Depression Signs, Symptoms & Effects

Understanding the signs, symptoms, and possible effects of co-occurring depression can be an important first step on the path toward improved health. Sierra by the Sea in Newport Beach, California, is proud to be a source of accurate and relevant information about the impact of co-occurring depression.

Understanding Depression

Learn about co-occurring depression

Addiction is often accompanied by co-occurring mental health challenges. Depression is one of the most common co-occurring disorders that can impact adults whose lives have also been disrupted by addiction.

On their own, addiction and depression can have a significant negative impact on a person’s life. When they occur at the same time, addiction and co-occurring depression can make it extremely difficult, or virtually impossible, for a person to lead a productive and satisfying life.

Depression is a general term that refers to a category of disorders. The clinical term for this category is depressive disorders. Two of the most common types of depressive disorders are major depressive disorder and persistent depressive disorder. Both these types of depression are characterized by symptoms such as pervasive sadness, diminished energy levels, sleep and appetite changes, low motivation, inability to experience pleasure, and a sense of hopelessness or helplessness.

To be diagnosed with major depressive disorder, a person must experience multiple symptoms most of the day, for most days, over a period of at least two weeks. These symptoms must be severe enough to cause considerable distress or to impair the individual’s ability to function.

To be diagnosed with persistent depressive disorder, a person must experience certain symptoms for most of the day, for most days, over a period of at least two years. During this period, the symptoms will not always cause the significant degree of distress that is characteristic of major depressive disorder. However, people who have persistent depressive disorder may also have major depressive episodes.

Some individuals use alcohol or other addictive substances in a misguided attempt to self-medicate symptoms of depression. This self-defeating behavior can exacerbate the depression symptoms while also leading to the development of an addiction. In other cases, the persistent negative impact of addiction can bring about the onset of symptoms of depression.

Regardless of how the disorders developed, the simultaneous presence of addiction and co-occurring depression can be a complex challenge. However, when a person gets appropriate professional care, they can learn to manage their symptoms and make the lifestyle changes that will empower them to achieve improved quality of life.


Statistics about depression

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) have reported the following statistics about depression among adults in the United States:

Causes & Risk Factors for Depression

Potential causes of depression

There is no single cause or set of causes that will definitively lead to the onset of depression. However, the likelihood that you will develop a depressive disorder can be influenced by a variety of internal and external factors. The following are among the factors that can put you at increased risk for depression:

  • Family history of mental illness, especially if a parent or sibling has struggled with a mental health concern
  • Personal history of struggles with addiction or other mental health challenges
  • Personal history of being abused, neglected, or otherwise exposed to childhood adversity
  • Gender (depressive disorders are less common among men than among women)
  • Having a chronic medical condition

Signs & Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of depression

As with the causes and risk factors for depression, the signs and symptoms of depressive disorders can vary from person to person. The following are among the more common behavioral, physical, and mental symptoms that may indicate that a person is struggling with depression:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Pulling away from friends or family members
  • No longer participating in activities that were once of great significance
  • Frequent absenteeism from school or work
  • Failing to pay bills or otherwise meet personal responsibilities
  • Uncharacteristic emotional responses, such as crying for no apparent reason
  • Lack of attention to self-care, personal hygiene, or grooming
  • Making repeated references to death and dying

Physical symptoms:

  • Frequent headaches or abdominal pain
  • Significant changes in appetite, and resultant weight loss or gain
  • Persistent fatigue or lethargy
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Sexual dysfunction

Mental symptoms:

  • Dramatic mood swings
  • Memory problems
  • Poor judgment
  • Indecisiveness
  • Diminished ability to concentrate or focus
  • Low self-esteem
  • Pervasive sense of helplessness or hopelessness
  • Persistent thoughts of death and dying
  • Thoughts of suicide

Please note that the symptoms listed above are included here for general informational purposes only. Depression cannot be self-diagnosed. The only way to determine if you have depression is to complete a thorough assessment and receive an accurate diagnosis from a qualified professional.

Effects of Depression

The negative impact of co-occurring depression

In the absence of effective professional care, a person who has depression is at increased risk for a variety of immediate and long-term effects. The following are examples of the many potential negative effects of depression:

  • Discord within your family
  • Strained or ruined relationships with friends, peers, or colleagues
  • Failure to make acceptable progress in school
  • Substandard performance at work
  • Inability to find and keep a job
  • Financial struggles
  • Medical concerns due to poor self-care
  • Substance use and addiction
  • Onset or worsening of other mental health challenges
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Self-harm
  • Suicidal thoughts or behaviors


Please note that this is not a comprehensive list of all possible effects of depression, nor is it a list of unavoidable outcomes. When you get proper professional care for an addiction and co-occurring depression, you limit your risk for experiencing effects such as the ones listed above. Professional assistance can also help you heal from any past harm that you have already experienced.


Choosing to get help for an addiction and co-occurring depression is a courageous step that can yield significant immediate and long-term benefits.

Co-Occurring Disorders

Common co-occurring disorders among people who develop depression

People who develop depression may also be at increased risk for various additional mental or behavioral health challenges. The following are among the more common co-occurring disorders that may impact individuals who have depression:

  • Substance use disorders (this is the clinical term for addiction)
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Eating disorders
  • Panic disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

Recovering from substance use disorders is a challenging journey that feels more doable in an environment that tends to each individual’s complex needs and strengths. Our goal is to foster a treatment experience that is built on compassion, hope, and caring, and fueled by excellence in the provision of evidence-based and trauma-informed care.

– - Anonymous