How Depression Impacts Addiction

Struggling with depression can lead you to dark places where you just want a sense of relief. To find that relief, many people turn to drugs and alcohol. While drugs and alcohol can provide temporary relief from depression symptoms, using these substances can often lead to problems later on, such as addiction. Having an addiction and a mental health disorder is known as a co-occurring disorder. Understanding how depression can impact addiction can help you avoid the risks and learn to cope in healthy ways.

Defining Depression

Many people believe that depression is the same as feeling sad, but it is more complex than that. Depression is a mental health disorder that can cause lows that last for weeks, months, and even years. Symptoms can affect your day-to-day life, such as how you think, feel, and function. The disorder is diagnosed when symptoms are present for two weeks or more. There are various kinds of depression that have different causes. Types of depression include:

  • Major depressive disorder
  • Persistent depressive disorder
  • Psychotic depression
  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Postpartum depression

What Causes Depression?

Understanding the causes of depression can help individuals know how to cope with its symptoms and keep up with their mental health. Often, depression is caused by a mixture of social, psychological, and biological factors. You may be more likely to experience depression if you have a genetic predisposition, but having family members with depression does not automatically mean you will have the disorder. Environmental factors also play a significant role, including unemployment, grief, trauma, unexpected life changes, and more. Knowing these causes and what symptoms to look for can help you notice if you are exhibiting signs of depression and get the help you need.

Symptoms of Depression

There are a variety of symptoms that you may experience when going through depression. Everyone will experience the disorder differently, and thus symptoms will manifest in different ways depending on your individual experience. However, there are specific symptoms that professionals look for to make a depression diagnosis. If any of the following symptoms persist for two weeks or more, you may be suffering from depression:

  • Irritability
  • Changes in sleep habits
  • Fatigue
  • Persistent sadness
  • Feeling empty
  • Moving or talking slower than normal
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Memory problems
  • Decreased interest or pleasure
  • Changes in weight or appetite
  • Problems concentrating
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Restlessness
  • Physical problems such as headaches, muscle aches, digestive issues, or cramps

How Depression Is Linked to Addiction

A variety of studies have shown that mood disorders, specifically depression, are among the most common co-occurring disorders in patients with addiction. The symptoms of depression can often cause people to self-medicate; drugs and alcohol are commonly used to provide temporary relief. However, the person’s body will build up a tolerance to the substances, causing them to need more of them to function properly. Over time, their body will become dependent on drugs or alcohol, causing them to experience withdrawal symptoms when they cease use. To manage withdrawal symptoms, people will typically return to the substances, keeping them locked in the cycle of addiction.

Potential Dangers

Even though drugs and alcohol can provide temporary relief for depression symptoms, they can worsen symptoms over time. When you go through withdrawal, you run the risk of worsening your depression. One of the most common withdrawal symptoms includes depression, which can often be worse than the depression you experienced beforehand. This is why there is no definitive answer on if addiction causes depression or vice-versa -- the two are intertwined. The more you use drugs and alcohol to cope, the worse your depression gets. The worse your depression gets, the more likely you are to use drugs and alcohol. Treatment is the best option for breaking the cycle and finding healing.

Treatment Options

Individuals struggling with both depression and addiction will find the most benefits in a dual diagnosis program. These programs treat addiction and any co-occurring disorders simultaneously to give the patient the best chance at recovery. Without treating them simultaneously, the person runs the risk of not healing the underlying causes of addiction and returning to the only ways they know how to cope. Programs that treat co-occurring disorders typically have a variety of treatment modalities to address patients’ needs and help them find lasting recovery.

Common treatment modalities used in dual diagnosis care include:

  • Clinically supervised detox
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Motivational Interviewing (MI)
  • Individual and group therapy
  • Experiential therapies
  • Somatic therapy
  • Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
  • Mindfulness and meditation
  • Relapse prevention

Depression is one of the most common causes in the development of addiction that individuals face. The symptoms of depression can be caused by several social, psychological, and biological factors. These symptoms can cause much discomfort in a person’s life, causing them to seek relief from other sources. Those that do not know how to cope healthily may turn to drugs and alcohol for temporary relief. However, this can lead to addiction down the road. NorthStar Transitions has worked with numerous clients that have struggled with depression and addiction. Our dual diagnosis program utilizes various methods to help address our clients’ individual needs in recovery. Our Colorado facility is tailored to your recovery needs to help you find real-life healing. With NorthStar, you can be sure to land on your feet and maintain sobriety for the long term. Call us to learn more at (303) 558-6400. Experience the NorthStar difference today.

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