Destination Hope Blog » Dual Diagnosis: Why Anxiety and Depression Come With Addiction

Dual Diagnosis: Why Anxiety and Depression Come With Addiction

A dual diagnosis occurs when a mental illness co-exists with an addiction or substance use disorder. Common dual diagnoses include anxiety and addiction or depression and addiction, especially in women. In fact, women are twice as likely to experience depression and anxiety as men. Interestingly, women tend to develop the mood disorder first, while men start with the addiction.

Someone with an anxiety or depressive disorder is at a higher risk of addiction, and someone dealing with addiction has a higher risk of developing anxiety or depression. People with a dual diagnosis are also prone to multiple mental health disorders, not just anxiety or depression. So why is this the case?

The Reasons Behind a Dual Diagnosis


A woman with depression or anxiety may struggle to calm her nerves or process her emotions. As a result, she may turn to alcohol to numb the feelings or attain a ‘high’ that allows her to forget them. Almost instantly, a dual diagnosis cycle of self-medication goes into effect that is very difficult to break. Alternatively, if the addiction develops first, a woman may feel depressed or nervous, which could lead to even more substance abuse. These disorders are very closely intertwined.

Family History

Mental illness and addiction are not strictly caused by environmental factors or heredity, but a child who grows up around addiction is at higher risk of developing it herself. The same goes for children with depressed mothers, who are then at a higher risk for a psychiatric disorder. We don’t know the full science behind these correlations, only that they exist. Researchers suspect that genetics may influence the way we react to drug abuse, which could explain the onset of mental illness in some people but not others.

Untreated Dual Diagnosis

Evidence is mounting that dual diagnosis occurs more often than we realized, which means that a high number of people are living with an untreated dual diagnosis. The longer these conditions persist, the more intense they become. In essence, the mood disorder and addiction feed off of each other until it is almost impossible to tell which one came first. Physically, the body struggles to repair itself in the wake of addiction and mental illness.


An integrated approach can be the key to treating a dual diagnosis. By focusing on treating the addiction and mental illness together, the symptoms decrease markedly. As the symptoms of addiction drop off, people often show a substantial improvement in mental health as well. As we learn more about dual diagnosis, we can provide effective treatment to those who need it.

If you or a woman you love is having problems with drug abuse, alcohol dependency and mental illness, dual diagnosis treatment for women may be the answer.  Remember that recovery from addiction and alcohol abuse treatment means learning how to cope with intensely emotional situations, and identifying when you need help and support.  Treatment for addiction relapse, counseling, and aftercare can help you do this, so please call us today.  Destination Hope: The Women’s Program is a full service addiction and women’s health treatment facility in Florida for women who suffer from substance abuse and behavioral health issues.