Mental health and substance abuse are heavily linked, especially in mental disorders such as depression, anorexia, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and schizophrenia. In fact, people suffering from mental illness consume the majority of alcohol, cocaine, and cigarettes in the U.S. When these two disorders are fused together, they become more severe and harder to treat.
Although substance abuse and drug addiction may directly cause depression and other mental illnesses, it is not bi-directional. Depression may lead to substance abuse, but it does not directly cause it. Many people suffering from depression may use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate, to try to escape from the sadness in their life, to get away from all the pain. The extended use would, in turn, lead to a chemical and emotional dependency.
However, certain alcohol and drugs like Xanax or Valium are depressants and can easily result in a long-term depressive state in the user. Often, it is a chicken-or-the-egg kind of question. What came first, the addiction or depression? In the end, the answer doesn’t really matter.
What Is Depression?
Depression is not just “feeling blue.” It is a long-term mental illness that affects every aspect of a person’s life. The feelings of despair and sadness are usually so strong and constant that a person struggles both emotionally and physically. It is common for someone to lose their appetite, experience suicidal thoughts and insomnia, have trouble concentrating on simple tasks, and experience bodily pains.
Depression can last from a couple months to decades, or even for someone’s entire life. Thankfully, with modern medicine, it is highly treatable, if done properly. Still, roughly one in six people will experience depression in their lifetime. Those with mental illnesses are generally more prone to drug addiction.
What Is Substance Abuse Disorder?
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Substance use disorder occurs when a person’s use of alcohol or another substance (drug) leads to health issues or problems at work, school, or home. There are a lot of factors that can make someone susceptible to substance abuse disorder, such as individual genes and a given environment. Opiates, stimulants, and depressants are among the most highly addictive, and thus abused, drugs.
Symptoms And Signs Of Depression And Substance Abuse
According to the National Bureau of Economic Research, “a staggering 43 percent of the population has had a diagnosable mental illness at some point in their lives.” Of that 43 percent, one in four will also have a substance abuse problem. With that in mind, it’s not hard to imagine that depression and addiction have a lot of symptoms in common. They both come from feelings of low self-esteem, aggression, and negativity. These are the most easily recognizable signs and symptoms of both substance abuse and depression:
- Failing to meet prior commitments, such as those at work and school
- A loss of motivation to do things that they previously
- Drastic weight loss or weight gain
- Disrupted sleep patterns
- Experiencing extreme guilt, hopelessness, and despair
- Withdrawing from relationships
The most important thing to acknowledge in co-occurring mental health disorders like this is that this is not something that will go away with time. It’s something that needs to be treated and addressed as quickly as possible and with a particular strategy due to the severity.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
For someone suffering from both substance abuse and depression, specific measurements must be taken if treatment is to be successful. A depression and substance abuse treatment of this nature is called Dual Diagnosis Treatment. The method combines Dialectal Behavior Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, and medication to treat both medical conditions. It is typically a more long-term treatment because they follow the pace of the individual’s needs.
Until the 90s, drug abuse and depression were treated on separate occasions. Patients were even refused treatment for one disorder if they were already committed to another form of treatment. Because of this, at the time, long-term recovery for a Dual Diagnosis was nearly impossible. Today, we know that Dual Diagnosis Treatment is important because the therapy for both disorders must coincide and treated as one single illness.
If you suspect that yourself or a loved one might be suffering from depression and addiction (Dual Diagnosis) it might be time to consider treatment. Remember, because of the unique nature of this disorder, a specific treatment plan needs to be made, one that addresses both the mental health and substance abuse. Treatment Centers XL offers careful and specialized care for a variety of addictions. You’re not in this alone. Contact us today for more information.