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Examining The Connection Between Depression And Addiction

Depression, also known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health is a common but serious mood disorder.

It is characterized by persistently depressed mood and/ or loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, impairing one’s ability to function in his or her daily life. The various symptoms associated with depression can range from mild to severe. Addiction, also known as substance use disorder, is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) as a brain disorder. It is characterized by compulsively engaging in rewarding stimuli despite the inevitable ensuing of adverse consequences. Individuals that suffer from depression may attempt to ease his or her symptoms by abusing drugs and/ or alcohol as a means of self-medicating. On the other hand, an individual that struggles with substance abuse and/ or addiction, by nature of the disease may develop depression and/ or awaken another type of previously dormant mental health ailment. It is virtually impossible to distinguish which mental health ailment truly manifests first in individuals that have a dual diagnosis. 

depressed woman

Relation Between Depression and Addiction

The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides data that indicates individuals with mood disorders, such as depression, are twice as likely to engage in substance abusing behaviors than those without a mood disorder, which drastically increase one’s risk for developing an addiction. There are many common and shared side effects that can present in individuals struggling with depression and/ or addiction. They can include, but are not limited to, any combination of the following examples:

  • Irritability
  • Weight fluctuations
  • Physical aches and pains
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Diminished sense of self-worth
  • Inability to concentrate on and/ or complete daily tasks
  • Poor hygiene practices
  • Suicidal ideations

There are a variety of contributing factors behind one’s development of depression, many of which overlap with those behind an individual’s susceptibility for developing addiction. Regarding both the development of addiction and depression, respectfully, these factors often include environmental, brain structure and chemistry, genetics, as well as situational factors. 

Treatment Considerations

A dual diagnosis is typically diagnosed to any individual that struggles with substance abuse/ addiction and another mental disorder/ illness, including depression. An individual that has been diagnosed with depression and substance use disorder should consider attending a specified treatment program designed to treat individuals with a dual diagnosis. Treating addiction and depression simultaneously is of utmost importance when it comes to setting oneself up for success regarding recovery. Dual diagnosis treatment programs utilize a variety of therapeutic modalities as well as medical interventions to create tailored treatment plans for each participant, which specifically consider the patient’s unique needs. 


A common component of treatment for depression includes medication. There are certain medications that can help alleviate some of the discomforts associated with detoxing from substance abuse, and some medications that are recommended to help reduce the intensity of one’s drug cravings, although medications are not typically the first course of treatment relied upon for individuals struggling from substance use disorder. There are, however some symptoms of depression that can be exacerbated with habitual substance abuse and/ or during the detox process that may be lessened with the correct medication. Common medications used to treat individuals with a dual diagnosis of depression and addiction fall in the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) category and can include the following examples, provided by WebMD:

  • Prozac (Fluoxetine)
  • Zoloft (Sertraline)
  • Celexa (Citalopram)
  • Lexapro (Escitalopram)

Every individual is different and distinguishing the precise type of medication and/ or combination of medications and accurate dosage will require close monitoring and guidance from a qualified medical professional. In order to assure one’s safety, it is important to closely adhere to the directions provided by the prescribing medical professional when taking medication. There are many medications that may lead to dangerous consequences if an individual abruptly stops taking them. As such, if and when the time comes to discontinue a medication, it is imperative to follow the physician’s termination plan.

woman doing yoga in recovery

Further Information

Substance abuse and addiction can be incredibly dangerous.

If you or someone you know is suffering from substance abuse or addiction, please get help as soon as possible. The earlier you seek support, the sooner you and your loved ones can return to happy, healthy and fulfilling lives. There is no reason to go through this alone. Please feel free to reach out to us for further information or with any questions regarding substance abuse or addiction. 

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