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What’s It Like to Struggle With Depression and Addiction

Depression can increase the risk of countless chronic illnesses, including substance abuse. Estimates believe about a third of people with depression also struggle with drug or alcohol abuse. Let’s explore what it means to struggle with depression and addiction, plus how to treat these types of co-occurring disorders.

Understanding Depression

Over 350 million people suffer from depression worldwide. In the United States, that number is close to over 15 million — close to 7% of the population. However, people still have the misconception that depression is just another case of the blues when it can be a dangerous illness. 

Depression can take different forms based on the duration, severity, cause of symptoms, etc. To better understand depression, you have to look at the different types of depressive episodes:

  • Major Depressive Disorder (MDD): This occurs when someone experiences a low, depressed mood for about two weeks but also experiences suicidal thoughts, loss of physical energy, sleep problems, or feelings of low self-worth.
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder (Dysthymia): This is marked by two years of consecutive low moods and depressive symptoms, which are usually so severe that impact quality of life.
  • Postpartum Depression: Up to 16% of women could experience postpartum depression after giving birth. 
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Often, the result of changes in light and temperature experienced during winter can cause loss of energy, lower mood, sleep problems, and weight changes at specific times of the year, usually during winter months. 

Symptoms of Depression

However, to meet the diagnostic criteria for clinical depression, a person must experience five or more of these symptoms almost every day for at least two weeks. Besides, these symptoms can’t be related to any coexisting medical condition or be the result of substance use disorder.

  • Low, depressed mood
  • Loss of pleasure in daily activities
  • Persistent feelings of self-hatred
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Unintentional weight loss or gain
  • Physical fatigue
  • Low energy levels
  • Problems with concentration or memory
  • Constant thoughts about death or dying
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts 

The Connection Between Depression and Addiction

Research says depression and substance abuse are closely related. Also known as a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis. Almost 33 percent of individuals with a significant depressive disorder engages in substance abuse — that’s 1 in 3 individuals. 

Depression and addiction can happen due to imbalances in brain chemistry, family history, and past trauma. Also, addiction’s physical and psychological effects may mask the signs of depression or worsen the symptoms of this psychiatric illness.

Beyond drugs, there’s a strong connection between alcoholism and depression. About 20 percent of those surveyed in a nationwide study met the criteria for a comorbid major depressive disorder. The same survey showed that those searching for treatment for an alcohol use disorder were over 40% more likely than the general population to have at least one mood disorder.

The connection between depression and alcohol abuse is not surprising. After all, alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that eventually intensifies depression. Both alcohol and drug addiction aggravate the symptoms of depression, increase the risk of suicide, and raise hospitalization risk. 

Getting Help for Depression and Co-Occurring Addiction

For individuals suffering from dual diagnosis disorders, appropriate and comprehensive treatment is vital. These comprehensive rehabilitation programs offer medical, therapeutic, and holistic therapies to heal physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. 

Comprehensive Treatment Programs

These types of programs offer individualized attention. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our comprehensive treatment programs are tailor-made to meet each individual’s unique needs. 

Evaluation: The first step is to ensure all mental health symptoms are accurately diagnosed. Understanding the exact diagnosis will help develop a more appropriate treatment plan. 

Medical Detox: When someone starts the detox process from alcohol or drugs, they’re likely to experience psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms. A comprehensive detox offers medical support and monitoring to assist in the process and stabilize treatment. 

Individual Therapy: One-on-one therapy sessions set the foundation for recovery. Having a safe and confidential space to discuss past experiences, struggles, and more is paramount for healing. These individual sessions often use a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach to address addictive patterns and help patients understand their triggers better and learn new coping skills. 

Group Therapy: Most treatment programs will incorporate one or more group settings, including 12-step groups, support groups for those with a dual diagnosis disorder, and other forms of group therapy that help build a supportive community. 

Family Therapy: Working with loved ones to rebuild damaged relationships can be an essential aspect of recovery, especially if someone returns home after treatment. Empowering family members to participate in the treatment process will also allow them to heal uniquely. Family therapy helps build positive communication skills that will help promote healing. 

Life Skills Development: Before leaving treatment, many patients enroll in life skills development programs that help them feel prepared to go back to normalcy. In these programs, patients learn necessary skills that can go from how to find a job, how to manage their finances, and how to eat healthily. 

Aftercare Support: Co-occurring disorders don’t disappear after treatment. It’s crucial to maintain a comprehensive aftercare plan that includes mental health care, alternative therapies, ongoing substance abuse, and mental health relapse prevention treatment. 

Can Dual Diagnosis Disorders Be Cured?

Unfortunately, there’s no cure for either mental health disorders or drugs and alcohol addiction. However, various research-based therapies and treatment options are effective in treating co-occurring conditions. 

The key to managing these conditions is to find personalized treatment—comprehensive treatment plans with the ability to adapt and change as needed. Long-term support is also vital to help with long-term sobriety and make continual progress in their recovery journeys.

Finding the Right Addiction Treatment Center

Over 9 million people in the United States live with a co-occurring disease, yet only 7.5 percent of people enroll in treatment programs. When it comes to finding a treatment center to address your loved one co-occurring disorders, it’s paramount that you start with an addiction center that offers a dual diagnosis treatment. 

At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we offer a comprehensive dual diagnosis program specializing in caring for individuals with co-occurring disorders. As a result, the programs we offer include individual therapy with providers trained in treating mental illness, in addition to group therapy, medication management, holistic services, and family therapy. Thanks to our unique approach, we’re able to treat people with co-occurring disorders in a completely different way. Our team understands that a simultaneous treatment approach is critical to help you get the most out of rehab. 

To live a healthy, happy life free of mental illness and addiction symptoms, finding quality dual diagnosis care is the first step. If you are ready to begin your journey of recovery, please reach out today.

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