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Dealing with Depression In Addiction Recovery

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 Depression and addiction tend to occur simultaneously in people suffering from co-occurring disorders. People might start drinking or using drugs to make themselves feel better and suppress their depressive symptoms. Conversely, other people may find they feel depressed when the effects of alcohol or drugs wear off. With October being National Depression Education and Awareness Month, it is important to understand how to deal with depression in addiction recovery.

What Is Depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression, which is also referred to as major depressive disorder, affects how you think, feel, and handle your emotions and daily routines. There are also different types of depression based on the extent of the symptoms you experience and their severity. 

For example, some people may feel depressed in the winter because they are suffering from seasonal affective disorder. Other people could experience major depressive episodes that last for at least two weeks, but dissipate, only to return later.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

To be clinically diagnosed with depression, you must experience some of the following signs and symptoms for at least two weeks or longer. Individual signs and symptoms do not need to persist most of the time, every day. You just need to have overlapping signs and symptoms. 

  • Feeling worthless and hopeless.
  • Experience persistent sadness and the inability to feel happy.
  • Feeling overly anxious, nervous, restless, irritable, or frustrated.
  • Changes in your appetite where you do not eat or overeat “comfort foods.”
  • Changes in energy levels.
  • Losing all interest in hobbies, activities, work, and family life.
  • Problems making decisions, concentrating, and focusing. 
  • Changes in sleep cycles where you cannot sleep or sleep too much.
  • Experiencing body aches, pains, cramps, and headaches without any actual physical cause.
  • Having digestive and gastrointestinal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. 
  • Thinking about or contemplating self-harm or suicide because you believe everyone would be better off without you around. 
  • Turning to drugs and alcohol as a means to self-medicate and treat your depressive signs and symptoms.

The Link Between Depression and Substance Abuse

About half the people with a substance use disorder (SUD) also suffer from a mental health disorder, such as depression, anxiety disorders, ADHD, or bipolar disorder, as reported by the National Institute of Mental Health. For example, experiencing depressive symptoms can cause a person to drink or use drugs to alleviate one’s symptoms and eventually lead to SUD. 

While they are misusing alcohol and drugs, the effects of the substance can make them feel more normal. They may feel short bursts of happiness, joy, and excitement. They can also experience lowered inhibitions, increased risk-taking, and a boost to their sexual drive.

These sensations and feelings experienced while under the effect of a substance can cause a person to continue self-medicating their symptoms. However, the unfortunate reality is that once the substance wears off, their depressive symptoms return, often more severe and intense. 

So, they end up getting into an endless cycle where they drink or use drugs to alleviate their symptoms, only to have them return. Eventually, they become addicted and believe they need the substance just to function. 

In addition, the changes that occur in the brain from SUD can cause a person to develop depression the more they misuse substances. The more they misuse the substance, the more their dependence and addiction grow. 

Eventually, they get to the point where they can start to experience depressive signs and symptoms whenever they are not under the influence of the substance. So, they, too, get into an endless cycle where they misuse substances just to avoid feeling depressed.

Coping Strategies For Depression In Addiction Recovery

The most important coping strategy for treating depression in addiction recovery is to seek treatment for the co-occurring disorders. Unfortunately, attempting to treat one or the other first will only make it more difficult and often results in relapse.

Other beneficial coping strategies include:

  • Take Care of Your Physical Health – Eating a healthy diet, exercising daily, and getting sufficient quality sleep are essential to your mental health. When your body is strong and healthy, your mental health also improves. 
  • Establish a Set Daily Routine – During rehab, you will develop a daily routine. Sticking to this routine once you leave rehab and return home is essential. This provides structure and helps you keep your mind focused on one thing at a time. 
  • Put Yourself and Needs First – Some people will put their spouse’s, partner’s, or children’s needs before theirs. However, when recovering from depression and addiction, you need to put yourself and your needs first. You need to focus on your physical, mental, and spiritual needs and ensure they are met before caring for your loved ones.

Find Treatment For Depression and Addiction Recovery in Orange County, CA

 You are never alone when you are ready to take the first steps to treat your depression and SUD when you turn to Pacific Sands Recovery Center in Orange County, CA, for help. We offer personalized co-occurring treatment plans tailored to your specific needs at our IMS and JCAHO-accredited treatment center. To start the intake process or for further information about our treatment programs, please visit our admissions page today.


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