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Depression and Addiction


Depression is a mental health condition that quite often co-occurs with substance abuse. The relationship between the two disorders is bi-directional, meaning that people who misuse drugs or alcohol are more likely to suffer from depression and vice versa. When a person exhibits both depression and substance use addiction, it’s known as a dual diagnosis, and both illnesses must be treated simultaneously.

What is the relationship between depression and addiction?

The link between mental illness and substance use disorder is complex. These co-occurring conditions can feed off one another due to the way they each affect the brain. People with various types of depression may frequently turn to drugs or alcohol to alleviate psychological pain. At the same time, those who suffer from addiction are generally more predisposed to depression. 

The relationship between these two illnesses manifests in several ways:


People with depression may turn to substances like alcohol or drugs to cope with their symptoms. This self-medication can provide short-term relief from feelings of sadness or anxiety, but in the long term, it can lead to addiction.

Common Risk Factors

Depression and addiction often share common risk factors, such as genetic predisposition, environmental influences (such as trauma or stress), and neurobiological factors (such as imbalances in brain chemistry).

Biological Mechanisms

Both depression and addiction can affect similar areas of the brain related to reward, motivation, and emotional regulation. This overlap in brain function can contribute to the development of both conditions.

Cycle of Dependency

Depression and addiction can create a vicious cycle where one condition worsens the other. For example, someone may use substances to alleviate depressive symptoms, which leads to increased dependence and further exacerbates feelings of depression when not using.

Treatment Challenges

Treating depression and addiction requires an integrated treatment plan designed by a mental health professional to address both disorders at the same time. This may involve therapy (such as cognitive-behavioral therapy or dialectical behavior therapy), medication management, support groups (like Alcoholics Anonymous), and lifestyle changes.

Can depression become an addiction?

Depression itself is not an addiction; it’s a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities. It doesn’t create a dependency in the same way as a drug or alcohol addiction. However, these self-medicating substances used to cope with forms of depression can potentially lead to addiction. 

What is the relationship between alcoholism and depression?

The relationship between alcoholism and depression has overlapping risk factors. 

Alcoholism can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. The links between these two illnesses include: 

  • Alcoholism and depression often co-occur. The prevalence of depression is higher among individuals with alcohol use disorder.
  • Many individuals with depression turn to alcohol as a way to self-medicate.
  • Having depression increases the risk of developing alcoholism.
  • There is a cyclical relationship in which alcohol misuse can worsen symptoms of depression over time. 
  • Co-occurring alcoholism and depression can complicate treatment outcomes. 
  • Both alcoholism and depression share risk factors such as family history, childhood trauma, and chronic anxiety

Why should people with depression not drink?

While alcohol may provide temporary relief from depression, its overall impact on physical and mental health can be detrimental for individuals suffering from this illness. People with depression should avoid alcohol consumption for several reasons:

Worsening of Symptoms

Alcohol is a depressant that can make symptoms of depression worse. It can magnify the pervasive feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and anxiety.

Interference with Medication

Many people with depression are prescribed medications such as antidepressants. Alcohol can interfere with these medications, making them less effective or causing harmful interactions.

Increased Risk of Suicide

Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions. This can increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors in people who are already struggling with depression.

Negative Coping Mechanism

Using alcohol as a way to cope with depression is an unhealthy coping mechanism. It doesn’t address the underlying issues causing the depression and can lead to a cycle of dependency and addiction

Physical Health Concerns

Alcohol abuse can lead to various physical health problems, which can further exacerbate feelings of depression and reduced quality of life.

Sleep Disturbances

Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns and circadian rhythms, leading to poor quality sleep or insomnia. Sleep disturbances are common in depression and can worsen its symptoms.

Treatment for Depression and Addiction at Into Action Recovery

We care for the whole person, treating both substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders. If you or a loved one needs help overcoming addiction, we’re here to get you started on your journey to life-long sobriety and recovery. 

Call us today at 844-303-3969 to schedule an appointment or learn more about our programs. 

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