What is the Connection Between Addiction, Anxiety & Depression?

On their own, addiction, depression, and anxiety can make life extremely difficult. But when they occur at the same time, the challenge can be considerably more complex. Having to deal with anxiety, depression, and addiction all at once may sound like an unlikely experience. However, the unfortunate truth is that these disorders are closely linked, and it is not uncommon for a person to struggle with two or even all three of these issues.

The Connection Between Anxiety and Depression

Anxiety disorders are characterized by excessive worry or fear, along with changes in behaviors as a result of that worry or fear. Examples of common anxiety disorders include generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, and specific phobia.

People who have depressive disorders will typically experience extreme sadness, lack of energy, hopelessness, helplessness, and related symptoms. Common types of depression include major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, and postpartum depressive disorder.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), anxiety is the most common form of mental illness in the United States. The ADAA also reports that about 50% of all people who are diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.

Anxiety, Depression, and Substance Abuse

Another harsh truth about anxiety and depression is that most people who have these conditions fail to seek treatment. Experts estimate that only 30-40% of people who have one or both of these disorders will get professional care.

This means that millions of Americans are currently living with excessive fear, overwhelming worry, profound sadness, and other symptoms of untreated anxiety and/or depression.

Sadly, many of these men and women turn to alcohol or other substances in an attempt to self-medicate, or numb themselves to their internal pain. Substance abuse can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression. And when substance abuse turns into addiction, the potential for significant harm becomes more severe.

A Question of Cause and Effect

Many people develop problems with substance abuse and addiction after first struggling with anxiety and/or depression. However, the cause-effect relationship among these disorders can work in both directions.

It is no secret that substance abuse and addiction can have a powerful, negative impact on a person’s life. Physical harm, damaged relationships, job loss, and financial difficulties are just a few of the many problems that can result from addiction. But people who abuse alcohol or other drugs also put their mental health at risk.

Untreated substance abuse can cause or worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety. These symptoms can, in turn, push a person to abuse alcohol or other drugs more often or in greater amounts.

Awareness Leads to Action

Substance abuse, addiction, anxiety, and/or depression can all be effectively treated. However, awareness is essential – and realizing how these disorders impact each other is an important step towards recovery.