addiction and depression

Depression and Addiction

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

If you have never experienced it, depression sits like a darkness over a person’s life and seems impossible to get free from. Loss of hope and a diminished desire act or to take steps in any direction is common—to the point that even getting out of bed can seem like an insurmountable task.

Around the world, about 350 million people suffer from depression, and since so many people go to drugs or alcohol to try to lift their spirits or numb their days, it’s not surprising that depression is common amongst people with an addiction. However, when this is the case, the recovery journey and the approach to treatment looks a little different.

First Things First

Depression generally feels like a loss of hope, sadness, low-energy, loss of interest in life and more. As well, one in three adults who struggle with alcohol or drug abuse also suffers from depression.

If you are not sure if you are just feeling sad or if you are actually dealing with full-blown depression, here are a few of the symptoms to keep an eye out for. If you have four or five of these occurring regularly, you might be dealing with depression in your life.

  • A loss of interest in activities or hobbies
  • A sense of worthlessness
  • Ache and pains
  • Aggression or reckless behavior
  • An overwhelming sense of sadness
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty concentrating on daily tasks
  • Excessive drinking or use of drugs
  • Extreme changes in appetite
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • General irritability
  • Little to no motivation or enthusiasm
  • Loss of concentration and interest
  • Loss of energy
  • On-going negative thoughts and comments
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts

Self Medicate

Depression is often a doorway to substance abuse. When a person is feeling some of the above symptoms, they will naturally try to alleviate them. Of course, when they turn to drugs or alcohol, this is called self-medicating. And the result can have powerfully negative effects that most are unaware of.

In the case of alcohol (as well as many illicit drugs), a person with depression is looking to feel better; however, they are giving their central nervous system a “depressant.” The use of any depressant will trigger or exacerbate the debilitating symptoms of depression.

Dual Diagnosis

The result is a cycle of one condition adding fuel to the other. This is quite common in people struggling with addiction. In fact, when a person has a substance use disorder as well as a mental health one (such as depression, anxiety, bipolar), their situation is called a “dual diagnosis.” A person struggling with both depression and addiction is in a dire situation and must find help to understand and manage multiple aspects of their lives. This is why treatment is individualized to every person’s specific needs.

Our health matters. It matters in our lives for wellness, self-worth, and overall longevity. However, health is more than physical. Most people feel like as long as they are getting their exercise in and eating well, they have the “whole health thing” covered. As important as both of those are, they are only part of the picture.

Anyone who has been in addiction treatment is aware that addiction is more than a simple physical need. How we perceive and interact with the world, our self-worth, and our mental health—these places are where the biggest battles for recovery are waged. It makes sense that one of the most important aspects of long-term recovery is the ability to understand your mental health and take steps to manage it.

Long-term Health

Are you or a loved one struggling with depression and addiction? You are not alone. The combination of addiction and depression is rampant in the world today. At First Steps Recovery, we can help. Please call us today, and we can work with you to understand the complex web of substance use disorder and guide you to the best path of recovery. Call: 844-489-0836.

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