A vicious cycle of depression and substance abuse can be challenging to break free from. There is a strong correlation between depression and addiction. Around 32% of those struggling with a mood disorder such as depression also meet the diagnostic criteria for substance use disorder. The two dangerously work hand in hand, contributing directly to one another.
While many people believe depression and sadness are the same, depression is a serious mood disorder that affects how you feel, think, eat, sleep, work, and much more. Depression looks different for everyone and can develop under unique circumstances such as postpartum depression, psychotic depression, seasonal affective disorder, and persistent depressive disorder.
Those dealing with depression are battling more than just feelings of sadness. Many symptoms can be present both physically as well as mentally, including:
- Aches and pains including headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
- Decreased energy or fatigue
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
- Appetite or weight changes
- Thoughts of death or suicide
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), symptoms will vary depending on the stage of the disorder. If you’re experiencing some of these signs or symptoms for most of the day, nearly every day, and for at least two weeks, then you may be suffering from depression.
Signs of Substance Use Disorders
Depending on the substance you are abusing, the symptoms of substance use disorder may vary. However, common signs of substance use disorder to watch out for include:
- Having a tolerance to larger doses
- Becoming nervous, agitated, nauseous, or trembling when you reduce your intake
- Feeling guilty or sad after taking a drug even though you did so to feel better
- Experiencing cravings and withdrawal symptoms anytime you quit taking the drug or stop consuming alcohol
You may also experience behavioral changes, including problems at work or school, loss of energy or motivation, neglecting your appearance, lying about habits, engaging in risky behaviors while intoxicated, spending excessive amounts of money on the substance, and more.
Which Comes First, Depression or Substance Abuse?
It’s very common for people to struggle with both depression and substance abuse, but it’s difficult to say what came first. Some people may develop an addiction first, leading to depression, whereas others who are depressed might choose to lean on drugs or alcohol to cope.
If someone struggling with depression turns to a substance to self-medicate or treat the problem, this is only a temporary solution that causes a dangerous downward spiral. The National Institute on Drug Abuse provides data suggesting that those diagnosed with a mood disorder are twice as likely to abuse substances than those without a mood disorder.
Alcohol is the most common substance abused to self-medicate. It’s widely accessible and can help briefly relax the body and relieve stress. The National Institute of Health (NIH) released a study indicating that alcohol can induce depression. They found that people with an alcohol dependence problem have lower levels of serotonin, which is known as the “happy chemical” that helps prevent depression. With the decrease of serotonin, a person may find themselves developing signs and symptoms of depression.
How to Cope with Dual Diagnosis
The term “dual diagnosis” doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re battling two mental health conditions at once. Dual diagnosis is a specific combination of diagnoses rather than a diagnosis itself. Therefore, the term can be used when experiencing mental health disorder and substance use disorder.
Depression and substance abuse feed into one another, leading to increasingly severe forms of each disorder. No matter the substance, whether it’s alcohol or stimulants, it’s crucial to find a drug and alcohol inpatient treatment canter to overcome both substance use disorder and depression. If you’ve been drinking or using drugs to drown out your symptoms of depression, then you may find your depression becomes worse when you become sober.
Both diagnoses are difficult to overcome on their own, so finding the proper treatment to battle both concurrently can be even more challenging. Some treatment examples may include psychotherapy, rehabilitation, supportive housing, and more. It’s essential to keep in mind that each disorder needs to be considered primary and receive intervention at the same time.
It’s also helpful to find others to connect with who are experiencing something similar. This can help motivate and remind you that you’re not alone.
One of the first steps to getting the help you need is being honest with yourself and recognizing that you have a problem. Look for the signs of addiction and depression in order to get you on the path to recovery as quickly as possible.
Most people experience highs and lows throughout their life, but depression can last for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. Depression can hinder your ability to work and maintain a healthy lifestyle, especially if paired with substance abuse. If you or a loved one are struggling with substance abuse and depression, Hawaii Island Recovery is here to help. Our Hawaii recovery center has the tools and experience to guide you through your struggles while focusing on specialized treatment for both disorders. Get the help you deserve to prevent yourself from becoming dependent on the side effects of drugs or alcohol to cope with depression. There is an end in sight, and we’re committed to helping you lead a healthier, happier life. Recovery is a lifelong commitment, and we can help you stay motivated throughout your journey. Call Hawaii Island Recovery today to learn more about our treatment options at (866) 390-5070.