Although some people are more inclined towards addiction than others, it’s rare that a person becomes addicted for “no good reason.” When we turn to drugs and alcohol, we’re often looking for something that our daily lives are not providing to us. It can be loneliness that pushes us towards addiction, a general disinterest or dissatisfaction in our lives, or just plain boredom. Whatever it is, we can generally chalk it up to depression in some form or other. This depression keeps us going right back to our old habits. No matter how many times we quit, we wind up in a place where we’re never more than one bad week away from relapse, long after we’ve kicked the chemical dependency.
Dual Diagnosis And Self-Medication
In diagnosing an addiction, we often find that addiction is simply how an individual is self-medicating an existing condition. This could be anything from anxiety to mental illness to bipolar disorder. Depression is one of the most frightening roots of addiction because addiction provides comfort, which is something that a person dealing with depression may be in dire need of.
The Cycle Of Addiction And Depression
Some people use drugs to have fun. If you are addicted due to depression, you use drugs to escape those negative feelings. The problem is that you then feel guilty and remorseful over self medicating with drugs or alcohol, and that resentment and self-loathing builds up until you feel the need to use again. This makes it very difficult for a depressed person to get through recovery because sobriety doesn’t feel like a gift, it feels like torment, and that’s simply how it’s going to be until the depression itself is diagnosed and managed.
Depression Vs. Down In The Dumps
Everyone gets downhearted now and then. We can usually shake that off with a short walk, sitting down with a favorite movie or chatting with a friend. This is not the same thing as depression, even though they may feel the same in many ways. Depression is identified by a number of symptoms:
– Anxiety Loss of appetite
– Unexplained aches and pains
– Guilt and low self-esteem
– Disinterest in favorite activities
– Suicidal thoughts
Telling The Difference
You might experience one or all of these symptoms now and then. With depression, you’re looking for a pattern of several symptoms over a long stretch of time, or recurring more than just now and then. If you’re trying to figure out whether you’re depressed or just a little down in spirits, here are some things you can try:
– Get out of the house. Take a bus somewhere, go on a date, meet a friend for coffee.
– Pick up a new hobby, or get back into an old one.
– Touch base with a friend or relative you haven’t seen in awhile.
– Indulge in a favorite food, movie or pastime.
– Get some exercise. Go for a walk, hit the gym or fire off a few push-ups.
Sometimes a change in diet or behavior can be all it takes. If that’s not doing the trick, you may need to…
Seek A Professional Diagnosis
A conventional recovery program isn’t going to have the effect you’re hoping for if you’re dealing with undiagnosed depression. Many patients wind up dropping out of rehab because sobriety is a pretty big load to bear when you have depression to go along with your addiction. Talk with a therapist or someone who is similarly qualified and see if there’s anything that can be done. For some, major lifestyle changes can help to treat depression. Others may require anti-depressant medication. Whatever you do, don’t let it linger. There are specialists in dual diagnosis treatment that can help.
Addressing Both Problems
You can’t address just the addiction or just the depression. Kicking an addiction without learning to manage depression is wasted effort. A relapse into addiction often proves to be inevitable when this happens. Even if the addicted person does not go right back to opiates or alcohol or whatever their previous drug of choice was, they’re going to be inclined towards unhealthy, addictive behavior, be it sex, gambling or something else to fill the void. Depression and drug abuse are a vicious cycle, and it’s not enough to just stop using drugs, you have to get to the root of the problem so that the depression cannot keep you hooked.