Depression Symptoms and Co-Occurring Disorders

Recovering from alcohol and drug addiction can be a difficult journey, but addicts who also struggle with depression face even greater hurdles in treatment. People who struggle with depression and addiction often blame themselves or are blamed by others for not being able to recover from their co-occurring disorders. The truth is that addiction and depression are both diseases; they are not an indication of poor character or a lack of willpower. People who struggle to recover from co-occurring mental and substance use disorders are not to blame, especially if they haven’t been exposed to proper dual diagnosis treatment.

Symptoms of Depression and Co-Occurring Substance Use Disorders

Depression is a common mood disorder found among alcohol and drug addicts. In fact, 30 to 40 percent of people with a substance use disorder also have a mood disorder such as depression. Long-term substance use, particularly alcoholism, creates a depressant effect that mimics the symptoms of depression. These feelings are especially worse during early recovery as withdrawal from the substance enhances these physical symptoms with feelings of guilt, shame, grief and regret.

The following are some common symptoms of depression. As you can see, many of these symptoms also mimic the symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction.

* Persistent sadness

* Lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyed

* Loss of appetite

* Sleep problems

* Digestive disorders

* Headaches

* Difficulty thinking, concentrating and remembering

* Chronic aches and pains

* Feelings of guilt, worthlessness

* Feelings of emptiness

* Helplessness

* Hopelessness

* Fatigue

* Irritability

* Weight loss

* Weight gain

* Guilt

* Indecisiveness

* Recurrent thoughts of suicide or death

Substance use worsens the symptoms of depression and depression worsens the symptoms of substance abuse. The only way to fully recover from both co-occurring disorders is to treat them together, simultaneously.

Treating Depression Symptoms and Co-Occurring Disorders

Mood disorders, such as depression, rarely improve while people are addicted to alcohol or drugs, and long-term sobriety is rarely achieved if depression isn’t properly treated. Effective treatment requires proper assessment of both disorder and simultaneous, integrated treatment.

There are several different ways to simultaneously treat depression symptoms and co-occurring disorders. Some of the most effective treatments include a combination of medications; psychotherapy; cognitive-behavioral therapy; individual, group and family counseling; detoxification and 12-Step programs. Patients in treatment for depression and co-occurring disorders also benefit from attending peer support groups, where they can connect with others who are also in recovery for co-occurring disorders.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Depression and Substance Use

Patients with co-occurring disorders benefit the most from receiving combined treatment for their mental illness and substance use from the same clinician or treatment team. A dual diagnosis facility will help the person develop the hope, knowledge, skills and support needed to manage their disorders and pursue a life in recovery.

The most common form of dual diagnosis treatment is accomplished through outpatient substance abuse treatment programs. During outpatient treatment, the patient will receive several hours of intensive treatment each day or each week that includes substance abuse treatment and mental health support. This treatment typically includes individual and group counseling, as well as aftercare programs such as sober living, self-help groups, relapse prevention groups, and continued individual counseling and mental health services.

Depression and co-occurring addictions can leave a person feeling lonely and helpless. If you know someone who is struggling with co-occurring disorders, call a dual diagnosis treatment facility today and help them get the proper treatment they so desperately need.


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.