A Dysfunctional Marriage: Addiction and Depression
Depression and addiction have been described as a married couple who bring out the worst in each other but can’t live apart.
Professionals have various perspectives about which comes first—depression or addiction. It’s a “the chicken or the egg” situation. But experts agree that depression and addiction often go hand in hand. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry estimates that at least a third of adults who struggle with addiction also struggle with depression.
Many people turn to substances to numb pain, whether it’s pain from depression, other mental illnesses, trauma or abuse, or other circumstances in life. A dual diagnosis is when a person has any mental disorder, such as depression, as well as an addiction.
It may feel like alcohol or drugs are a treatment for depression, but actually they can be a trigger for depression. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that can bring on feelings of hopelessness. The feelings of hopelessness cause many people to turn back to the bottle, and a self-feeding cycle is formed.
Prolonged drug addiction can alter the brain’s programming, making it harder and harder to get out of cycles of depression. The physical effects a substance can have on a body, or the hardship of withdrawal, can send people back into depression.
Signs of Depression
Because depression can so often lead, or feed into, an addiction, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of depression early on. If you think you may be depressed, receive treatment as soon as possible instead of turning to substances to self-medicate. For an in-depth description of the types, causes, and treatments for depression, visit PsychCentral.
It can be difficult to distinguish between depression and feeling down in the dumps because of life circumstances. Symptoms of depression include:
- Feeling hopeless
- Feeling worthless
- Feeling guilt/shame
- Physical aches
- Loss of interest in activities that once interested you
- Difficulty thinking, concentrating, or functioning
- Crying more than normal
- Increased or decreased appetite/weight gain
- Increased or decreased sleep
- Irritability/hostility (more common in men)
- Reckless behavior
- Thoughts of suicide or suicide attempts
Seek help immediately if a loved one displays any of these symptoms:
- Talking about harming or killing oneself
- Reckless behavior (as if their life doesn’t matter to them)
- Giving away belongings or trying to tie loose ends
- Saying goodbye to people
- Feeling trapped
- Saying phrases like “People would be better without me.”
If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 1-800-273-TALK, read this page on Suicide Help, or go to Suicide.org to find a hotline in your country.
If you have been self-medicating with substances, feelings of depression might surface when you go off of substances. This is why it is so important to seek help to treat the root causes.
Dual diagnosis is difficult to treat because one diagnosis drags down the other. For example, a man who struggles with alcoholism might have trouble overcoming his addiction because his depression makes it difficult for him to see a hope for the future. Or, a woman with a drug addiction may not experience the full effects of her antidepressant medication because her recreational drugs counteract the antidepressant, making it ineffective. Or, a man in recovery is so scared of a relapse that he is wary of taking any prescription drugs whatsoever, including a necessary anti-depressant prescribed by a doctor.
Therapy is important because it helps people understand if their depression existed before addiction, or if drug and alcohol use brought on symptoms. A person who was depressed before beginning to use substances is more likely to need medication and longer treatment than someone who was depressed because of the effects of addiction.
Victory Addiction Recovery Center understands that the reasons and solutions for addiction are complex, which is why they provide counseling to address the deep issues of depression alongside addiction recovery. Licensed staff give support to individuals and families who want to sort out the causes and effects of dual diagnosis. If you or someone you know is depressed and using substances to self-medicate, contact Victory Addiction Recovery Center and ask about how to get help.
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