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Clinical Depression and Addiction

12-step-program1 At first, depression might seem like a persistent bad mood or a stubborn case of the blues. But if the following symptoms occur almost every day for two or more weeks, that “bad mood” could be clinical depression:

  • Tearfulness
  • Hopelessness
  • A sense of despair
  • Fatigue
  • Appetite changes (increase or decrease)
  • Sleeping problems (too much or too little sleep)
  • Body aches
  • Loss of interest in life
  • Thoughts of death

How Widespread Is Depression?

In the United States, clinical depression affects nearly 7 percent of the adult population, according to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Depression is one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the world.

The disorder is more prevalent among people with chronic physical health problems like heart disease, cancer or diabetes. It is also very common among individuals with addictive disorders, like alcoholism or drug abuse. Nationwide statistics show that in the US, depression is nearly 4 percent more common in people with alcohol dependence, reports The Psychiatric Times. Among alcoholic individuals seeking treatment, over 40 percent met the criteria for depression or another mood disorder. In addition to alcohol, common drugs of abuse among people with depression include:

  • Cannabis
  • Prescription pain medications
  • Tranquilizers
  • Sleeping pills

Depression often goes hand in hand with anxiety, a disorder that also magnifies the risk of substance abuse. According to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, approximately 50 percent of adults who see a primary care doctor for depressive symptoms also have symptoms of anxiety, such as fearfulness, persistent worry, heart palpitations and insomnia.

Which Comes First: Depression or Addiction?

Clinical depression arises from multiple sources: genetic makeup, imbalances in brain chemistry, abnormalities in brain structure, environmental factors, and the effects of psychological stress. Depression occurs so frequently with substance abuse that it is difficult not to see a causal relationship.

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It is often hard to tell whether depression causes addiction, or vice versa. Many of the symptoms of alcohol abuse and drug withdrawal resemble depression, including fatigue, despair, anhedonia (lack of pleasure in everyday life) and sleep disturbances. But this temporary mood disorder, known as substance-induced depression, typically goes away soon after detoxification. Clinical depression, on the other hand, may actually get worse after detox, when the individual comes face to face with the full extent of the disorder. Alcohol and drugs are related to depression in a number of critical ways. Substance abuse can intensify depressive symptoms, even when the individual is using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate. On the other hand, the chemical imbalances in the brain that lead to clinical depression may predispose the individual to addictive behavior.

Recovering From Depression and Substance Abuse

Depression may never be completely cured, but its symptoms respond well to treatment. The American Psychological Association states that even people with severe depression can improve with psychotherapy and antidepressant medications. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) combined with drugs in the SSRI family, such as Prozac (fluoxetine) and escitalopram (Celexa) have been highly effective at helping people overcome clinical depression. Unfortunately, many depressed individuals don’t seek or receive the competent care they need. Depression can cause low motivation and fuzzy thinking, making it difficult to care about recovery or to seek out mental health resources. When depression co-occurs with a substance use disorder, getting the right kind of treatment becomes even more challenging. Dual diagnosis treatment programs address major depression and addiction at the same time through therapies such as:

  • Mindfulness-based therapies (including dialectical behavior therapy, or DBT) to improve emotional regulation and stress management
  • Motivational enhancement therapy to empower the individual to change
  • Pharmaceutical therapy with antidepressant or anti-anxiety medications
  • Alternative therapies, such as yoga and acupuncture, to manage stress in healthy ways
  • Comprehensive support and education for family members
  • Aftercare resources and follow-up services

At Futures of Palm Beach, we specialize in helping our dually diagnosed clients create meaningful, rewarding lives. For more information on how dual diagnosis treatment can help you or a loved one recover from depression and addiction, call our toll-free number today.

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