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.

How Depression Fuels Risk Taking

Depression’s impact on risky behavior can be profound and complex. Statistics reveal a concerning reality: approximately 30 percent of individuals suffering from major depression eventually succumb to suicide. Beyond this grim statistic, a vast majority of those with major depression have at least contemplated suicide, even if they haven’t acted on these thoughts. This contemplation of self-harm or suicide is a critical point in understanding the nature of depression and its consequences.

The inclination towards reckless behavior in individuals with depression can be interpreted as a form of partial suicide. This concept refers to a curious and paradoxical phenomenon where actions taken aren’t directly intended to end one’s life, yet they carry a significant risk of doing so. Engaging in dangerous activities, therefore, becomes a manifestation of the inner turmoil and despair that these individuals are experiencing.

This is not just a cry for help or a means of seeking attention; it’s a complex psychological state where the value of one’s life and safety becomes diminished. It’s as if, through these reckless acts, individuals are expressing their inner pain and hopelessness in a tangible way, pushing the boundaries of their existence without overtly seeking its end.

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

General risk-taking is a significant indicator, where individuals may engage in behaviors like unsafe sex, dangerous driving, getting into physical altercations, or interacting with prostitutes. These actions often intertwine with issues of anger and irritability commonly seen in those with depression, leading to a tendency toward violent outbursts. This kind of behavior can be a way for individuals to express or cope with the intense emotions they are experiencing due to depression.

Substance Abuse and Addictions

Substance abuse and addictions are also prevalent among those with depression. Common substances include drugs, tobacco, and alcohol, which are often used as a means of self-medication. However, addictive behaviors can extend beyond substance abuse to include gambling, sexual activities, pornography, compulsive shopping, binge eating, and even an unhealthy obsession with work. In many cases, these behaviors serve as a distraction or a means of avoiding the processing of complex emotions related to their depressive state.


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 in the Denver Area

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 having trouble maintaining healthy habits then you probably have questions. This is normal and we would be happy to help you find the answers you seek. 

 Self Care Impact Counseling envisions a new age of counseling for adolescents, adults, couples & groups that makes a REAL difference with core values of GROWTH | BALANCE | COMPASSION | INNER HARMONY.