Depression is a clinical mental health disorder characterized by extreme and prolonged sadness, lack of energy and low self-worth and can include frequent thoughts of suicide or death. Several factors contribute to the expression of this disease including your chemical make-up, your genes, your personality and your past and present environment. Fortunately, despite the numerous causes of depression, depression can be successfully treated, and most people who seek help for this disease will recover.
Treatment for depression can take many forms which can include medications, psychotherapy, electroconvulsive therapy (in rare cases) and self-treatment if you experience only very mild forms of depression. Maintaining positive overall health and diet, for example, is helpful in combating depression if you have it, but it may not fully control depression especially if you have more serious symptoms.
Self-medication through drugs or alcohol will always make your mental health diagnosis worse as well as add additional negative symptoms and health problems as a result of your substance use. Substance abuse — whether or not for self-medication — will also invite addiction. Using drugs and alcohol to cope with your depression — or any other mental health disorder — will not only aggravate your mental health symptoms but also make them harder to diagnose, delaying your treatment and prolonging your suffering.
Before your doctors can begin to treat your depression successfully, they will recommend that you first treat any substance use disorders you may have to isolate the symptoms of your mental health issues and make an accurate diagnosis. On-going substance use will exacerbate and mask your mental health symptoms and, if not directly addressed, will undermine any mental health treatment you receive as well as leave you trapped in addiction.
SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION
You or your loved ones may easily identify signs of depression. While everyone naturally experiences feelings of sadness at times — especially as a direct result of an external event, such as bereavement — symptoms of depression often do not have a link to a direct cause. These symptoms also must last at least two weeks and must not be the result of another illness before your doctor can make a diagnosis of depression. Common symptoms of depression include:
- prolonged sadness or a “depressed” mood
- appetite loss, weight loss or weight gain
- lack of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- sleep issues, including too much or too little sleep
- fatigue and lethargy
- purposeless activity, such as fidgeting or pacing
- slowed speech or movement
- feelings of guilt
- low-self worth
- cognitive impairment, including difficulty with concentration or decision making
- suicidal ideation
- frequent thoughts of death
Depression differs from grief in several important ways. Depression usually includes on-going feelings of sadness, while grief will include experiences of both happiness and sadness. With depression, low self-esteem is prevalent throughout, while those grieving maintain their self-esteem during their sadness. You also may experience grief and depression simultaneously which can intensify and prolong your grieving process.
THE CHALLENGES OF TREATING DEPRESSION AND ADDICTION
Drug and alcohol abuse will intensify your depression. If you choose to drink to self-medicate your depression, for example, you will deepen your depression symptoms not alleviate them. Many drugs including alcohol act as depressants on the body, contributing to symptoms of depression if you already suffer from them or bringing on symptoms which otherwise might have been both mild and manageable. One symptom of alcohol abuse is depression. A huge risk that you will face if you suffer from either depression or addiction is suicidal thoughts and risk of suicide.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has published statistics showing that of the over 44,000 suicide deaths in the United States in 2016, over 50 percent of those individuals suffered from depression. Another third of suicide deaths stem from alcohol abuse or alcoholism. If you suffer from both disorders, you will face a rate of suicide of more than 25 percent since each disorder increases the severity of the other. Your risk of suicide also increases if you suffer from depression and use other forms of depressants. Further, a major risk factor for relapse for alcohol as well as other drugs is untreated depression.
THE CRITICAL VALUE OF AN INDIVIDUALIZED AND HOLISTIC APPROACH TO DEPRESSION AND ADDICTION TREATMENT
Depression and addiction can have devastating consequences on your health. Self-medicating your depression can increase not decrease the severity of your mental health, and depression can lead you to long-term drug and alcohol use and ultimately addiction. Since both depression and drug addiction have higher incidences of suicide — in addition to many other severe health-related problems — untreated depression and addiction can very likely take your life.
To combat either disease effectively, you will first need an addiction treatment plan that can help you successfully eliminate your needs for drugs and alcohol; otherwise, your addiction will eventually undermine your mental health treatment. An individualized approach to addiction recovery — one that focuses on you, your personality, your drug use habits and your triggers — can help you overcome your addiction quickly and with long-lasting results so that you can confidently focus on your mental health without addiction masking or increasing your symptoms or defeating your treatment. Since Serenity Oaks Wellness Center takes the same approach to mental health treatment as it does to addiction treatment, you can leave here confident that you will have many healthy ways to deal with all factors which have contributed to your depression and addiction.
Contact us for more information about how an individualized and holistic treatment plan can help you overcome your drug addiction and co-occurring depression and help you live the healthy, drug-free life that you deserve.