Understanding the complex relationship between depression and addiction
Depression and use of recreational drugs seem to go hand in hand. Substance abuse is quite common among individuals suffering from one depressive disorder or another. Alcohol addiction is one of the most common traits among people battling depression. Unfortunately, alcohol being a central nervous system depressant only ends up triggering common symptoms of depression such as lethargy, sadness, and lack of motivation. Depressed individuals often turn to drugs and alcohol to numb painful thoughts or simply to lift up their moods. As a result, substance abuse and depression end up feeding into each other, making it quite difficult to treat one condition independently.
An individual who suffers from both depression and addiction is said to have a dual diagnosis in medical terms. A dual diagnosis results from a combination of different mental disorders such as anxiety or bipolar disorder and addiction to alcohol, drugs, or even gambling. Studies in dual diagnosis conditions have shown that there is a strong connection between substance abuse and depression. Alcohol and drug abuse are some of the most common effects of depression besides sleeplessness, inactivity, and weight changes. The QJM international journal of medicine states that men suffering from depression are three times more likely to abuse alcohol while depressed women are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependency.
Common symptoms of depression
Clinical depression, unlike the common blue moods everyone experiences at one time or another, is more severe, intense, and often experienced over a longer period of time. When one suffers symptoms of depression for two weeks or more then the condition is classified as clinical depression. Common depressive symptoms often include the following:
- A low mood that lasts for a week or more
- Loss of interest in previously favorite activities
- Constant physical exhaustion
- Too little or too much sleep
- Rapid weight gain or loss
- Inability to focus on tasks
- Thinking of suicide
- Feelings of low esteem, hopelessness, or guilt
There is a milder form of depression known as dysthymic disorder whose symptoms are not as severe as other forms of depression. Individuals suffering from dysthymic depression are usually unhappy, moody, or simply irritable for a long time, sometimes for as long as two years. The condition may be difficult to notice initially and can last for years. In fact people with this condition hardly know they suffer from a psychiatric disorder until the situation gets out of hands.
An official diagnosis of depression can only be made by a qualified psychiatrist or psychologist after sufficient tests have been done to the patient. However, one can learn by observation the symptoms of this condition and seek medical help. If found to be related to substance abuse, the patient may be required to seek for additional help from a rehab facility.
Relationship between depression and addiction
Medical experts have often posed the question whether depression triggers the urge for intoxication or whether substance abuse results in depression. Actually, addiction and depression intertwine in many ways. For instance, a person suffering from depression may turn to drugs or alcohol as a way of self-medication and end up being addicted. Drugs and alcohol, on the other hand, can cause depression when they change the brain chemistry. Constant intoxication and withdrawal symptoms can also appear as signs of depression. Studies have also shown that neurological causes of depression can lead a person to drug or alcohol addiction.
Overcoming depression and addiction
Due to the complex and inter-dependent nature of depression and substance abuse, the two conditions cannot be treated independently. However, motivation, encouragement, and support are quite effective in helping individuals suffering from depression and addiction. Individual counseling and peer group support can help an affected individual in his or her journey towards recovery. A good rehab will always have the best programs to help one overcome depression and addiction problems.