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How Is Depression and Addiction Related?

Are depression and addiction related? What do they have in common? Read on to learn more about depression and addiction treatment options.


It is common knowledge that people suffering from depression often end up with addiction and substance use disorder problems. This is because these individuals often take these drugs to help them manage their depressive symptoms. However, when taken long enough, this can result in depression.

This article explores the relationship between addiction and depression, looking at how and what causes these conditions to co-occur in patients.

depression and addiction

Challenges of Addiction and Depression

Addiction and depression are both challenging conditions and can be somewhat complex to manage. When they co-occur, however, the entire situation becomes even more complex and challenging to deal with. Understanding why and how depression and addiction are related will go a long way towards ensuring favorable treatment outcomes for patients. [1]

Understanding Depression

Depression is a common condition among people battling alcohol and drug addiction. It is a disorder that causes a continuous feeling of emptiness and sadness. It is not the same as the regular mood swings people experience; thus, it shouldn't be confused for those "transient" negative emotions people feel in response to difficult situations.

Depression can last for weeks, months, and sometimes years despite a change in circumstances and results in more intense and persistent feelings that tamper significantly with a person's life, including their ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle and work. [2

What are the Most Common Types of Depression?

Common types of depression include the following: 

  • Postpartum Depression (PPD)
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD)
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (PDD)

Understanding Addiction

Addiction is the intense cravings for something or loss of control over the use of a particular substance.  Addiction can lead to several adverse conditions because it changes the brain by sabotaging the way it masters pleasure and tampers with other normal activities like motivation and learning. [3]

What are the Most Addictive Substances?

Some of the most addictive substances that have been associated with several addiction cases include: 4

  • Heroin
  • Benzodiazepines
  • Alcohol
  • Barbiturates
  • Street Methadone
  • Tobacco
  • Cocaine
  • Cannabis
  • Buprenorphine

Signs and Symptoms of Depression and Addiction

There are various symptoms of addiction and depression. However, the symptoms observed depend on the type of substance abuse and depression. Symptoms of depression and addiction will be detailed below.

Common Symptoms of Depression

Common indications of depression include:

  • Irritability
  • Problems sleeping
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling useless, hopeless, and pessimistic
  • Changes in appetite and weight

Symptoms Of Severe Depression

Indications of severe depression include:

  • Using drugs or alcohol to cope with depression
  • Reckless behavior
  • Hallucinations or delusions
  • Thoughts of suicide

Addiction Symptoms

There are physical, psychological, and behavioral symptoms of addiction. These will be discussed below.

Physical Symptoms

Physical indications of addiction are as follows:

  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased tolerance
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Change in appearance 

Psychological Symptoms

Psychological indications of addiction can include:

  • Obsession
  • Taking risk
  • Difficult in dealing with issues
  • Taking large amounts of dose

Behavioral Symptoms

Someone experiencing addiction may undergo the following:

  • Secrecy and solitude 
  • Denial
  • Financial issues
  • Dropping activities and hobbies
  • Sacrifices 

How are Depression and Addiction Diagnosed?

Diagnosis of depression and addiction usually follows a somewhat "stepwise" pattern, starting with a physical examination.

It is important to recognize the symptoms of depression in order to recognize a potential condition, but to then present the issue to a medical professional.

Physical Exam

Your doctor will conduct a physical examination to check whether any underlying medical issues might be connected to any depressive symptoms you might be experiencing.

Lab Tests

Blood tests can rule out numerous underlying medical disorders that can cause depressive symptoms. For instance, a thyroid test or complete blood count will ensure that various body hormones are balanced and are operating correctly.

Psychological Evaluation

Doctors or mental health experts may ask their patients to complete a questionnaire to understand their symptoms, thoughts, and feelings. The data collected during this evaluation assist medical professionals in making an accurate diagnosis and choosing the best treatment plan

How are Depression and Addiction Related?

Depression and substance abuse are related in the sense that one must happen for the other one to happen, although sometimes they might occur simultaneously. Research has shown that there is a relationship between depression and substance abuse.

Most people with depression also have addictions because these two disorders are connected and co-occur, creating a cycle. To self-medicate depression symptoms, patients use drugs excessively; however, this often leads to dependence on these drugs and, thereafter, addiction.

Does Addiction or Depression Happen First? 

There is no direct answer to this question. Addiction sets in when you use drugs to treat the depressive symptoms; however, as earlier mentioned, excessive drug abuse can also cause depression.

How to Help Someone with Depression and Addiction?

There are some ways you can help people who struggle with addiction and depression. They will be detailed below.

Be Honest About The Problem

It is easy to become passive and lie to yourself and others about addiction and depression. Being honest about the problem is an important step in the process. However, honesty does not necessarily mean brutal honesty - and it is important to be tactful and sensitive to the issue at hand.

Be Empathetic

It is hard to imagine life through the view of someone very depressed. Empathy, or the capacity to perceive things from another person's perspective, might help family members feel less impatient and frustrated.

Be Non-Judgmental

It is essential to remember that addiction and depression are illnesses, not character flaws, while interacting with someone with both disorders.

Be Prepared to Offer Solutions and Seek Professional Help

Low motivation and difficulty making decisions are frequent characteristics of depression. You should be ready to provide specific resources and help arrange for them to get help. 

addiction and depression

Treatment for Depression and Addiction

There are different treatment plans for the cure of addiction and depression. The kind of treatment you'll receive usually depends on the severity of your symptoms. Addiction and depression treatment approaches include: 


Your doctor might suggest using some drugs to treat depression and substance abuse. Ensure you follow the prescriptions exactly to get the best treatment results. These are some of the drugs your doctor might prescribe:

  • Detox medications
  • Mood stabilizers
  • Anti-Anxiety medications
  • Antidepressant medications
  • Antipsychotic medications.


In this treatment, you'll learn how to change your thought pattern. It is very effective and helps you control the influences behind addictive and depressive behavior. It involves the use of techniques like emotions, mindfulness, and acceptance. You'll learn the best way to manage stress and eventually help you improve your relationship with others.[5]

Support Groups

There is the gathering of people with similar conditions coming together to find a solution. You can join various support groups to help you get better.  

Find Treatment For Depression And Addiction At Genesis Recovery

Substance abuse and depression can be very difficult to handle, especially if they occur together. If you or your loved one is experiencing any symptoms, it is important to know that help is available.

At Genesis Recovery, we can help you develop healthy healing techniques to maintain sobriety and mental health and wellness. 


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