On the way to work this morning, I was listening to the radio and something the hosts said really got me thinking about depression. Mostly, how society seems to be grossly misinformed on what it really means to be depressed and, naturally, how addiction and depression are so closely related.
One of the hosts were talking about how he’s been in a slump for the past two months. He wakes up and doesn’t feel great, he goes to work and has to pull through, and by the end of the day, he just wants to go home and hide under the covers. He also confessed that he didn’t think he had any real reason to feel this way. He has a great job, a loving family, and things are generally going great for him.
Then, one of the other hosts announces, “That sounds like clinical depression.”
The second host could be onto something. Or he could be way off base. After all, it’s normal to not feel super happy all the time. Everyone has bad days. However, depression is a whole other thing and it’s important to know the difference. The slight use of the words depressed or depression in the media contributes to the overall stigma of the mental health disorder. If you think you might be depressed or if you think you struggle with both addiction and depression, don’t self-diagnose the problem. Reach out to your doctor right away or call The Discovery House to speak to an addiction specialist that will help you figure out what the next step should be.
The Complexities of Co-Occurring Disorders: Addiction and Depression
What is depression, exactly? It’s a disorder that affects around 19 million Americans and many people who live with depression, struggle with addiction as well. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression can be defined as “a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. To be diagnosed with depression, the symptoms must be present for at least two weeks.”
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On the flip side, the National Institute on Drug Abuse defines addiction as “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences. It is considered a brain disease because drugs change the brain; they change its structure and how it works. These brain changes can be long lasting and can lead to many harmful, often self-destructive, behaviors.”
A person who lives with both addiction and depression has what is called a co-occurring disorder or a dual-diagnosis.
Symptoms of Depression vs Addiction
You might find it surprising to know just how common co-occurring disorders in addiction really are and maybe even more surprised by the fact that there are many overlaps when it comes to the symptoms or signs of each. Take a look at some of the similarities and differences between addiction and depression using this helpful infographic.
What Comes First: Depression or Addiction?
Since there are so many overlapping signs and symptoms, it’s hard to recognize where depression ends and addiction begins. The two usually go hand in hand, as people who suffer from depression will try to self-medicate their pain by abusing drugs and/or alcohol. Alternatively, drinking or using drugs can actually induce depression symptoms. Obviously, drug use is never a good way to solve any problem and most people who self-medicate with drugs and alcohol can develop an addiction as well as a mental health disorder, or co-occurring disorder, like depression.
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Treatment for Co-occurring Disorders in Addiction Treatment
When it comes to co-occurring disorders, it’s important to treat both the mental health disorder as well as the addiction. Patients that have been diagnosed with both depression and substance addiction need specialized care to help them recover, because both conditions need to be addressed at the same time. Doctors and therapists now know that it is ineffective to treat one illness at a time because of how closely they are linked in each patient. Patients today receive treatment and therapy for their addiction at the same time they are treated by a psychologist with medication or counseling for their depression.
It’s awesome that this conversation was happening over live radio, where thousands of Americans probably heard it. Mental illness and addiction need to be in the spotlight and talked about in a way that doesn’t further stigmatize the two issues. If you worried about whether you or a loved one has a co-occurring disorder, help is available. Call The Discovery House at (855) 203-7930 to talk to a compassionate addiction specialist today.