How Depression and Addiction Feed One Another
It’s common knowledge that many people turn to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate for the pain of depression or anxiety. But, far from making these problems go away, using can often make them worse. Over time, deeper depression can set in, making it even harder to take the steps necessary to heal.
Addiction and Depression: The Vicious Cycle
Often, people will turn to drugs or alcohol to deal with emotional pain caused by depression and anxiety. But, the effect can be short-lived. Coming down from a high can cause an emotional crash that leaves them feeling worse than they did before.
Additionally, behaviors that often come with drug dependency can cause negative consequences. A poor attendance record at work or school can cause your loved one to lose opportunities. Theft from family or friend can cause broken relationships or even legal repercussions. All of these can lead to feelings of self-hatred and hopelessness, making any underlying clinical depression worse.
Plus, there are physiological issues, at hand, as well. A person who is dealing with drug dependency may not be taking care of him or herself as well as possible. They may suffer from lack of sleep, malnutrition or exposure to the elements. And, drug use can disrupt the brain’s use of dopamine, making it harder for an individual to regulate their moods.
What Are Mood Disorders?
If someone feels sad all the time, it is likely that their emotional state is not just related to their situation. They may also suffer from a major mood disorder such as depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder.
People who suffer from depression will feel oppressive sadness that lasts for weeks, months or years with little or no respite. Symptoms of depression can include lack of enthusiasm for daily activities, feelings of irritability and guilt, lack of energy or lethargy, and physical aches and pains that do not have a physical cause. It is not possible for someone with depression to just “get over it” or to make themselves feel better through willpower alone. To see lasting relief, they will need to seek out treatment.
Treating Co-Occurring Conditions Together
In the past, drug treatment centers would focus on getting someone’s drug use under control before addressing any underlying mental health issues such as mood disorders. Often, people would think that any depression associated with drug use was circumstantial and would naturally be made better through addiction treatment. However, newer research shows that this way of thinking about drug use and depression is outmoded and counterproductive.
We have a better understanding of both addiction and depression and realize that the relationship is not so simple. In some cases, people have underlying depression that existed before their relationship with drugs and alcohol. In others, people can experience major depression years after drug use.
By addressing mood disorders and drug dependency at the same time but as separate issues, your loved one gets better care. During treatment, they will learn coping skills that can be applied to multiple areas of their lives, making them more resilient and healthier. This creates a better foundation for life after substance abuse and makes for lasting sobriety.
- Taite, Richard Psychology Today “What Comes First, Depression or Addiction?” March 18, 2014 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/ending-addiction-good/201403/what-comes-first-depression-or-addiction
- Nazrul Islam SK, Nutritional status of drug addicts undergoing detoxification National Institutes of Health 11/2002 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12425731
- Sacks, David Psychology Today “Tough Truths You Should Know About Addiction, Depression” August 14, 2014 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/where-science-meets-the-steps/201408/tough-truths-you-should-know-about-addiction-depression
- Ellis, Mary Ellen Healthline “Affective Disorders (Mood Disorders) May 30, 2013 http://www.healthline.com/health/affective-disorders#Overview1