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How Depression and Anxiety Can Fuel Addiction

How Depression and Anxiety Can Fuel Addiction

It’s one thing to have a glass of wine at the end of a hectic day, once in a while. But when you find yourself constantly seeking alcohol or other substances as a way to reduce stress and cope with the stress that comes with life, then this should be an indication of the beginning of a problem.

Using alcohol as a way to deal with your problems could be a sign of alcohol abuse. Drinking a lot might also be a sign that you’re depressed, or even be a cause of depression itself. And likewise, using other substances in this way is a sign of substance abuse.

Depression and Addiction/ Anxiety and Addiction: Chicken-or-the-Egg

Study findings show a strong relationship between depression and addiction such as alcohol abuse. But, does regular alcohol consumption lead to depression, or are depressed people more likely to drink heavily? Researchers are split on this issue. It’s also possible that depression and addiction, namely alcohol abuse, share common risk factors – genetic or environmental – that trigger both conditions.

Rates of comorbidity, or co-occurring, depression and addiction and anxiety and addiction are high. There has been much research conducted into this issue in an effort to determine how each of these conditions and risk factors for these conditions influence each other.

On the other hand, there are other studies that seem to find that the addiction precedes the depression. For example, one study that looked at risky behaviors in adolescents found that taking drugs and engaging in other risky behaviors predicted an increased likelihood of depression, but depression in the adolescents wasn’t a good indicator of whether they would turn to drugs.

Depression and Addiction in Women

Experts find that women are more likely than men to use alcohol to self-medicate. Therefore, depression might be a specifically significant trigger for alcohol use and abuse in women, because they are more than twice as likely as men to start drinking heavily if they havea history of depression.

Medications for Anxiety and Addiction

Often time, people turn to substances in order to self-medicate, that is, to numb their feelings of anxiety and/or depression. But then those unwanted feelings grow stronger, increasing our fear of them, and therefore reinforcing our self-medicating behavior. For example, the use of benzodiazapines, or benzos,  such as Xanax or Klonopin will initially help alleviate anxiety in the short run but can actually lead to persisting and worsening anxiety in the long run.

The Relationship Between Depression, Anxiety and Addiction

It is obvious that there is a relationship because of the simultaneous occurrence, or dual diagnosis, of addiction and depression. Depression in male addicts is three times higher than that of the general public, while female addicts have a depression rate that is four times higher. The link between depression and addiction is clear for more common substance addictions like nicotine and alcohol and has been more recently recognized with regards to behavior or impulse-control addictions, such sex and compulsive gambling.


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