Mental Health

What to Do When You Are Struggling with Addiction and Depression

June 26th, 2018
Young sad woman at the window

This blog was updated January 7th, 2019

If you are struggling with addiction, your main goal is probably to stop using drugs and alcohol. But if you are also struggling with mental health disorders such as anxiety or depression, it is equally as important that you address your mental health as part of your treatment.

Know that you are not alone in suffering from a co-occurring disorder. In fact, 37 percent of those battling alcoholism and 53 percent of those struggling with drug addiction also suffer from at least one serious mental health disorder. Depression and anxiety being the most common.

Mental health disorders and substance abuse are conditions that exacerbate each other. Simply put, if you are suffering from depression, you are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and vice-versa. It’s a very dangerous, never ending cycle.

How Mental Health Issues Can Lead to Addiction

Those who struggle with mental health issues often use drugs or alcohol to deal with difficult emotions or temporary numb themselves to them. While this can be effective, it is only a temporary fix — one that comes with dangerous consequences. Over time, individuals can become dependent on self-medicating with drugs and alcohol to make it through the day. Additionally, substance abuse often causes symptoms of anxiety and depression. Ultimately, self-medicating causes individuals to experience higher rates of anxiety and depression than before they started using drugs and alcohol.

How Addiction Can Trigger Mental Health Disorders

Drugs and alcohol alter brain chemistry, which can lead to mood disorders and cognitive impairment. Not surprisingly, drug use is often a trigger for mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Drugs such as hallucinogens and amphetamines can also lead to symptoms of mania, psychosis, and even schizophrenia. But mental health issues don't just arise from changes in the brain; they are also caused by the high-risk situations that users often find themselves in. Addiction can cause individuals to experience legal problems, struggle at work or school, and hinder their relationships — all of which can leave them feeling depressed. PTSD is also common among users as they are more likely to be assaulted or raped. For intravenous users, the risk of becoming infected with HIV is high. A positive diagnosis often leaves individuals filled with grief, desperation, and depression. 

Finding Treatment: Addiction and Mental Health

Finding an addiction treatment program that addresses both the addiction and mental health disorders is crucial for true, long-lasting recovery. Addiction programs that are equipped to handle psychiatric problems can provide you with the proper addiction treatment plan, counseling, and aftercare planning, as well as help you:

  • Understand the nature of your depression or anxiety
  • Identify and address triggers
  • Better manage your emotions
  • Implement wellness therapies to help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
  • Motivate you to make lifestyle changes

Treating mental health disorders and substance abuse at the same time is important as both are so closely linked. You can’t properly treat one if you don’t address the other. So, when looking for the right addiction treatment for you, remember that recovery is about healing you as a whole – body and mind.


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