Depression and Addiction
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Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in the United States, with over 21 million adults age 18 years or older (8.4%) reporting a major depressive episode in the past year in 2020.1 That same year, 39 million people aged 18 and older (15%) had a past-year substance use disorder (SUD).1 In Clark County, Nevada, roughly 18% of adult residents had ever been told they have a depressive disorder in 2019.3
The relationship between depression and addiction is complex, in part because the symptoms of each disorder are so similar and often overlap. Over half of people diagnosed with an SUD will have a major depressive disorder (MDD) in their lifetime.2
What Is Depression?
Depression is a serious mental health disorder that causes you to feel incredibly sad, empty, or irritable and to lose interest in things you used to enjoy.4–6 Depression changes the way you feel, think, and act. 4–6 Everyone feels sad sometimes, but depression is different in that symptoms last for most of the day every day for at least 2 weeks and negatively impact your daily life. 4–6
Types of Depressive Disorders
Depressive disorders fall into many different categories. Some common ones include:4–6
- Major depressive disorder (MDD): depression symptoms most of the time that last at least 2 weeks and make it hard to function at work or school or do basic tasks.
- Persistent depressive disorder (PDD, formerly called “dysthymia”): less severe depression symptoms for at least 2 years.
- Perinatal depression: depression symptoms during or after pregnancy (if after, this is often called “postpartum depression”).
- Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): depression symptoms that come and go with the seasons. For most people, they feel SAD symptoms during the winter, when days are short and natural light is low.
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): depression symptoms before and during menstruation.
- Substance/medication-induced depressive disorder: depression symptoms that begin while someone is using a certain drug or going through withdrawal from that drug.
In the United States in 2018, depression was the main reason for more than 13 million (1.5%) doctor’s office visits.7
Symptoms of Depression
Some common depression symptoms include:5
- Lasting sad, anxious, or empty feeling.
- Feeling irritable or restless.
- Feelings of hopeless, worthless, or helpless.
- Loss of interest in hobbies.
- Poor concentration or trouble making decisions.
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping more or less than usual).
- Loss of appetite.
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
In some people, depression looks like anger or anxiety, while others just want to sleep.5 Sudden mood swings after a period of happiness are also common with depression. Not every person will have every symptom, and many of the same symptoms could also be warning signs of addiction.5 It’s important to talk to your doctor or a mental health professional, as they can give a proper diagnosis and help you find treatment resources.
Thankfully, depression is one of the more treatable mood disorders.4 With the right combination of therapies and prescription medicines, up to 90% of people who are treated for depression report some relief from their symptoms.4
The Link Between Depression and Addiction
Research shows strong links between depressive disorders and substance use disorders. For example, in people with a history of SUDs, more than half are likely to also have a major depressive disorder at some point in their life.2 Compared to people with only one mental health disorder, people with co-occurring depression and SUDs tend to:2,8
- Have more severe symptoms.
- Be less able to function in daily life.
- Have worse treatment outcomes.
- Be less likely to be prescribed antidepressants.
- Have a higher risk of developing other mental health disorders.
- Have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors.
The exact reasons depression and SUDs are linked aren’t entirely understood. But studies show genetics play a role, as do environmental factors such as stress and trauma.8,9 In addition, it’s not uncommon for people with depression to use alcohol or drugs to try to cope when they feel stressed, sad, anxious, or depressed. Studies show that roughly 23% of people with depressive disorders attempt to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.8
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How to Treat Depression and Addiction
Treatment for co-occurring disorders, also referred to as dual diagnosis or integrated treatment, is designed to treat both substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders.2 People experience depression and substance use differently, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.5,6
Some of the most effective courses of treatment for depression and addiction include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and prescription medicines.2 CBT helps people recognize negative thought patterns and learn new behaviors to address their feelings. While behavioral therapy and medications can each be helpful on their own, the combination of both offers a more integrated approach to the multi-layered aspects of treatment and recovery in people with co-occurring disorders.11
Finding Treatment for Addiction and Depression
American Addiction Centers (AAC) offers quality integrated treatment for depression and addiction in Nevada and nationwide. Services include medical detoxification, inpatient care, and outpatient treatment options. AAC staff are skilled and compassionate and will work with you to address both your depression and substance use. It’s never too late to get help. If you’re ready to take back control of your life, call our 24/7 helpline at .