Major Depressive Disorder and Addiction

Depression is a type of mood disorder that can cause symptoms that impact your feelings, behaviors, and thoughts in a negative way.1 In this article, you will learn more about depression and how it can act as a catalyst (and vice versa) for substance use disorders.

What is Major Depressive Disorder?

young woman with her face buried in her hands, struggling with the various signs of addiction

Major depressive disorder is when you experience a down or depressed mood all day, nearly every day for at least 2 weeks. Depression symptoms can be so severe that they affect how you live, interfering with both your social life and job.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, to be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, you need to have either a depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure for at least 2 weeks (in many cases, you can have both), along with at least 4 of the following symptoms:2

  • Significant weight loss or weight gain without trying, or a decrease or increase in appetite
  • Having trouble sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Performing antsy actions, like toe-tapping, rapid talking, or pacing
  • Being slower and more lethargic in your actions than usual
  • Feeling tired and as if you have no energy
  • Feeling worthless or excessively guilty about things
  • Being unable to think or concentrate or being very indecisive
  • Thinking about death or experiencing suicidal thoughts

People can have varying severities of major depressive disorder. Those with mild major depression disorder typically experience at least 5 symptoms at a time, but can still manage without much impairment in their relationships or professional life. With severe depression, however, symptoms can become entirely unmanageable, making it nearly impossible to go through a normal daily routine.2

Who Gets Diagnosed With MDD?

In the United States, it’s estimated that at least 21 million adults have suffered at least 1 major depressive episode in their life. That accounts for 8.4% of all adults in the country.3

Both men and women can experience major depressive disorder, but the disorder does seem to be slightly more prevalent in women. Around 10.5% of U.S. women experienced a depressive disorder, compared to 6.2% of men.3 Depression can also impact adolescents, with at least 4.1 million children between the ages of 12 and 17 experiencing a major depressive episode in 2020.3

There are a few risk factors that can increase your chances of developing depression. These include:4

  • Trauma – Experiencing one or more traumatic events at any point in life, however especially during youth.
  • Genetics – Having genetics that automatically increase the risk for developing depression later in life.
  • Other medical/mental health conditions – Living with specific medical conditions such as chronic pain, sleep disturbances, ADHD, or anxiety.
  • Having a substance use disorder – Having a substance use disorder creates a great possibility for developing depression.

Addiction and depression are closely related. When they occur simultaneously, it’s called a co-occurring disorder, or dual diagnosis. In 2020, approximately 17 million people had a co-occurring disorder.5 Illicit drugs were the most common substance misused by people with a mental illness, followed by marijuana, opioids, and alcohol.5

Why is having both depression and addiction simultaneously so common? In many cases, the symptoms of depression can serve as a risk factor for developing a substance use disorder and vice versa.

What Is Self-Medication?

Self-medication occurs when a person misuses substances in an effort to manage troublesome symptoms of another condition, like depression. For some people, self-medication can feel like a quick and easy way to get some much-needed relief, however as time passes, continued substance misuse can make symptoms of depression worse.6

Utilizing drugs or alcohol to self-medicate depression can be a slippery slope, as doing so not only worsens existing conditions, but can also trigger the onset of addiction. Continually misusing addictive substances can create changes in the brain that enhance rewarding effects. These changes can eventually contribute to the development of addiction as time passes.

How To Treat Your Dual Diagnosis: Managing Depression and Addiction

Rehab group therapy

Treating the co-occurring disorder of depression and addiction usually involves a treatment approach known as integrated intervention. This approach focuses on treating both the mental health condition and the substance use disorder at the same time. Since there is such a strong link between addiction and depression, treating both disorders simultaneously can help individuals establish a successful recovery.

As you obtain treatment for mental illnesses and substance use disorders, you will likely participate in several therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, group counseling, or motivational interviewing. You will also engage in one or more levels of care that is most appropriate for your needs, which may include one or a combination of the following:

  • Detoxification. This is a medical intervention to help you wean off your drug of choice in a safe, monitored setting, utilizing approving medications. Learn more about what to expect in medical detox.
  • Inpatient treatment. With inpatient care, you’ll live in a facility so you can receive 24/7 care for your disorder. You’ll receive daily therapy sessions in a safe environment. Learn more about what to expect in inpatient rehab.
  • Outpatient treatment. Outpatient treatment allows you to obtain the care you need while still being able to maintain your everyday life. It is usually best suited for those who have already completed higher levels of addiction treatment or who have a mild to moderate co-occurring condition.

Finding the Right Treatment Center for Depression and Addiction

When looking for a rehab center that is right for your depression and addiction treatment, it is important to make sure the facility uses evidence-based practices and has an educated, experienced staff. That way, you can be sure you’re getting the best care possible from people who are qualified to provide it.

You’ll also want to ensure that the facility treats both your depression and addiction simultaneously. Because these two types of conditions can agitate and exacerbate one another, it is important to treat both rather than just one.

It is advisable to call and speak with staff members at the facility you are considering so that you can ask any questions you have, get a better feel for the specifics of the facility, and potentially even set up a time to go visit. Additionally, reaching out to your primary care provider or mental health specialist to get a referral to an appropriate facility for you can be helpful, too.

Paying for Treatment

At Laguna Treatment Center, we understand that determining finances for addiction treatment can feel overwhelming. By contacting us, we can not only help you get the answers you need, but we can also help you determine which kinds of rehab payment options may be best for you. If you are insured, we will work with you to determine if you can use your insurance to pay for rehab. You can get started on this process right now by filling out our

Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Laguna Treatment Center

Laguna Treatment Center’s dual diagnosis program offers both medical detox and inpatient treatment to help you recover from both a substance use disorder and mental health condition at the same time.

Laguna Treatment Center’s rehab accreditations mean the highest standards of care are provided, and this shows in the amazing reviews and testimonials the center has received from past patients.

It is possible to feel better, mend relationships, and live life to the fullest once again. Start addiction treatment today by calling our Orange County medical detox facility at and beginning your journey to improved mental health and sobriety.

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