Many people who struggle with addiction also have underlying health issues that may cause them to self-medicate, such as depression. Depression can affect every aspect of a person’s life, and many people may not realize they have it instead of self-medicating the symptoms with drugs or alcohol. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that up to 10% of Americans suffer from depression.
Therefore, understanding the link between depression and addiction is essential, as treating depression may help an individual be more successful with addiction treatment and sobriety.
What are the Symptoms of Depression?
Depression is more than just being sad or “having the blues.” It’s characterized by ongoing periods of sadness, listlessness, or lethargy, and a loss of interest in activities the person once enjoyed. It can make it hard for people to take care of responsibilities for school or work. Depression also has other effects on a person, including:
- Disrupted sleep
- Changes in appetite, either eating too much or too little
- Irritability and lashing out
- Feelings of hopelessness
- An impending sense of doom
- Lack of energy
- Suicide ideation and attempts
As you can see, depression can be serious and may be caused by changes in brain chemistry. When people drink or use drugs, the chemicals in these substances act on the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, producing an artificial sense of joy, easing pain, or numbing sadness. Many people with substance abuse disorder (SAD) may actually be treating their depression.
Does Addiction Make Depression Worse?
Addiction can make depression worse. When people start drinking or using drugs, they can affect the neural pathways in the brain that control mood, pleasure, and reward feedback. The brain naturally produces hormones, like serotonin and dopamine, that give people joy or a feeling of accomplishment and pleasure. When individuals drink or use drugs, the compounds in them act on the hormone receptors in the brain, stimulating them and producing pleasure.
Over time, the brain stops producing its own reward chemicals and instead begins to rely on those supplied by alcohol and drugs. Many people may not realize that they have depression and why it’s hard for newly sober people to find joy in “normal life.”
Can Treating Depression Help Me Get Sober?
If you’re struggling with addiction to alcohol or drugs, you aren’t alone. Millions of people struggle with addiction, and each year, thousands begin the journey to sobriety. Entering a dual-diagnosis treatment center can help people with underlying mental health conditions get the treatment they need.
Diagnosing depression may not make someone become sober. However, a combination of the right medication and therapy can help people get into a better mental state to do the work of addiction treatment. Some therapies that help people with a substance abuse problem, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), may also help people who struggle with depression and anxiety. Often, once people understand the root cause of addiction, they’re better able to do the hard work of facing their troubles and making the daily decision to remain sober.
Do You Need Addiction Treatment?
At Hickory Treatment Centers, we approach addiction treatment from a holistic standpoint, treating the entire individual. We can help you receive treatment for depression and work with you to get clean and stay sober. Our compassionate counselors are professionally trained in addiction therapy. Call us today for a confidential assessment and more information about treatment options.