Depression & Addiction | Symptoms, Risk Factors, & Treatment

Manish Mishra, MBBS

Medically Reviewed By: Manish Mishra, MBBS

on July 27, 2023

Depression and addiction often occur together. Depression can cause substance abuse and addiction may trigger depression. Other factors make you more vulnerable to co-occurring mental health issues. Whatever the cause, both disorders should be treated together.

Depression and addiction are common mental health disorders that often occur together. 

Some people turn to substance abuse to relieve symptoms of depression. And addiction can cause depression or worsen its symptoms. 

If you or a loved one is struggling with co-occurring depression and addiction, the two disorders should be treated together so you can experience lasting recovery.

Symptoms Of Co-Occurring Depression & Addiction

Many of the signs of depression and addiction are the same. When you have both disorders, you may experience these symptoms intensely, making it more difficult to heal.

Symptoms of co-occurring depression and addiction are:

  • loss of interest in things you used to love
  • changes in sleep patterns; difficulty sleeping
  • changes in appetite, especially loss of appetite
  • low energy levels
  • low self-esteem
  • mood swings
  • difficulty concentrating
  • withdrawing from family and friends
  • personality changes
  • feelings of guilt
  • anxiety and irritability
  • lack of motivation
  • disregard for personal appearance

Depression and addiction have unique symptoms, as well. Some people who struggle with depression do not abuse drugs or alcohol. Some addicted individuals don’t become depressed but may have anxiety and other health problems instead.

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Symptoms Of Depression

Symptoms of depression include:

  • fatigue
  • forgetfulness
  • feelings of worthlessness
  • being easily offended
  • thoughts of self-harm
  • suicide attempts

Symptoms Of Addiction

Symptoms of addiction may be:

  • secretive behavior
  • hyperactivity
  • dilated or tiny pupils
  • slurred speech
  • impaired coordination
  • health problems related to drug or alcohol abuse

The co-occurrence of addiction and depression can be a vicious cycle of symptoms that feed each disorder. For example, addiction can cause financial troubles, relationship strain, and legal problems. All of these issues can cause depression, which can worsen a substance use disorder.

Risk Factors For Co-Occurring Depression & Addiction

One in four people with a serious mental illness like major depression also have a substance use disorder, according to research by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. One study found that 60 percent of adolescents in substance abuse treatment also had a mental health condition.

Why depression and addiction co-occur depends on many factors such as your environment, genetics, hormones, and brain chemistry.


The environment you grow up in and your current surroundings play a role in how you behave. If you’ve always been around drugs and alcohol and substance abuse is accepted as normal, you may be more likely to become addicted. 

If you live in a stressful environment with no support system, these factors can contribute to you developing a mental health disorder. You may misuse drugs and alcohol to escape from an unpleasant environment, which can cause addiction that worsens or causes other health issues.

Stress Or Trauma

If you’ve undergone an extremely stressful time or a traumatic event, you’re at risk of developing mental health problems. 

Many people with untreated trauma try to self-medicate with drug or alcohol use, which only leads to other problems. Many become depressed because they don’t know how to work through their negative emotions and heal.


If one or both of your parents have a comorbidity of depression and addiction, those genes may be passed on to you. You’re more likely to develop one or both mental health disorders if they’re part of your medical family history.

Gender & Age

Women have higher rates of co-occurring mood disorders—like depression and anxiety disorders—along with alcohol or drug addiction. Major depressive disorder is more common in women and older people. 


Your hormones affect the way you feel, act, and think. A hormonal imbalance can cause mental health issues like depression and addiction. 

Thyroid dysfunction, pregnancy, and menopause are a few causes of hormonal imbalance.

How Your Brain Works

Everyone has a slightly different brain structure. Your genes, environment, and experiences all contribute to brain formation. 

These factors change some people’s brain structure in a way that makes them more vulnerable to addiction, depression, and other mental health issues.

How Drug Use Affects Your Brain

Depressive disorders are caused, in part, by deficiencies of the brain chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These chemicals maintain emotional balance, give you energy, and reward positive behavior. 

Drugs of abuse also affect these parts of the brain. Addiction can deplete your brain’s natural reserves of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine and make you dependent on a drug to feel normal.

Depressant drugs like alcohol and opioids can cause you to feel depressed once you’ve been abusing them for a while. Stimulant drugs can leave you depressed when you aren’t using them—as a withdrawal symptom. 

Dual Diagnosis Treatment For Addiction & Depression

Untreated mental health disorders often lead to relapse in addiction. Treating depression without addressing the problem of addiction isn’t likely to be successful. The best course is to treat both together.

Dual-diagnosis treatment works to resolve depression and addiction within the same treatment program. It examines the root of substance abuse and depression and how the two disorders contribute to each other.

At Ohio Recovery Center, we create a personalized inpatient treatment plan with a blend of evidence-based methods so you receive the care you need. 

Integrated Treatment

Integrated treatment may include closely monitored antidepressant medications if needed. Any medication will be combined with cognitive behavioral therapy, peer support groups, exercise, and other appropriate treatment options.

Medical Detox

Detoxification (detox) is often the first step in addiction treatment. If your depression stems from substance abuse, the symptoms should lessen over time without drugs and alcohol. As cravings and depression decrease, we may adjust your treatment program to fit your new situation. 

To learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment options, please contact us today.

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse
  2. National Institute of Mental Health

Written by Ohio Recovery Center Editorial Team

© 2024 Ohio Recovery Center | All Rights Reserved

* This page does not provide medical advice.

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