Depression and Addiction: How They Relate

Depression and addiction are different from one another, but are also often related. They feed each other, attacking a person’s mind and body at its weakest points, and set the brain off-balance, making a person feel like right is wrong and life is hopeless. Life does not have to be this way, however; treatment centers can help people suffering from both depression and addiction.

What is Depression?

Depression is not just feeling really sad about losing a job or a loved one. It’s more than simply wishing life would improve or feeling irritable about getting cut off by another car on the interstate. Depression is caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, meaning that no amount of positive self-talk or self-medication is going to help. Alcohol, drugs, sex or any other addiction is not going to heal depression and is only going to make the symptoms worse over time — but the brain cannot understand this due to the effects of depression.

What is Addiction?

Addiction is more than casually enjoying a drink or a smoke every once in a while. It’s also not just abuse, which can occur without addiction (although addicts often abuse the things to which they are addicted). A person who is addicted to something craves that thing, cannot say “no” to that thing, and is willing to go to a lot of trouble to get that thing. An addict is someone who tries to quit an addiction but is physically and mentally unable to do so. Depression further clouds the mind, making addiction feel like a better form of existence than dealing with reality sober.


Depression puts the brain in a chemical imbalance, making optimism and hopefulness difficult. Drugs and alcohol can have a similar effect depending on the substance, making resisting hopelessness doubly difficult. Some people feel depression before they become addicted; these people may have turned to addictions because they felt so hopeless about life. Some people get addicted, feel hopeless about ever being able to quit their addictions, and slide into depression. Once a person is addicted and depressed, he feels hopelessness from both addiction and depression. To make matters worse, depression often convinces people that there is no reason to quit the addiction because life is terrible anyway. Only receiving dual treatment for both depression and addiction can truly address the problems they face.

Impaired Judgment

While hopelessness is one important example of how addiction and depression can alter a person’s ability to reason, it’s hardly the only example. People who get caught driving under the influence receive some sort of penalty because their ability to make good decisions on the road has been negatively affected by drugs or alcohol. Trying to reason under the influence can be just as difficult; some things that seem right when a person is intoxicated or high would not seem right otherwise. Depression also alters a person’s ability to make generally good decisions because it tells the brain that life is hopeless, that life is never going to get better, and that addictions are good because they are better than nothing. Receiving treatment for both depression and anxiety frees a person’s brain to make good decisions again.

People who have depression and suffer from addiction do not have to live with the hopelessness and impaired judgment caused by both of these problems. Treatment centers can give depressed addicts the help they need. Anyone who recognizes these symptoms in themselves or in loved ones should seek professional help immediately.

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