Veterans from any branch of the armed forces continue to feel the impact of their time in service on their mental health even after being discharged from active duty. Among these mental health concerns, depression can be exceptionally common. Combined with a culture that may celebrate the use of addictive substances, depression can have a profound effect on veteran sobriety. Depression and substance use in tandem can also have a dangerous, cyclic relationship. Thus, understanding the effects of depression on veteran sobriety is necessary to begin effective treatment at Hawaii Island Recovery.
Depression can be exceptionally difficult to overcome. Pervasive feelings of guilt, shame, and low mood can all have profound effects on each person’s lifestyle, making it difficult to tend to personal needs, responsibilities, work tasks, and other hobbies. Some signs of depression among veterans may include:
- Persistent low mood, or feeling of “emptiness”
- Disinterest in previous hobbies, interests, or social outlets
- Inconsistent eating habits
- Difficulty sleeping
- Inability or unwillingness to tend to responsibilities
- Feelings of pointlessness or pessimism
- Physical and emotional fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Increased use of drugs or alcohol
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Sources of Depression Among Veterans
Veterans have a myriad of mental health challenges to overcome following their experiences in the line of duty. From anxiety and panic to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), addressing the mental health needs of veterans and active service members is paramount. However, depression can still be the most common challenge for veterans to overcome, and veterans may experience personal, unique forms of depression for a variety of reasons.
Some of the most common challenges that can lead to depression in veterans include:
- Exposure to traumatic events in the line of duty
- Compromised sense of identity from military life or culture, especially among LGBTQ+ veterans or female veterans
- Feelings of loss, grief, or survivor’s guilt from losing brothers and sisters in arms
- Constant exposure to stress in military life, either on-base or through long deployments on tour
- Scars, aches, pains, and other physical injuries
- Barriers to treatment, either cultural or lack of access to address complex feelings when they manifest
- Transition stress or the loss of a feeling of belonging after leaving the military
- Long deployments away from family and loved ones
Drastically different cultures and life experiences can also make it difficult for many veterans to connect with peers in civilian life, birthing feelings of isolation and loneliness that can further depression among veterans. Even when surrounded by family and a community, if veterans feel they cannot discuss or be understood by others, these feelings of isolation can still be exceptionally prevalent.
The Effects of Military Life on Veteran Sobriety
Just as the unique aspects of military life can impact depression, the unique lifestyle of active service members can also impact their use of addictive substances. For many, prevalent on-base drinking cultures may celebrate or expect the use of alcohol, and may even suggest it as a way to cope with the stresses of military life. Other military personnel may be exposed to addictive prescription painkillers as a result of injuries incurred in the line of duty.
Many of these practices and self-medicating strategies are not limited to military bases, with many veterans continuing to feel the effects of depression and engaging with addictive substances after returning home. Ingrained self-destructive coping mechanisms, compromised feelings of self-worth, feelings of hopelessness, and more can all fuel a cycle of depression and substance use. Professional treatment to address depression and substance use in tandem is necessary for a comprehensive approach to overcoming addiction and creating a healthy and sustainable new lifestyle.
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Effective Treatment for Depression and Veteran Sobriety
Comprehensive, veteran-specific treatment to address depression and veteran sobriety in tandem is necessary to address the unique challenges veterans face. Hawaii Island Recovery’s commitment to a holistic approach to recovery addresses not just addiction but also the role that depression may play in veteran life and its relationship with substance use.
Finding veteran-specific treatment is paramount to ensure that veterans are getting appropriate care for substance use and depression and can empower veterans to meet with peers who understand the challenges depression and addiction bring each day. From Hawaii Island Recovery’s trauma-informed treatment programs to a community of veteran peers, veterans are encouraged to work together to deconstruct stigmas and barriers to pursue a life of sobriety while challenging the effects of depression, guilt, shame, loss, and other concerns that veterans commonly face that may be difficult for civilian peers to understand.
There is no easy way to navigate depression, and the use of drugs and alcohol can be a common yet incredibly dangerous coping mechanism that can develop into addiction. Professional treatment at our Hawaii depression treatment center is paramount to not only better understand the sources of depression but also to challenge self-destructive thoughts, beliefs, and behaviors to create a holistic and effective approach to a sober civilian life.
Depression can be a difficult and overwhelming emotional state, and there is nothing easy about challenging and overcoming its effects. At Hawaii Island Recovery, we understand not just the effects of depression but also how veterans can be uniquely exposed to its challenges and its effects on veteran sobriety. We create a holistic approach to all of our treatment programs, personalizing a plan based on your unique needs and goals for addressing depression and substance use. From the natural and oceanic advantages of Hawaii to our trauma-informed and dedicated veteran community, we are equipped to help you engage in effective personal, emotional, and spiritual healing. For more information about our Hawaii depression treatment center, call (866) 390-5070.