Treatment for Co-Occurring Disorders: Substance Abuse and Depression

What is Depression?

Many people go through bouts of sadness due to constant life changes. These changes can be from your job, family, friends, or different challenges in your personal life. Sadness is a normal reaction to life challenges. But when an individual experiences intense sadness that lasts for days, weeks, or even months, it’s classified as depression. 

Depression is a common and serious medical illness that comes in many forms. It’s a mood disorder that often makes you feel constant sadness and a lack of interest in life. That said, depression can look different for each person. People diagnosed with depression may have feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness. It’s more than just feeling sad.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

There are many signs and symptoms of depression and they vary for each individual. Someone may have more severe symptoms than others and in some individuals, their symptoms can occur for a shorter amount of time. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), you may be diagnosed with depression if you are experiencing any of these symptoms for at least 2 weeks: 

You may feel: 

  • Tired or have a lack of energy almost every day
  • Hopeless or pessimistic
  • Worthless or guilty almost every day
  • Restless or slowed down

You may lose:

  • Sleep or you sleep too much almost every day 
  • Interest or pleasure in many activities nearly every day 
  • Weight or appetite changes causing you to gain weight

You also may:

  • Think often about death or suicide
  • Overeat or stop feeling hungry 
  • Have aches, pain, headaches, cramps, or other digestive problems that don’t go away or get better with treatment
  • Have sad, anxious, or empty feelings 

What are Some Forms of Depression?

Different forms of depression differ slightly from each other. 

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Also known as dysthymia, is a depressed mood that lasts for at least two years. An individual diagnosed with this form of depression may have episodes of major depression along with periods of less severe symptoms. These symptoms must last for two years to be considered a persistent depressive disorder. 

Postpartum Depression

Women with postpartum depression experience full-blown major depression during their pregnancy or after delivery. This is different from having the “baby blues”. The “baby blues” typically clear within two weeks after delivery and symptoms include mild depression as well as anxiety. 

Women with postpartum depression have symptoms of extreme sadness, anxiety, and exhaustion. It’s difficult for these new mothers to complete daily care activities for themselves and/or for their babies. 

Seasonal Affective Disorder 

As the name implies this depression occurs seasonally. Usually during the winter when there is less natural sunlight. Individuals with this form of depression experience social withdrawal, increased sleep, and weight gain during this time. The depression symptoms generally lift during spring and summer. However, seasonal affective disorder can happen during the summer as well. 

Bipolar Disorder

Individuals with bipolar disorder experience extreme mood swings at times. It’s similar to depression in that an individual may have episodes of extremely low moods that meet the criteria for major depressive disorder. This episode is called bipolar depression. But bipolar is different from depression in that an individual may experience extreme high, euphoric, or irritable moods called mania. 

What is Substance Abuse?

Substance abuse is the excessive use of drugs or alcohol. It can happen to anyone no matter the age or socioeconomic status. Any form of substance abuse can harm your brain. It disrupts the chemical processes in your brain which can lead to your brain getting used to having those substances in your system. 

This leads to drug dependence, your body is now dependent on the drug. When this happens it can lead to intense withdrawal symptoms if you stop taking the drug. If you or a family member have a substance abuse problem it’s important to get help as soon as possible before the abuse gets worse.

Signs and Symptoms of Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can significantly alter an individual’s behavior and habits. Some behavioral signs and symptoms of the substance include but are not limited to: 

  • Lethargy
  • Depression
  • Increased aggression or irritability 
  • Sudden changes in a social network 
  • Negative changes in attitude/personality
  • Dramatic changes in habits and/or priorities

Substance abuse can also cause physical changes. Some signs include:

  • Dental issues 
  • Skin changes 
  • Changes in hygiene
  • Abrupt weight changes 
  • Bloodshot or glazed eyes
  • Dilated or constricted pupils 
  • Problems with sleeping or sleeping too much 

Other symptoms include:

  • Tolerance, which is when your body gets used to the substances and uses bigger doses to achieve the same effects.
  • Withdrawal may cause symptoms of nervousness, nausea, chills, cold sweats, or agitation as you try to limit how much your intaking of the substances
  • Relapse, which is substance abuse after a period of abstinence caused by cravings and withdrawal symptoms 

Knowing the signs and symptoms of substance abuse can help to prevent the problem from progressing further in yourself or your close loved ones. It’s better to intervene and be wrong than the alternative. 

The Link Between Addiction and Depression

To cope with depression symptoms, some individuals turn to drugs or alcohol for relief. There are many reasons why this can happen. Drugs and alcohol are ways for some individuals to self-medicate to escape from their severe depression. Without proper treatment from a medical professional, these individuals will continue to use those substances in even more dangerous ways than before. This can lead to co-occurring disorders, which are when a person has two or more illnesses.

Substance abuse and depression are a dangerous combination. If you stop using substances your depression can worsen. For example, people who hide their depression through drinking alcohol notice that their depression becomes more intense when they become sober. Depression and general drug abuse are also common. The drugs are used to shield themselves from painful thoughts or get relief from extreme depression.

How Important is it for Individuals to Seek Treatment for Substance Abuse and Depression?

Depression affects about one in 15 adults and one in six people will experience depression at some time in their life. Depression is more common in women than in men. There is also a high degree of heritability when first-degree relatives such as parents, children, or siblings, have depression. 

It’s important to get in control of depression before an addiction becomes harder to treat. Depression is treatable with proper treatment. Yet, when you mask your depression with drugs or alcohol you not only have to fight one illness but two. An individual who is dealing with substance abuse and depression should seek treatment so they can live a fulfilled life without feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and addiction.

What are Treatment Options for Substance Abuse and Depression?

If you or a loved one are dealing with co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse and depression, there are treatment options available to get the help that you need. If you or a loved one are dealing with co-occurring disorders such as substance abuse and depression, there are treatment options available to get the help that you need. The first step to treatment is realizing that you have an addiction and asking for help. Treatment for the co-occurring disorder is very complex. Finding the right rehab facility is important to get the best results. When you are ready for assistance in treating your co-occurring disorder Harmony Place is here to help you. 

Harmony Place is a California state-licensed treatment facility and a leader in evidence-based treatment for co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. Harmony Place’s mission is to provide superior care to its clients. Addiction and depression is an illness that affects the mind, body, and spirit. Treating addiction is a lot more than helping an individual refrain from using a particular substance. 

It’s important for an individual with a co-occurring disorder to have a customized plan for treatment because everybody is different. Whichever treatment option is best for you, such as group therapy or 1-on-1 therapy, every individual will be able to target their issues leading them on the right path to becoming sober and working on their depression.  Some treatment options that are available at Harmony Place include but are not limited to: 

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Relapse Prevention Education and Practice
  • Psychoeducational Groups
  • Fitness Training
  • Nutrition Counseling 

There are several benefits from seeking treatment for co-occurring disorders, such as substance abuse and depression. When you have a co-occurring disorder is it very important to seek treatment for both. If not you do not seek treatment for your depression but just your addiction you may relapse due to your depression symptoms. 

Seeking treatment at Harmony Place will help you prevent relapsing by establishing a plan to help cope with possible triggers. So, if you are an individual with a co-occurring disorder and are ready to take the next step contact Harmony Place for more information now.