Understanding the Co-occurring Disorders of Depression and Addiction

The term “co-occurring disorders” refers to the presence of a mental health disorder alongside a substance use disorder. Co-occurring disorders are complex because the symptoms of one disorder can exacerbate the symptoms of the other, creating a vicious cycle that is hard to stop.  Over half of the people struggling with a mental health disorder are also struggling with drug or alcohol addiction.

The Link Between Depression and Addiction

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders that coincides with addiction. People who are depressed may use alcohol or drugs as a form of self-medication to temporarily escape from their emotional pain. This reliance on substances for emotional relief can quickly spiral into addiction, which will only worsen the symptoms of depression

In addition, substance use disorder can lead to depression. Alcohol or drugs can disrupt the brain’s chemical balance, leading to feelings of sadness, emptiness, or hopelessness. The cycle is further complicated by the fact that addiction can lead to significant life problems, such as job loss, relationship breakdowns, and social isolation. Additionally, the substances themselves can directly interfere with the brain’s ability to experience pleasure. 

When depression and addiction co-occur, no matter which came first, both disorders must be treated simultaneously for best results. 

Recognizing the Signs of Co-occurring Depression and Addiction

Identifying the presence of co-occurring depression and addiction requires close attention to a range of emotional, behavioral, and physical signs. Signs of depression may manifest as persistent sadness, loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, or an overwhelming sense of guilt and worthlessness. Signs of addiction may include an increased dependency on substances and withdrawal symptoms in the absence of the drug or alcohol.

Addiction can also lead to behavioral changes that mimic depression, such as isolation from social circles, neglect of responsibilities, and unexplained changes in habits or appearance. Changes in sleep patterns, changes in appetite, and unexplained aches and pains may occur.  

If you recognize these signs in yourself or a loved one, talk with your doctor or therapist, and seek out treatment for both disorders. 

Finding a Treatment Center for Co-occurring Disorders

It can be difficult to find a treatment center that will address both depression and addiction together, but to treat one without treating the other will only lead to a higher risk of relapse. Our facility in Tennessee can help. English Mountain is well equipped to work with clients who suffer from both depression and addiction. Our skilled therapists will address the underlying problems using our integrated treatment plans. They will help you take back control of your life. Take the first step to living a happier, healthier, sober life. Contact us today.