Depressed & Reckless? The Connection Between Your Mood and Risky Behavior

You might know someone who is known as the life of the party. They’re daredevils and seem unafraid to try anything. What if you found out they were struggling with depression?

It’s counterintuitive. Say the word “depression” and it conjures up images of isolation, sadness, loss of self-worth. This is not exactly the accepted description of a party animal or thrill seeker.

Yet, depression is like that. It is an insidious condition that can effectively mask its own existence. It often breeds a vast array of unhealthy coping strategies. Understanding the connection between your mood and risky behavior can be a life-saver.

What Kind of Reckless Behaviors Should You Look For?

This can vary on a case-by-case basis. However, there are some common signs to look for.

General Risk-Taking

This can take the form of unsafe sex, dangerous driving, getting into fights, meeting with prostitutes, and more. Some of this dovetails with the anger-depression connection. People with depression struggle with anger issues, irritability, and a tendency toward violent outbursts.

Substance Abuse and Addictions

Drugs, tobacco, and alcohol come to mind as common self-medicating choices. That said, addictions can range from gambling to sex to pornography. They can include compulsive shopping, binge eating, and more. Some of those dealing with depression can even become addicted to their jobs. They see it as a way to avoid processing their emotions.


Most people think of self-injury as something done in secrecy. Developed from a depressive disorder, it can be more open — almost exhibitionist. Cutting, scratching, burning, etc. are all typical. Depression-related self-harm also encompasses the risk-taking discussed above.

Suicidal Tendencies

Sure, you could argue that everything on this list shows some version of suicidal ideation. As those choices escalate, they begin to look more and more like suicide planning and attempts. Keep in mind that two out of three suicides are related to depression.

If you or someone you know is involved with any of the above, depression must be considered a possible cause.

The Connection Between Your Mood and Risky Behavior

When confronted by painful emotions, most people choose avoidance. The more unbearable the feeling is, the harder it is to evade. Therefore, the depressed person goes to greater extremes to numb the discomfort.

Speeding in your car positions you directly within the present moment. It’s terribly risky but offers a hint of temporary freedom. Driving or taking drugs literally numbs the anger or the feeling of worthlessness or powerlessness.

Reckless behavior is frequently a replacement for saying things like:

  • I’m suffering and don’t know what to do.
  • I don’t deserve to feel good or happy.
  • There’s no one I trust or can talk to.
  • I’m too scared to admit what’s going on.

The variations are endless but the concept holds. Individuals carrying unresolved pain or trauma often find desperate ways to address it. In fact, other mental illnesses can manifest in a similar way. These may include bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder. A lack of emotional regulation can result in an increase in reckless choices being made.

Get Some Answers

You don’t have to diagnose yourself. But you do have to recognize that such unhealthy choices are not helping in any way. They just make everything worse for yourself and others in your life. Working regularly with a therapist is a giant step in addressing all of this. A skilled mental health professional can help you:

  • Identify what you’re doing and why
  • Develop healthier ways of expressing emotions
  • Recognize and address underlying issues that are being neglected

I’ll bet this sounds like a better alternative. If so, it all begins with a single phone call. Read more about anxiety and depression treatment.  If you are in the Denver area (Lakewood & Longmont locations), let’s connect for a free consultation soon.