Depression and Addiction

Depression and addiction commonly occur at the same time. Many of those with addictions to drugs or alcohol don't realize they are depressed. They use substances as a way to improve their moods and alleviate their symptoms..


Depression comes in a number of different forms. For some it is so debilitating that it even leads to thoughts or behaviors of suicide. When depression and addiction are present at the same time, the result is what is known as a co-occurring disorder.

Co-occurring disorders are actually very common among those with addictions. Generally, an addiction to drugs or alcohol is caused by some type of situation, event or feeling.

It's not easy to treat a co-occurring disorder, and doing so usually requires specialized treatment.

Perhaps you're struggling with depression. You may battle feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and sadness on a daily basis. Even if you haven't been formally diagnosed, you may still have depression. Whether you have a diagnosis or not, it's helpful to know more about this condition.

At Northpoint Washington, we understand how debilitating depression can be. We've worked with many people who battled depression; some of them for years. Quite often, they didn't realize that their addictions were only getting worse because of their symptoms.

That may be the same way you're feeling right now. Regardless of when you started using substances to relieve your symptoms, you can get help. Dual diagnosis treatment offers hope to those with depression and addiction.

If you've been wondering where you should turn, and what you can do, this information will be useful for you.

What is a Depressive Disorder?

"You were never created to live depressed, defeated, guilty, condemned, ashamed or unworthy. You were created to be victorious." Anonymous

When discussing depressive disorders, it's important to distinguish between them and just feeling down. Sometimes people will encounter various challenges in their lives. They will become sad, experience depression symptoms, or even feel as though they're depressed. However, within a short time period, these feelings lift and everything is back to normal. This in and of itself is not depression, even though sometimes people refer to it as that.

When you have a depressive disorder, you suffer from constant and persistent feelings of worthlessness. You most likely don't have any desire to participate in activities you once enjoyed.

You may even pull away from people you love. Depression is a very complex illness that can quickly take over your entire life.

According to Psychology Today, the definition of a depressive disorder is, "An illness that involves the body, mood, and thoughts. It interferes with daily life, normal functioning, and causes pain for both the person with the disorder and those who care about him or her." It is not a passing bad mood. It's also not a sign of weakness. Sometimes friends and family can become very frustrated with someone who is depressed. They wish that they would just "snap out of it," or get back to being their old selves again. Unfortunately, it just isn't that easy.

Overcoming a clinical depressive disorder isn't possible unless the individual gets professional treatment. This can come in many different forms, which we'll cover later on. Unless the right treatment is obtained, an individual can suffer from chronic depression for years.

Are There Different Types of Depressive Disorders?

There are several different types of depressive disorders. Each one manifests in a different way, and has similar, but somewhat different symptoms. They include:

This disorder is often referred to as dysthymia. When someone suffers from dysthymia, their depression symptoms are not necessarily severe. In fact, they may be relatively mild. However, they do keep people from feeling good or functioning normally. Someone with dysthymia most likely has had symptoms for about two years or longer.

A psychotic depression occurs when an individual suffers from some type of psychosis along with a major depression. This individual may experience hallucinations or delusions at times. He or she may also find it difficult to differentiate between reality and imagination.

Postpartum depression is a condition that is often diagnosed after a new mother gives birth. Many women become severely depressed during this time in their lives. As many as 15% of women will experience postpartum depression at some point in their lives, according to Postpartum Progress. This means that about 600,000 women will experience it. However, this number does not take into account women who have stillbirths or miscarriages. These women can also experience postpartum depression. That brings the total closer to 900,000 women per year.

The fact that there is less natural sunlight during the winter leads to seasonal affective disorder for many people. During the spring and summer, the symptoms of depression lift considerably. This type of depression can be treated with medications or with light therapy.

Bipolar disorder is characterized as a manic-depressive mental illness. Someone who has bipolar disorder often suffers from severe mood changes. There are extreme highs (mania), and there are also extreme lows (depression). Someone with bipolar disorder can remain in one state or another for many months at a time.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

If you think you might be suffering from depression, it's important to understand what the signs and symptoms are. Many people fail to recognize the signs of depression. As a result, they fail to get treatment when they should.

The following signs and symptoms of depression can vary somewhat, depending on the type of depression you have. They include:

  • Experiencing symptoms of anxiety
  • Feeling worthless
  • Having a general feeling of irritability
  • Having problems with concentration on everyday tasks
  • An increase or decrease in appetite
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Feeling hopeless
  • Frequently feeling guilty
  • Becoming tearful often
  • Having no energy
  • Experiencing aches and pains in the body
  • Excessive sleeping or insomnia
  • Having no interest in activities he or she once really enjoyed
  • Becoming distant from loved ones
  • Social isolation

Depression symptoms tend to get more severe as time goes on. If nothing is done to treat them, it's possible for them to develop into suicidal thoughts.

If you notice as many as five of the symptoms on this list, it's important to get treatment.

Depression FAQ

Perhaps you have found that you have many of the symptoms on this list. Still, you're not sure whether or not you have a depressive disorder. At Northpoint Washington, we know the seriousness of this illness and how it can affect you. It's important for you to get more clarity regarding your condition.

To help, we've put together some questions that you can ask yourself. Be honest when you answer the following:

  • Do you ever burst into tears when you know that there's really nothing for you to be sad about?
  • Do you ever find yourself obsessing over different thoughts and ideas?
  • Are you finding that your sleep patterns have been interrupted lately?
  • Have you been sleeping excessively, even through the day?
  • Have you recently lost or gained a lot of weight?
  • Do you find it difficult to concentrate on your work or when you are at school?
  • Do the hobbies you once enjoyed no longer interest you?
  • Have you ever had suicidal thoughts?
  • Have you ever attempted suicide?
  • Do you find it difficult to get out of bed in the morning?
  • Do you dread facing the various tasks and challenges of each day?
  • Do you ever feel guilty, but you're not really able to pinpoint a reason?
  • Do you frequently feel irritable for no real reason?
  • Do you have aches in your body that you really can't explain?

It's possible that you answered yes to five or more of the above questions. If so, there is a very good chance that you are suffering from a depressive disorder. Getting an accurate diagnosis is going to be critical for you. It's important to know what type of depression you have so that you can be treated appropriately.

There are several different methods that doctors and therapists can use to treat depression. It is actually a highly treatable disorder. Like other illnesses, the earlier treatment is sought, the better. If you treat it early on, it may even be possible to prevent a recurrence.

The first step in treating depression is to rule out any medical causes for it. There are some medical conditions that can lead to symptoms of depression. Once these are discovered, treating them usually results in the alleviation of symptoms. For example, if you have a thyroid disorder, or a viral infection, it may appear that you're depressed.

If there is no medical cause for the depression, it's time to consider treatment. Some types of depression treatment include:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: This type of therapy focuses on showing patients new ways of thinking. It also focuses on the individual's behavior and making changes there. CBT is effective because it can reduce negative attitudes that might be contributing to the depression.
  • Interpersonal Therapy: IPT is a type of therapy that is also frequently used with those who have depression. It focuses on various relationships in the patient's life that might be contributing to the symptoms. These relationships are thought to be making their depression worse.
  • Herbal Therapy: Certain herbs have been shown to improve depression symptoms in many people. Among them, St. John's Wort is one of the most popular. However, the problem with this and other herbs is that they can interfere with other medications.
  • Electroconvulsive Therapy: For those whose depression is severe or life-threatening, ECT is one option to consider. It's also used for people who aren't able to take antidepressants. This treatment involves placing electrodes on the head to deliver electrical impulses. It produces a brief seizure, but it's not painful. ECT isn't used today as much as it once was. However, for those who need it, it does remain an option.
  • Problem-solving Therapy: Sometimes it can be helpful to talk with someone who wants to help. This type of therapy is very focused on the various problems an individual is facing in life. Together, the patient and the therapist can work on finding viable solutions.
  • Medications: Most doctors agree upon the importance of getting their patients on antidepressants. There are many different types that can be used. Of course, not all antidepressants work well for everyone. If one medication doesn't work, additional medicines can be added, or tried instead.

There are a number of different medications that have been approved to help treat depression. These include:

  • Celexa
  • Lexapro
  • Prozac
  • Paxil
  • Zoloft
  • Pristiq
  • Cymbalta
  • Effexor
  • Pamelor
  • Norpramin

Research has shown that someone with depression has a different brain appearance than someone without it. When studies have been done using MRI, these differences were quite clear. Still, there is no one universal reason why some people get diagnosed with depression and others don't.

During these MRI studies, it was demonstrated that various parts of the brain were impacted in someone with depression. These were the portions responsible for:

  • Behavior
  • Mood
  • Thinking
  • Appetite
  • Sleep

Also, it was found that there was a chemical imbalance within the brain in those with depression. This proved to negatively affect the way brain cells communicate with each other.

Certain factors may have an effect on whether someone is more likely to be depressed. These include:

  • Genetics
  • The experience of a trauma
  • The loss of a loved one
  • Any stressful situation
  • A difficult relationship

Once depression has been experienced once, recurrences can happen without any type of trigger. Women do get depression more often than men. However, that does not mean that men are immune. According to the American Psychological Association:

  • 9% of men in the United States have daily feelings of depression.
  • Only one out of every three of these men have ever taken medication for depression.
  • Only one in four of these men have spoken with a mental health professional.
  • The suicide rate among men is as much as four times higher than it is for women.
  • Men who are age 85 and older are at the greatest risk of suicide.

The conclusion? Depression is not an illness that only affects women. Men are just as susceptible to it.

Someone who is depressed may turn to any number of substances as a way to self-medicate. They do this because they're looking for relief from their symptoms. Poly-substance abuse is very common among people with depression. They may choose to use different drugs or alcohol based on the effects they're looking for.

For example:

  • Alcohol is a depressant in itself, but it also is very socially acceptable. It can temporarily lead to feelings of happiness. This makes it quite attractive to someone with depression.
  • Stimulant drugs like cocaine have the ability to provide energy, even if it's only for a short time. Someone who suffers from depression may also turn to prescription stimulants for relief.
  • Marijuana has a relaxing quality to it. Some symptoms of anxiety typically accompany depression. For these individuals, marijuana is often their choice.
  • Sleep aids are often attractive to depressed individuals as well. This is particularly true for those who suffer from insomnia.
  • Prescription drugs like Paxil and Zoloft are frequently recommended for those with depression. While these drugs are not supposed to be addictive, they can have addictive qualities. If someone taking them doesn't get the desired results, he or she can take measures to abuse them. This is what leads to addiction.

Regardless of what substances you have been abusing, dual diagnosis treatment can help you. Co-occurring disorders are much more common than people think they are. This type of alcohol and drug rehab can make such a difference.

It is typical for depression and addiction to be linked to each other. Addiction generally always has a cause. It's difficult to say which condition comes first; the depression or the addiction. It can actually work both ways.

For someone who has depression, whether it's diagnosed or not, using substances can help with symptoms. For someone who is a drug or alcohol addict, continued use can lead to depression.

Either way, the two conditions consistently feed off each other in those who have co-occurring disorders. Eventually, the addict will probably find that using only makes symptoms worse. As you can see, this creates a dangerous cycle. Unless something is done to interrupt it, it will only get worse.

Dual diagnosis treatment, or integrative addiction treatment is vital for those with depression and addiction. At one point in time, these two conditions were always treated separately from each other. For example, if a patient presented with addiction and depression, the addiction would be treated first. This was usually done through drug or alcohol detox. After the detox period was over, he or she would be treated for depression.

The problem with this method was that it was rarely effective. Patients frequently relapsed, and quite often, their treatments contradicted each other. This only led to confusion, and it rarely led to long-term recovery.

Today, most professionals recognize the value of dual diagnosis treatment. It works so well because it treats both conditions at the same time. The issues behind the addiction are adequately addressed. This means that patients have a much smaller chance of relapsing after their treatment is over.

Quite often, people with depression and addiction will make the decision to try and stop using on their own. This is problematic for a number of reasons.

Unless the issues behind the addiction are dealt with, both conditions will continue. Many people don't even realize that they have depression. In these situations, they may be able to stop for a few days, but their efforts are rarely successful.

If you do relapse back into your drug or alcohol use, you are a high risk for an overdose. Overdoses can be fatal unless medical treatment is obtained right away. Sometimes, a drug called Naloxone can be used as long as it's administered quickly enough.

If you don't overdose, there are other issues to be concerned with. It's possible that your depression could progress to the point of suicidal ideation.

Choosing not to get help for your co-occurring disorder is definitely a mistake. Even if you think you might be able to stop using on your own, it's best to have help. Professional support through a drug and alcohol rehab can make such a difference.

Professional Integrative Addiction Treatment at Northpoint Washington

Integrative addiction treatment is such an important part of your recovery if you have an addiction and depression. It's possible that you have spent years wondering if all hope was lost for you. You might even be skeptical about whether or not any type of treatment could help you.

If that's how you feel, it's so important for you to realize that you can get help. Depressive disorder and addiction are very common. While not all drug and alcohol treatment centers treat both conditions, we do at Northpoint Washington.

It is true that it's not easy to treat this type of co-occurring disorder. This is because each disorder can intensify the symptoms of the other. This creates a dangerous cycle that is very difficult to escape. This is perhaps one of the reasons why you have never been able to stop using cold turkey.

The fact is, going to an addiction treatment center that only specializes in addiction isn't going to work for you. You may experience short-term success. However, if your depression symptoms are not adequately treated, you are very likely to relapse. It's best to place your faith in a drug and alcohol rehab that is equipped to help you with both.

Isn't it time for you to recover from your addiction and depression? If you'd like to learn more about how we can help you with that, please contact us today.