Depression and Addiction – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around one in ten Americans suffer from depression. People with depression and other mental health disorders are a higher risk for substance abuse, and indeed, the two conditions frequently co-occur.
In 2016, the U.S. Surgeon General reported that nearly 21 million Americans experienced a substance use disorder, which includes the abuse of alcohol, prescription painkillers, or illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
Finally, an estimated one in four adults with a mental health condition is reported to also engage in substance abuse, and depression is believed to be the most common. In fact, the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reports that about one-third of adults who struggle with alcohol or drug abuse also suffer from depression.
Moreover, substance abuse is incredibly common among those who are battling a depressive disorder. Depression can drive people to use substances as a coping mechanism and means of self-medication. In turn, substance abuse tends to create and intensify symptoms of depression and other mental health conditions.
What is a Dual Diagnosis?
When a person experiences both depression and addiction, this referred to as a dual diagnosis. Co-occurring conditions can consist of any combination of mental illness such as anxiety or depression and the abuse of drugs or alcohol.
Having depression increases one’s risk of self-harm and suicidal behaviors. When a person abuses substances, the risk of harm to oneself and others rises exponentially.
Moreover, depression and addiction are not merely two separate entities – they overlap and exacerbate each other.
How is Depression Diagnosed?
Being sad once in a while is not the same as clinical depression, which tends to be a chronic condition and can dramatically wax and wane over time. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 4th Edition (DSM-IV), clinical depression last for two weeks or more, and interferes with one’s ability to maintain healthy relationships and function socially and professionally.
People who suffer from depressive may these symptoms daily:
- Feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Increased appetite and weight gain
- Insomnia, over-sleepiness, or sleep disturbances
- Sadness and crying
- Ache and pains
- Loss of energy
- Feelings of guilt
- Concentration difficulties
- Loss of interest in activities once considered enjoyable
- Suicidal ideations
While depression commonly manifests itself through feelings of sadness and fatigue, some people also experience hostility and anger. In any case, depression is not merely the occasionally “blues” and is markedly different from the person’s typical emotional and mental state.
Clinical depression often results in the tasks of daily life becoming seeming unbearable, and the person feels as if this mood is permanent and unchangeable. These feelings become a gateway to addiction in an attempt to resolve the pain and hopelessness that has hijacked one’s life.
Depression often leads to addiction because those who suffer often abuse substances to try to escape their emotional state.
Critical signs of addiction include the following:
- Tolerance – The body becomes used to the effects of the substance and diminishes the response. This condition results in the user needing increasing amounts of the substance to achieve the desired result.
- Withdrawal symptoms – Unpleasant symptoms arise when someone tries to quit using drugs or alcohol. These effects vary in severity and duration based on a myriad of factors such as the drug used and the intensity of use.
- Feelings of guilt or remorse – Feeling worse after substance abuse rather than better, knowing that one is engaging in unhealthy and potentially destructive behavior.
- Relapse – Drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms result in a return to substance abuse.
Treating Both Depression and Addiction
Through participation in a comprehensive treatment program can help people heal themselves and regain their lives by pulling themselves out of the dregs of depression and addiction.
When people who suffer from depression and addiction try to abstain from substances, sometimes depression can get worse. When the underlying emotional problems that drive one’s addiction are not addressed, the likelihood of relapse is high.
A dual diagnosis can be far more challenging to treat than either one condition alone because each disorder feeds into the other. Therefore, a traditional one-dimensional program will not be sufficient to address the problems of someone with a co-occurring mental illness.
Moreover, only staff who employ comprehensive programs that can address the needs of people with both addiction and psychiatric problems are qualified to plan and execute treatment. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), an integrated treatment plan should include these goals:
- Help the client understand what causes depression
- Teach the client that is it possible to recover from both conditions
- Motivate the client to make significant life changes
- Give the client usable skills for managing negative thoughts and feeling
- Help the client identify and change negative behavior patterns that fuel the addiction
- Use medication-assisted treatment as appropriate to control symptoms of depression and addiction
Support, encouragement, and motivation are critical tools in the fight against addiction and depression. Through therapy, counseling, and peer support, you can regain your sanity and enjoy the happy, fulfilling life you deserve.