Depression and Addiction. Both depression and addiction can be complicated conditions and when they occur at the same time either, and both can exasperate a person’s sense of dysphoria and discomfort. These conditions are multifaceted in that they are related to genetics, environment, medical, social, and spiritual concerns.
Often the simplest way to start to address these issues, though, is to work on the most concrete concern regarding the addiction itself. Some clients I have worked with are happy to report that much of their mood struggles relate back to the roller coaster of emotions caused by their substance problems. They are relieved to see that what they thought was “depression” is in fact substance induced and goes into remission with sobriety. This could happen as quickly as within a few days of detox, but for others may take a few weeks or months.
However, the simple answer that being sober will cure depression is not accurate for many. The removal of the “self-medicating” can reveal an underlying and persistent depression that is an entity all to itself. A person whose depression is not adequately addressed in early recovery could prompt a person to want to return back to the mood-altering substances in the first place. The bad news is that there are no short-term solutions that can provide the kind of immediate relief that drugs and alcohol do without catastrophic consequences. The good news is that engaging in healthy behaviors that promote recovery from substances is also likely to have a positive effect on depression as well. Improving socialization, attending to medical/psychiatric concerns, eating well, and exercising can all help one to feel better over time.
Also, researching depression-specific treatments can be very effective in giving the problem attention while also preventing relapse. Remember, depression will often alter your thinking in a distorted fashion. The truth is that it can take effort, but there is a way to recover both from addiction and depression.
Chad K. Cox PsyD
AToN Center 888-535-1516