Struggling With Addiction and Depression

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When someone is struggling with persistent feelings of sadness and despair, it isn’t surprising that they may initially attempt to lift their mood or soften the pain of depression using drugs or alcohol. Recognizing the prevalence of self-medicating depression symptoms by using a substance, it could be said that depression is a gateway for substance abuse or addiction.

Unfortunately, using drugs or alcohol to mitigate symptoms of depression sets up a vicious cycle, as the use of the substance can exacerbate the symptoms. Over time, as tolerance builds and the drug use or drinking escalates, the risk of addiction becomes real. A dual diagnosis, or the co-occurring substance use disorder with a mental health disorder, can create a steeper treatment hurdle to clear.

For some individuals, however, the depression arrives as a consequence of drug or alcohol addiction, not the cause of it. As problems mount due to the consequences of addiction, depression can result. Maybe a relationship failed or a job was lost due to the drug or alcohol addiction, which could spark a major depressive episode. Whichever order it occurred, struggling with addiction and depression is extremely difficult.

Signs of Depression

Major depressive disorder (MDD) is a complex mental health disorder that impacts more than 16 million adults each year in the U.S., according to statistics provided by the National Institute of Mental Health. There are many known factors that can cause depression, but even so, depression remains a mysterious and difficult mental health disorder with much still to be learned. Some of the known factors that contribute to MDD might include a genetic component, if there is a strong family history of depression, brain chemistry, temperament or personality traits, trauma, grief, and stressful life events.

Signs and symptoms of MDD include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair
  • Fatigue, slowed motor skills
  • Changes in eating habits, weight gain or loss
  • Insomnia or hypersomnia
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities usually enjoyed
  • Withdrawing from family and friends
  • Feelings of guilt or shame
  • Irritability
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

When someone has five or more of the above symptoms that last for at least two weeks, he or she should be seen by a doctor.

Signs of Addiction

It may come as a surprise when the substance someone is leaning on to help them manage the symptoms of depression becomes a secondary problem that only enhances their suffering. Addiction can sneak up slowly, depending on the substance of choice, as tolerance to the effects begin to increase leading to ramped up use of the drug or alcohol.

Signs that an addiction is developing include both behavioral and physical symptoms:


  • Needing increasingly higher dosing to achieve desired result
  • Obsessing about drinking or using drugs, keeping an ample supply on hand
  • Lying about the drug use or alcohol consumption levels, in denial about encroaching signs of addiction
  • Being isolating from family and friends, or hanging out with new friends associated with the drug use
  • Impulsive actions, poor judgment, risky behaviors
  • Continue to use alcohol or drugs regardless of mounting consequences
  • Cannot stop using the substance, even if it is desired to do so
  • Withdrawal symptoms emerge if the substance is not available

Physical—these will differ depending to the substance, but some symptoms include:

  • Insomnia
  • Constricted or dilated pupils
  • Sudden weight loss or gain
  • Slurred speech
  • Lack of interest in personal hygiene
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Bloated face or abdomen
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Constant sniffing
  • Nodding off

Effects of Struggling with Addiction and Depression

When both addiction and depression are present it can make daily life very difficult. As tolerance builds and drug or alcohol use escalates, the individual will only feel physically worse on top of the depression. The consequences related to this dual diagnosis can upend an individual’s life, such as getting a DUI, enduring the breakup of a relationship or marriage, losing a job, experiencing financial hardship, or mounting legal problems. As the consequences compound, depression only worsens, and the addiction becomes entrenched.

How to Treat a Dual Diagnosis

It has been demonstrated that a dual diagnosis should involve both disorders being treated simultaneously once detoxification is completed. This will require a treatment program that specializes in dual diagnosis programming, which includes psychiatric expertise on the premises. Someone recovering from alcoholism who also battled depression will be attempting to now live without the crutch of alcohol, which can be a challenging process.

Managing the recovery of someone with a dual diagnosis takes special training, as unpredictable issues may arise during treatment.

In rehab the depression piece of the diagnosis will likely be treated with antidepressants. Antidepressant drug therapy takes 4-6 weeks for noticeable changes to emerge, so it requires patience. Meanwhile, the psychotherapy sessions will allow the therapist to guide the individual toward examining and processing any underlying emotional issues that might be contributing to both the depression and the addiction. Cognitive behavioral therapy is helpful in changing the distorted thought patterns and reflexive self-destructive behaviors that have fueled the addiction and/or the depression.

Dual diagnosis programs that incorporate holistic and experiential treatment elements compliment the psychotherapy by encouraging self-exploration, stress reduction, and relaxation. These types of activities might include mindfulness meditation, yoga, art therapy, or journaling. With professional dual diagnosis intervention, it is absolutely possible to overcome addiction and depression.

Quest 2 Recovery Treats Co-Occurring Addiction and Depression

Quest 2 Recovery is an integrated dual diagnosis addiction recovery program serving greater Los Angeles, California. Being well aware of the difficulties associated with co-occurring disorders, Quest 2 Recovery has strived to create a soothing, tranquil setting where our clients can heal and reclaim their lives. By offering an intimate home setting with a family-like therapeutic approach, clients struggling with addiction and depression will feel comfortable and cared for. At Quest 2 Recovery, we combine important evidence-based therapies with complimentary holistic and experiential activities to help clients explore the underlying causes of their emotional pain, and process it. Only then can recovery from addiction and depression take place. For more information about the program, please contact Quest 2 Recovery today at (888) 453-9396.

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