon both chemical balance and behavioral controls, so innovative treatment programs can help reestablish this natural balance.
If you would like more information about mental health issues, addiction or mood chemicals, then please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now. Our admissions coordinators can offer the following free services:
- Confidential answers to all of your questions
- Immediate access to the most successful treatment programs
- Free insurance coverage confirmation
- Logistical help with treatment issues
The call is free and there are absolutely no strings attached. Call right now and let us help you understand the way mood chemicals may affect your own health or the health of someone you love.