Clinical depression is a severe mental disorder that can lead to adverse consequences for the person who suffers as well as his or her loved ones. Unfortunately, this type of depression is common and affects millions of people and prevents them from living healthy, happy lives.
Substance abuse is common among those who are struggling with a depressive disorder. Many depressed people turn to drugs or alcohol as a means to self-medicate and or escape painful thoughts and feelings. As a result, substance abuse and depression feed into one other, with each condition often making the other even worse.
By some estimates, approximately 25% of adults with a mental health condition also have a substance use disorder. When a person suffers from both mental illness and addiction, this is known as a dual diagnosis. Also referred to as co-occurring conditions, the combination of depressive disorders and substance abuse is among the most common. An estimated one in three adults who suffer from depression also struggles with issues related to substance abuse or addiction.
Both clinical depression and addiction pose a high risk of accidental injury, self-harm, and suicide. Also, both have adverse effects on the body, increasing the risk of other physical and emotional health problems.
Is It Depression or Just Being Sad?
It’s important to note that brief periods of sadness or grief is not the same thing as clinical depression. Clinical depressions typically last for weeks, months, or years and interfere with a person’s ability to work or go to school, maintain healthy relationships, and function socially or engage in enjoyable hobbies and activities.
People with depression may experience several of the following symptoms daily:
- Feelings of hopelessness and despair
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Sleeping too much
- Aches and pains
- Lack of energy
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Difficulties with concentrating
- A loss of interest in activities or hobbies
- Feelings of apathy
- Nihilism/believing life is meaningless
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Most frequently, depression manifests as feelings of sadness, low energy, and hopelessness. However, some people, especially men, experience depression as hostility or anger. Regardless of how depression expresses itself, it should be evident that this mental state is quite different from the person’s norm.
When a person has clinical depression, the basic tasks of daily life may seem impossible, and the mood seems unending and permanent. Drinking excessively or using drugs might seem like an effective way to relieve the overwhelming pain and emptiness that a person with depression experiences.
Depression as a Gateway to Addiction
Depression frequently serves as a gateway to substance abuse. Those who experience negative emotional states often use alcohol or drugs in an effort to escape or numb these emotions. Unfortunately, however, people who are severely depressed are likely to stay that way if they continue this method of self-medication rather than seeking professional treatment. And those who use drugs or alcohol regularly are at a high risk of developing a dependence or full-blown addiction.
Warning signs of a burgeoning addiction include the following:
Tolerance – When tolerance occurs, the body has been accustomed to the presence of the substance and requires increasing amounts to achieve the desired effects.
Dependence and withdrawal – Dependence occurs when the body has fully adapted to a substance’s presence and can no longer function “normally” without it. Dependence can be both chemical and psychological in nature, and when it occurs, attempts to quit the use of a substance will be met with unpleasant mental or emotional symptoms that, at worst, can be life-threatening.
Feelings of guilt and shame – Although a person is using a substance to feel better, they ultimately feel worse. They may be ashamed of doing this and experience intense feelings of remorse as a result.
Relapse – Cravings and withdrawal symptoms drive a person to return to substance abuse after attempting to quit.
For some people who experience depression and addiction, giving up drugs or alcohol “cold turkey” can also make depression worse. If a person has used substances for years to bury depressive symptoms, these may rise to the surface early in sobriety. For this reason, it’s vital to receive integrated treatment for both depression and substance abuse simultaneously.
Moreover, if the underlying causes that drive addiction, such as depression, are not addressed, the likelihood of relapse will be much higher in the future. In some cases, people who have depression and addiction problems drop out of subpar rehab programs because sobriety feels life more than the person can handle without the appropriate level of therapeutic support for depression.
Recovery From Depression and Substance Abuse
One of the main reasons why a dual diagnosis notoriously difficult treat is that each disorder can exacerbate the symptoms of the other. Substance abuse causes emotional dysregulation, which can lead to a worsening of depression. When this occurs, the person may use more substances in a misguided effort to counteract this effect.
Indeed, there is a great deal of complexity involved in effectively treating a dual diagnosis patient. It has been well established among medical professions that those who have co-occurring conditions will not receive the care they need in a conventional, one-dimensional treatment program.
Only substance abuse rehab programs also equipped to address psychiatric problems will be able to effectively assist with detox, therapy, counseling, and aftercare planning. Such an integrated program will need to incorporate counseling, group support, behavioral therapy, education, and relapse prevention for both depression and addiction.
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an integrated treatment plan should include the following goals:
- Helping the client to understand the nature of depression and addiction
- Teaching the client that recovery from addiction and depression is possible
- Motivating the client to make significant changes in his or her life
- Providing the client with practical skills for handling negative thoughts and feelings
- Helping the client identify and change addictive patterns of behavior
Medication therapy is typically a core component of treatment for patients who suffer from addiction and depression. Antidepressant drugs have helped many people who struggle with this depression cope with their symptoms and lead more stable, satisfying lives. Also, addiction can be treated with other types of medications designed to curb cravings and reduce the symptoms of withdrawal.
A well-rounded approach to treatment that involves support, encouragement, and motivation is vital in the struggle against depression and addiction. Clinical depression can drain a person’s energy and make them feel that rehabilitation is a hopeless cause. But, through individual counseling, peer group support, and family counseling, individuals can get the strength they need to continue their recovery despite the challenges they will face.
Getting Rehab for Depression and Addiction
Harmony Treatment and Wellness offers customized, comprehensive programs intended to address the root causes of addiction as well as a person’s overall mental and physical well-being. Our programs feature therapies and activities shown to be vital for the recovery process, including the following:
- Individual and group counseling
- Peer support groups
- Substance abuse education
- Health and wellness education
- Holistic techniques, such as yoga
- Art, music, and adventure therapy
- Aftercare planning
If you or someone you love is suffering from active addiction to drugs or alcohol, contact us today! We give people the tools and support they need to free themselves from the shackles of addiction and begin to enjoy the healthy lives they deserve!