Depression, Anxiety, and Addiction: Exploring the Vicious Cycle

Sad woman

There has been much discussion in the treatment community about whether depression and anxiety disorders contribute to addiction or addiction can be a cause of depression and anxiety. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? It turns out that often, depression, anxiety and addiction create a vicious cycle in which all of them become entwined and difficult to separate.

Components of the Cycle

One dynamic that can come into play is that addiction results from attempts to self-medicate anxiety and depression. Stimulant drugs like cocaine and amphetamines can help depressed people elevate their mood, and alcohol, marijuana and other substances can help with relaxation for those who suffer from anxiety. The trouble is, people can quickly become dependent on these substances, and the effects become less pronounced the more they are used.

Using substances that may be illegal or drinking to excess is not a long-term solution to depression and anxiety. In the end, they do not work, they can get you in legal trouble, they can impair your ability to make good decisions, and they can lead to a risk of overdose.

Another part of the cycle is that misuse of drugs and alcohol can sometimes cause depression and anxiety to surface when it did not exist before. Certain substances have depression and anxiety as side effects, while others cause these conditions as they leave the body. Using more of the substance to handle these effects is common, but may do more harm than good if the substance is the problem in the first place.

Therapist and patient talking

Therapy for co-occurring disorders can stop the vicious cycle that often occurs.

Co-occurring Disorders Can Be Treated Together

When anxiety or depression and addiction present together, they are called co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis, and they should be treated together for maximum benefit. Experienced treatment professionals can add counseling, medication and other therapies to your treatment regimen that will alleviate and reduce depression and anxiety as you detox and get used to the new normal without the substance causing your addiction.

Treating co-occurring disorders together is the only way to interrupt the vicious cycle of depression, anxiety and addiction and allow yourself to reach a healthier way of living so that the cycle does not get revived. In addition to being healthier mentally and physically, you may prevent the sometimes tragic consequences that can occur when your thoughts are impaired by substance use while depressed or anxious.

Treating co-occurring disorders can be somewhat complicated, but many treatment facilities have both medical and treatment personnel on staff to sort out what medications may be needed to help with the disorders as well as the therapy you need to work through the often complex issues behind each disorder. The connections between mental health and addiction need to be addressed in order to break the vicious cycle and make sure it does not continue.

The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake offers Colorado addiction treatment resources for disorders that co-occur with addiction, including depression and anxiety. A variety of therapies as well as medical interventions are used to break the cycle of a dual diagnosis.  Contact us today for more information.