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Depression and Addiction: Why These Mental Health Disorders Are Often Connected

A Baltimore Therapist Explores the Connection Between These Two Mental Health Disorders

Depression and addiction are both complex disorders that can have a severe impact on your day-to-day life. Dealing with depression or addiction alone is already challenging enough, but living with both can feel impossible to manage. However, there are numerous resources available to help you begin to heal and recover from your depression and addiction. Seeing a Baltimore therapist is the first step on your journey toward overcoming your demons. 

Diagnosing Depression and Addiction

A Baltimore Therapist Will Usually Look for These Signs When Diagnosing You

person comforting upset young woman

Some people experience occasional blues, whether it is from a problem at work or relationship issues with your partner. But for people with depression, these “blues” do not easily go away. In fact, they often disrupt a person’s ability to perform normal functions and can negatively impact their relationships with others. 

People with addiction or substance use disorders often struggle to lead a regular life as well. Finding treatment can be difficult, as the person with the disorder often struggles to acknowledge that they have an addiction. 

In order to diagnose either depression or addiction in a patient, a Baltimore therapist must find a certain number of symptoms in a patient. 

Criteria for Diagnosing Depression

Sometimes, a Baltimore therapist will perform a physical examination or a series of lab tests to rule out depression. But in order to make an official diagnose for depression, your physician will usually ask you a series of survey questions regarding your symptoms. People who are struggling with depression often display the following symptoms for at least two weeks at a time:

  • Excessive sleep or insomnia
  • Feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, or excessive guilt
  • Loss of energy or fatigue
  • Thoughts of suicide or self-harm
  • Changes in appetite which can cause a major change in weight
  • Loss of interest in activities they once found enjoyable

Patients with major depression, a particular type of depression, experience at least 5 of the aforementioned symptoms. They also experience a constant depressed mood or a loss of interest in activities almost daily for at least two weeks. 

Criteria for Diagnosing Addiction

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) offers a set of criteria for substance use disorders and other mental health problems. In the latest edition of the DSM-5, the manual combined the previously separated terms “substance abuse” and “substance dependence” into one term called “substance use disorder.” 

A person might be struggling with a mild, moderate, or severe substance use disorder depending on the number of symptoms they display such as:

  • Engaging in hazardous use of the substance, such as overdosing or driving while under the influence
  • Suffering relationship problems as a result of using the substance 
  • Failing to meet major responsibilities at home, work, or school because of their substance use
  • Dealing with withdrawal symptoms after ceasing intake of the substance
  • Building up a tolerance to the substance so that you have to use more of it in order to obtain the same effect
  • Using larger amounts of the substance or using it for a longer period of time
  • Being unable to cut back or quit despite multiple attempts to do so
  • Spending most of their time using the substance
  • Developing psychological issues such as depression and anxiety or physical illnesses like liver damage
  • Experiencing cravings for the substance

In order to receive a diagnosis for substance use disorder, a patient must meet two or more of the listed criteria within a 12 month period. People who experience two or three of these criteria have a mild substance use disorder. Those who meet four or five items may have moderate substance use disorder. Patients who meet at least six of the criteria are typically diagnosed with a severe substance use disorder. 

Understanding the Connection Between Depression and Addiction

Why Substance Abuse is Common Among Patients Battling Depression

A young guy looking at his laptop

Patients who are diagnosed with both depression and a substance use disorder may be more common than you think. According to an article featured in The New York Times, around ⅓ of patients with depression are also struggling with alcohol addiction. 

There are numerous reasons why someone may struggle with both depression and a substance use disorder. For instance, people who engage in excessive drinking may experience depression symptoms such as lethargy and sadness. This is because alcohol works as a depressant on the central nervous system. However, some individuals who are depressed reach for alcohol or drugs in an effort to improve their mood or remove themselves from painful thoughts. Depression and substance abuse often feed into each other as a result. 


Seeking Treatment from a Baltimore Therapist

Research the Numerous Treatment Options That Are Available

female therapist checking her notes

Without proper treatment from a Baltimore therapist, your struggles with depression and addiction will continue to worsen. Dealing with these disorders presents a particularly tough challenge due to the manner in which they feed off of each other. For some people, cutting out drugs and alcohol can worsen their symptoms. Many people also seek out alcohol and drugs to alleviate their symptoms, when in actuality they can worsen their depression. That’s why it is critical for people to seek integrated treatment for both issues. 

When searching for a Baltimore therapist, make sure they follow an integrated treatment plan that focuses on the following goals:

  • Teaching the patient and helping them understand their depression
  • Emphasizing that it is possible to recover from depression and addiction
  • Motivating the patient to make significant changes in their life 
  • Counseling the patient on methods for identifying and changing addictive behavior patterns
  • Supplying the patient with methods for addressing and handling negative thoughts 

Therapists may also prescribe medication including antidepressants for patients during their treatment. 


Are you or a loved one struggling with addiction and depression? Help is out there. Contact Baltimore therapist, the Psych Associates of Maryland, to schedule an appointment today.

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