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The Connection Between Depression and Addiction

It wasn’t until recently that the concept of comorbidity — co-occurring addiction alongside one or more other disorders — really gained traction in the mental health and substance abuse treatment communities. Today, it’s known that there are certain mental and emotional disorders that occur alongside addiction with elevated frequency. In particular, depression is often diagnosed with addiction and substance abuse. But is there a relationship between the two disorders? And when addiction and depression are comorbid, how are they treated?

When we think about mental health disorders or mood disorders, depression is often the first one we think about. Further, it’s one of the mood disorders that requires the least amount of explanation. Or does it?

Depression is most often associated with a generally “low” mood. People who are depressed appear to have very little energy and motivation. They seem to take very little interest in their immediate surroundings as they’re taken by feelings of sadness or perhaps even despair. But for most people, this is the breadth of understanding of depression, limited almost entirely to visual cues and implications. However, depression is actually a clinical condition that can range from mild to severe with the latter warranting clinical intervention and treatment.

The best way to understand and conceptualize clinical depression is to compare and contrast is with your standard, everyday, run-of-the-mill depression that we all experience at times. In short, “normal” depression is much like what was described above: It tends to look like an individual simply has low energy and motivation, lack of interest in his or her immediate surroundings, no interest in socializing or relationships, and is generally sad or morose. When experiencing normal feelings of depression, a person might exhibit some or even all of these characteristics for a brief period that typically doesn’t exceed more than a few days. More often than not, normal feelings of depression are triggered by some type of event or experience, which can include the death of a loved one or having an argument with one’s spouse or romantic partner.

By comparison, clinical depression — which is more officially known as major depression or major depressive disorder — is an actual diagnosable mood disorder, warranting clinical treatment and intervention. Typically, major depression appears as a more pronounced and prolonged version or normal depression. The individual will seem to have similarly lost interest in previous hobbies or pastimes, have a lack or energy and motivation, and will be withdrawn from his or her relations. However, clinical depression tends to last for a much more significant period of time, extending for up to two weeks or perhaps even longer.

It can be difficult to detect clinical depression and even harder to distinguish clinical depression from natural, “normal” depression; however, one of the most reliable tellsigns is the length of time that a depressive episode lasts. More often than not, a person suffering from clinical depression will exhibit severe symptoms of the disorder for a period of up to two weeks or longer. Additionally, there’s often a pattern regarding when and how often these depressive episodes occur. Some individuals might appear not to experience these depressive episodes for years at a time before they suddenly slip into a depressive episode; however, one of the diagnostic traits of clinical depression is that the depressive episodes are periodic and often unprovoked.

Beyond the patterns that tend to emerge regarding depressive episodes, individuals suffering from clinical depression tend to exhibit the most exaggerated versions of the signs and symptoms described above. For example, rather than simply lacking energy and being somewhat lethargic, someone in the throes of a depressive episode might remain in bed for much of the day, either sleeping or simply lying in bed while awake for hours on end.

Everybody has bad days and experiences depression at times. In fact, feelings of sadness and depression are essential parts of being human. However, the natural depression we all experience from time to time and clinical depression aren’t the same thing with the latter being a more exaggerated and intense manifestation of depressive symptoms.

According to statistics, depression is consistently ranked among the most common of all mental and emotional disorders. This means that, besides a few others, depression is a disorder from which more people suffer than nearly any other mental or emotional disorder. As such, it’s quite common for people suffering from depression to simultaneously be suffering from other disorders, including addiction and substance use disorder. When a person suffers from both depression and addiction, it’s referred to as comorbidity, which is a term that’s used when a disorder co-occurs with another disorder.

One of the most highly-researched questions regarding addiction is what actually causes the disease. For the most part, the possible causes of addiction have been broken into categories, which are environment, genetics, and psychological. Interestingly, major depressive disorder has similarly been found to have the same possible causes. Considering that there are high instances of comorbid addiction and depression, many have begun to wonder whether there’s a relationship between the two. In other words, does addiction cause depression, or vice versa?

When you consider how addiction and depression affect the brain’s structural and chemical functioning, it wouldn’t be surprising if one caused the other. Additionally, there are certain symptoms — e.g., disinterest, social withdrawal, uncharacteristic behavior — that could be considered symptoms of both disorders, meaning that there’s some level of overlap regarding the effects of both addiction and depression.

In reality, rather than one causing the other, the more likely scenario is that both disorders have similar sources and can develop simultaneously. For example, if an individual grows up under trying circumstances, it stands to reason that his or her environment could just as easily lead to depression as it could lead to a substance abuse problem in the future.

Fortunately, there are treatment options available for individuals suffering from depression and comorbid addiction. In particular, dual-diagnosis treatment programs are designed in such a way as to offer treatments for both co-occurring illnesses. Thus, individuals suffering from both disorders will received treatments for both depression and for substance abuse as part of our dual-diagnosis treatment program in Port Saint Lucie, Florida.

Whether you’re seeking treatment for depression or support for a substance abuse problem, our dual-diagnosis treatment in Port Saint Lucie, Florida, is your premiere destination for recovery. For more information about our recovery support services or the treatments we offer, call Just Believe Recovery today at 877-978-1208

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