Depression, a common mood disorder found in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), affects about 7.1% of the US population each year. The DSM-5 identifies major depressive episodes as “a period of at least two weeks when a person experienced a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure in daily activities and had a majority of specified symptoms, such as problems with sleep, eating, energy, concentration, or self-worth.” Studies have indicated that those with a depressive disorder are also often afflicted with co-occurring drug addiction. While individuals who struggle with both depression and addiction may have a difficult time obtaining sobriety and are at a higher risk for suicide, simultaneous treatment of both conditions increase the likelihood of long-term sobriety and recovery.
Depression and Addiction: A Dual Diagnosis
A dual diagnosis exists when an individual has been diagnosed with any mental health disorder as well as an addiction. Although the exact cause of depression is unknown, researchers believe it can partly be attributed to chemical changes that take place in the brain, stress, and certain medical conditions. Of those struggling with depression, approximately 10% are at long-term risk for suicide. Those percentages increase to 25% when substance abuse is combined with mental health diagnoses. Additionally, close to 36% of individuals with reoccurring depression also experience a drug or alcohol use disorder.
There are several theories and risk factors that account for this occurrence, including:
- Disorder fosters disorder – depression increases the risk for a substance use disorder and vice versa
- Involvement of similar brain areas – the same areas in the brain that are affected by substance use are disrupted by depression and other mood disorders
- Underlying genetic factors – genetics can predispose someone to develop substance use disorders
- Underlying environmental factors – trauma can increase the risk of developing addiction or depression
The Cycle of Depression and Addiction
Despite being one of the most prevalent mental health issues in the United States, only 1/3 of people with a diagnosis of depression receive proper treatment. The cycle of depression and addiction often occurs due to someone with a diagnosis of depression seeking solace for their symptoms. Individuals, in this instance, choose to self-medicate through substance use. Abusing drugs or alcohol may create an initial feeling of relief; however, long-term use can escalate sadness, and lethargy, and possess other negative consequences.
A recent study at the University of Manitoba found that 25% of its participants admittedly used substances, including alcohol, to alleviate the symptoms of their depression. Although it can be difficult to determine whether addiction or depression came first, the two disorders working together can feed off each other and create a destructive cycle.
Finding Dual Diagnosis Addiction Treatment in Costa Mesa
Since depression presents itself differently for each individual, the prognosis of the disorder can vary from person to person. Effective treatment programs typically utilize individual counseling, pharmacotherapy, peer support programs, individualized treatment plans, on-site assistance, family involvement, and follow-up support to prevent relapse. Some may experience a decrease in depressive symptoms after a few weeks of using antidepressants; however, most receive treatment for 4-9 months to prevent a recurrence. For those who have repeated episodes of depression, long-term behavioral therapy and medication are highly recommended.
The relationship between depression and addiction is complex: one disorder can fuel the other, either can develop first, and suffering from both conditions complicates diagnosis and treatment. For this reason, dual diagnosis programs play a key role in treating the mental health and addiction components in the recovery process.
Get Help Today
At Clear Life Recovery, addiction treatment in Costa Mesa, Orange County California, we aim to provide you with a clear pathway to recovery. Our full continuum of care programs provide services including:
- Residential Addiction Treatments
- Partial Hospitalization Programs
- Intensive Outpatient Programs
- Dual Diagnosis Treatment Programs
At Clear Life, we are designed to meet you where you are and take you to the final outcome – long-term, lifelong recovery! We will give you everything you need to get there. Give us a call today for a confidential assessment.
 National Institute of Mental Health. (2017). Major Depression. Retrieved from https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml
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 Smith, K. (2018). Substance Abuse and Depression. Retrieved from https://www.psycom.net/depression-substance-abuse
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 Alexis, I. (2019). The Cycle of Depression and Addiction.
 Kuhar, Michael. The Addicted Brain: Why We Abuse Drugs, Alcohol, and Nicotine. Pearson Education, 2012.
 Gelenberg, A. et al. (2010). Treatment of Patients with Major Depressive Disorder. Retrieved from https://psychiatryonline.org/pb/assets/raw/sitewide/practice_guidelines/guidelines/mdd.pdf
 Tolentino, J. & Schmidt, S. (2018) DSM-5 Criteria and Depression Severity: Implications for Clinical Practice. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6176119/