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Depression is a mood disorder characterized by at least two weeks of low energy, listlessness, a loss of interest in previously enjoyed activities, and even physical pain. The second-most common mental disorder in the United States behind anxiety, depression affects 16.2 million people. The disorder affect all areas of a person’s life, disrupting appetite, sleep patterns, relationships and work, leading to physical and emotional stress.

Depression Facts

  • Nearly 7 percent of Americans (16.2 million people) have experienced depression in the last year
  • More than 300 million people worldwide suffer from depression
  • Depression does not discriminate by age, affecting children, adults and the elderly
  • Nearly half of individuals diagnosed also suffer from an anxiety disorder
  • Major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for persons aged 15 to 44
  • More women are diagnosed with depression than men
  • More than half of people who suffer from a mental illness, such as depression, will also struggle with drug abuse

Other Depressive Disorders

Although “depression” often refers major depressive disorder (MDD), several other depressive disorders exist as well. All types can lead to a greater risk of developing addictive behaviors. Other common depressive disorders include: persistent depressive disorder, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), psychotic depression, postpartum depression and premenstrual dysmorphic disorder. Let’s look at each of these more closely:  

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Also called dysthymia, persistent depressive disorder mirrors major depressive disorder. Sufferers experience low energy, lack of interest in once-enjoyed activities, and a general “down” demeanor. However, instead of weeks or months, symptoms endure for years. The chronic nature of persistent depressive disorder can make individuals more susceptible to drug addictions as they seek to self-medicate.  

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

A type of cyclic depression that occurs at the same time every year, seasonal affective disorder affects between 4 and 6 percent of Americans. Although most people experience it in the fall and winter, smaller numbers experience “summer depression.” Scientists still aren’t sure what causes SAD, but many point to a drop in serotonin and melanin levels as sunlight is reduced.

Psychotic Depression

Affecting 20% of people with major depressive disorder, psychotic depression causes hallucinations, delusions and paranoia. People with this disorder may hear voices or believe that others want to harm them. They may become angry for no reason or deeply isolated. Psychotic depression typically requires medication to treat and indeed leaves untreated clients particularly vulnerable to drug addiction. 

Postpartum Depression

Peripartum, or postpartum, depression affects women in the weeks following childbirth. Characterized by mood swings, irritability, trouble concentrating and fatigue, the disorder mirrors the symptoms of major depressive disorder. About 1 in 7 women report suffering from postpartum depression, according to the American Psychological Association.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

A severe form of pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), premenstrual dysmorphic disorder (PMDD) affects women at the start of their periods. Women who suffer from PMDD experience the symptoms of major depressive disorder and many symptoms related to postpartum depression, including mood swings, irritability, fatigue and trouble concentrating. Although more than 90% of women will experience symptoms of PMS, PMDD affects fewer than 5% of women of childbearing age. Many women with PMDD also suffer from anxiety or other depressive disorders. 

Common Triggers

Beyond genetic factors, major situational events can also trigger depression in individuals who did not previously experience symptoms. Traumatic events can also worsen symptoms in those already experiencing a disorder. These events may include:   

  • Relationship Stress. Divorce is a common trigger, but rocky relationships with friends and family can trigger depression, too.
  • Trauma. Physical or sexual assault, natural disasters, involvement in a car accident and other traumatic events can cause symptoms of major depressive disorder. 
  • Stress. The stress of losing a job, managing a high-pressure job, or dealing with a physical health issue can all cause depression.
  • Isolation. Insufficient human contact can also cause depressive disorders.  
  • Addictive Behaviors. Although depression often exists before the onset of addictive behaviors, alcohol abuse, gambling and even social media can also trigger depressive symptoms.

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Common Treatments

The two most common treatments for depression are psychotherapy, led by cognitive behavioral therapy, and antidepressant medication. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) helps clients challenge negative thoughts and develop personal coping mechanisms to manage stress. Medication can calm overactive neurotransmitters. Most health providers recommend a combination of CBT and antidepressants, depending on a client’s unique history, type of depression and reaction to medication.

Depression and Drug Addiction

Depressive disorders and drug addiction are often intertwined. A study by the University of Utah recently showed that 1 in 3 Americans who suffer from depression also report problems with drug addiction. A mental disorder alongside drug addiction is called a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorder. A dual diagnosis requires personalized, dedicated treatment that provides clients with the tools to manage their mental illness separately from their addiction. At Sprout, we work with wellness centers that specialize in dual diagnosis treatment, with the resources and expertise to help individuals navigate treatment that leads to lifelong recovery.

Do you or someone you know suffer from both depression and addictive behavior? We can help. Call us to find a recovery center near you that specializes in dual diagnosis treatment.

Written By: Sprout Editorial Team

The Sprout Health Group editorial team is passionate about addiction treatment, recovery and mental health issues. Every article is expert-reviewed.