Content Reviewed by Jennifer Wheeler, Clinical & Community Outreach for New Life

Addiction often co-occurs with other mental health conditions, including depression. When substance use disorders (SUDs) and mental health disorders coincide, they can exacerbate the symptoms of one another. It is important to recognize how depression can impact addiction and vice versa so you can recognize it in yourself and others. As you familiarize yourself with these truths, you can actively work to prevent substance use and addiction from developing as you work to heal from depression.

1. Addiction Developing as a Result of Self-Medication

One of the most common ways that depression can lead to the development of SUDs or addiction is through self-medication. Self-medication is when an individual turns to substances to cope with difficult symptoms associated with depression. Although self-medicating may provide temporary relief from distressing mental health symptoms, it only worsens symptoms over time.

Depression is a mental health disorder that causes persistent, chronic feelings of sadness and hopelessness, which can become unmanageable. People often turn to alcohol, illicit drugs, prescription drugs and even food to self-medicate these unpleasant symptoms. Regular self-medication can damage physical and mental health and significantly increase the risk of developing chemical dependency or addiction.

2. Addiction Developing as a Result of Poor Sleep Hygiene

Depression is linked with chronic insomnia and increased sleep disturbances. As a result, those that struggle with depression may fall victim to addiction from attempting to use sleep aids. Alongside risking addiction, the repeated use of sleep aids can cause intense mental and physical consequences.

Sleeping pills, prescription painkillers, alcohol and even marijuana are commonly used as sleep aids. However, short and long-term use of these substances can cause addiction to develop quickly. At the same time, these substances may help induce sleep but do not ensure sound sleep. There are much healthier alternatives that a person with depression can utilize to fix their sleep hygiene without using substances.

3. Addiction Developing as a Result of Poor Nutrition

Depression can make it difficult for people to get up in the morning, let alone maintain a healthy or nutritious diet. People may fail to eat properly if their appetite is suppressed, eat only unhealthy meals or neglect to consume food entirely. As a result, addiction can develop from poor nutrition. People may become addicted to making poor food choices such as unhealthy, sugary foods or choose not to eat at all because of limited funds supplying their addictive chemical substances instead.

4. Addiction Developing as a Result of Low Self-Esteem

People that have struggled with depression before know that it can wreak havoc on an individual’s self-esteem. Low-self esteem is one of the many risk factors associated with the development of addiction at a young age. Rejection, low academic achievement, and self-deprecation often lead to substance use, whereas substance use can perpetuate the cycle of low self-esteem.

5. Addiction Developing as a Result of Isolation

Depression can cause harmful complications, including social isolation. Feelings of loneliness contribute to depression and suicidal thoughts, but they can also trigger and worsen addiction.

Some may realize that turning to substances to numb feelings of isolation would be another form of self-medication. Either way, when individuals develop a SUD or addiction from trying to avoid feelings of numbness and isolation, it only worsens overall mental health. It is essential that when individuals struggle with depression and associated feelings of isolation, they seek out support from loved ones or others in their community.

6. Addiction Developing as a Result of Poor Cognitive Functioning

Depression is often associated with cognitive problems because the condition can impair attention, memory, information processing and decision-making skills. Experiencing cognitive decline can worsen self-esteem and make recovery seem impossible. People in this loop often turn to substance use because they may not believe that they have it in themselves to heal. They may blame their health on their depressive condition and cope with it by using alcohol or other drugs or by turning to substances in an attempt to improve their cognitive functioning.

It is vital to recognize that even when depression plays a factor, there are ways to improve cognitive functioning without turning to chemical substances. Relying on stimulants — often misused to increase cognitive functioning such as attention and concentration — can create a dangerous loop of dependency and addiction. Instead, finding healthy ways to boost energy and engagement, such as mindfulness and exercise, are vital skills for recovery.

7. Addiction Developing as a Result of Suicidal Ideation

When depression is severe, it can cause the development of suicidal ideation. Multiple factors influence suicidal behaviors, although substance use is a critical factor linked to suicidal ideation. To numb uncomfortable feelings and thoughts of suicide, many people recognize substance use as a better alternative. It is essential to understand that substance use can and does worsen mental health, especially if there are underlying mental health issues already present.

Depression is a chaotic, unpredictable condition. It can leave you feeling hopeless, guilty, restless and uninterested in daily life. Often, people with depression view recovery as impossible because of their lack of motivation. However, recovery is possible without relying on substance use to experience relief. Treatment will help you to recognize the greater things in life.

New Life is a treatment center that understands the prevalence of co-occurring conditions. We believe that recovery is possible for anyone struggling with a substance use condition and co-occurring mental health disorder. We provide individualized treatment for our patients so that they can discover a new life of healing. To learn more, call us today at (877) 929-2571.