Depression & Addiction

As research has shown, there are a number of mental and emotional health disorders that occur with high frequency alongside addiction to alcohol and drugs. Among those many disorders, depression tends to occur with addiction more frequently than most other disorders, sparking debate as to whether there’s some level of causality between the two. So does depression cause addiction, or vice versa? What is the relationship between these two disorders? How are depression and comorbid addiction treated?

What is Depression?

The spectrum of human emotion is broad and diverse. Over the course of any given day, a person can feel many distinct and even conflicting emotions: Happiness and elation, sadness, anger and aggression, confusion, fear, jealousy. Each of these emotions — not to mention the countless others — are natural, healthy, and unavoidable at turns. Generally, a person’s emotional state is an involuntary, reflexive psychological response to a situation, thought, or some other type of stimulus. However, at a certain point, emotions can become overwhelming and potentially dangerous. When exaggerated, a person’s emotional state could even be part of a certain pathology.

Depression is one of many human emotions that we experience regularly. While the implication is clinical, many people experience depression somewhat frequently as it’s a natural response to certain situations. By definition, depression is characterized as a low mood and an aversion to most activities. When a person is feeling depressed, the emotion affects his or her thoughts, behavior, energy level, interests, and sense of well-being. But it’s important to realize that depression isn’t necessarily a clinical diagnosis. In fact, there’s a difference between standard, “normal” depression and clinical depression.

Clinical Depression vs. “Normal” Depression

As mentioned above, “normal” depression is the low state that people experience regularly. It’s natural, healthy, and it’s not usually cause for concern or clinical intervention. However, clinical depression refers to an emotional disorder that’s known by the more official name of major depression.

Major depression — also commonly called major depressive disorder — is an emotional disorder that’s characterized by at least two weeks of a low emotional state, which is present across most situations and scenarios. Besides the length of time the bouts of depression last, major depression differs from standard day-to-day depression in that people who are experiencing major depression tend to also have low self-esteem, experience a loss of self-interest, and might even experience physical pain without any obvious or apparent cause. In the most extreme cases of major depression, the individual might even begin to see or hear things that others cannot see or hear.