If you’re suffering from depression, you are not alone. In the United States, major depressive disorder affects about 17.3 million adults each year (that’s over 7% of the entire U.S. population 18+). What’s more, major depressive disorder is also more prevalent in women than in men with a 1.7-fold greater incidence in women.

And the difficult reality of mental health disorders like depression is that approximately 20% of Americans who suffer from anxiety or depression also have a substance use disorder. Likewise, approximately 20% of people with a substance use disorder also suffer from anxiety or depression – either disorder can happen first.

When a person suffers from depression and addiction (or the other way around), it’s labeled by medical professionals as a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorders. This disorder of alcohol or drug addiction and depression is quite common but difficult to treat. However, with professional help, patients can heal from and manage the symptoms of addiction and depression through an integrated intervention.

In this article, we’ll provide an overview of how to handle depression and addiction, including the types and symptoms of depression, addiction, their connection, and how to recover from both.

What Are the Types & Symptoms of Depression?

The Mayo Clinic defines depression as: “A mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest.”

Depression is more than feeling the blues or sadness, it’s more than being down in the dumps. Depression lasts well beyond difficult situations and can have a detrimental impact on a person’s life.

While the term “depression” is often used as an umbrella term for all types of depression, there are nine distinct types of depression. Each type presents itself in different ways and requires a licensed medical professional (such as a psychiatrist) to diagnose.

1. Major Depressive Disorder

Major depressive disorder (also known as clinical depression) is one of the most common mental disorders in the U.S. It’s generally characterized by having several of the following symptoms for two weeks or more:

  • A distinct change in mood
  • Loss of interest in daily activities
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Psychophysiological changes (trouble with sleep, overeating or undereating, lack of energy, difficulty concentrating, etc.

While major depressive disorder can technically only occur once in a person’s life, it usually recurs in episodes; and although this condition has uncomfortable symptoms, it’s highly treatable.

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder

Persistent depressive disorder (also known as dysthymia) is a chronic form of depression. People who suffer from this mental health disorder do so off and on for years. While it’s possible to see some breaks in this type of depression for a few months, it usually returns. People with persistent depressive disorder can have the following chronic symptoms:

  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of pleasure or interest in daily activities
  • Low self-worth
  • Easily agitated
  • Overeat or under eat
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Social isolation

It is not normal to experience these symptoms regularly and a lot of people with persistent depressive disorder chalk these feelings up to being a part of their personality. Once someone has received an official diagnosis, this disorder can be treated and managed.

3. Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression) causes extreme mood shifts at the drop of a hat (high highs and low lows). These mood shifts can last for weeks on end and pose a real threat to a person’s health and safety. Sometimes, people with bipolar disorder need to be hospitalized in order to stabilize their mood.

Bipolar disorder and alcoholism are commonly co-occurring disorders. In fact, manic depression and addiction co-occur at higher than expected rates. While doctors and scientists are still trying to figure out why one thing remains true: this particular combination is complex to treat.

4. Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression (also known as perinatal depression) typically occurs in women and some men after the birth of a child. Women who suffer from the following symptoms for more than two weeks may have postpartum depression:

  • Crying a lot
  • Having intrusive thoughts about hurting yourself or baby
  • Loss of interest in the baby (lack of connection)
  • Trouble with sleep
  • Self-isolation
  • Irrational fears
  • Trouble focusing
  • Feeling like a terrible mother
  • Trouble with eating (overeating or under eating)
  • Lack of energy

While it’s normal for a lot of new moms to feel overwhelming emotions, they shouldn’t interfere with your ability to care for yourself or your new baby; and they certainly shouldn’t last for a prolonged period of time. While postpartum depression is highly treatable, if left untreated, it can turn into chronic depressive disorder.

5. Psychotic Depression

Psychotic depression is a combination of depression and psychosis. The psychosis component is characterized by seeing or hearing things that are not there (called hallucinations) or experiencing false realities (called delusions).

It’s important to note that substance-induced disorders are very different from co-occurring mental disorders. People suffering from drug addiction can experience drug-induced psychosis, one example being amphetamine-induced hallucinations.

Treatment for psychotic depression can be tricky and requires medication or ECT (electroconvulsive therapy) as a last resort.

6. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression influenced by the change in seasons (usually during fall and winter) and approximately 5% of Americans have it. Interestingly enough, people with SAD can usually anticipate signs of depression around the same time each year, and it rarely goes beyond the dreary winter months. People with SAD can experience the following symptoms:

  • Feeling gloomy and depressed
  • Lack of pleasure or interest in daily activities
  • Feeling tired
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Agitated
  • Trouble sleeping

SAD can co-occur with other mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, but it can be effectively treated.

7. Situational Depression

Unlike many of the other types of depression, situational depression is short-term depression caused by a stressful or traumatic life event. Situational depression can make it hard for a person to adjust back to normal everyday life after experiencing a trauma.

Situational depression and addiction can definitely go hand in hand– especially if someone experienced a traumatic drug overdose. After a stressful or traumatic event, a person might display the following symptoms up to three months post-event:

  • Extreme sadness
  • Lack of interest or pleasure in daily activities
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Uncontrollable anxiety
  • Difficulty managing normal responsibilities
  • Self-isolation
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Trouble eating

Effective treatment for situational depression includes medication, talk therapy, and lifestyle changes.

8. Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) only occurs in women and is a more severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which coincides with a woman’s monthly menstrual cycle. While an exact cause of PMDD is not known, medical experts think it could have to do with a fluctuation in serotonin levels. If the following psychological symptoms occur for five menstrual cycles or more, it could be PMDD:

  • Agitation
  • Depression and/or anxiety
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Crying
  • Extreme fatigue

PMDD can definitely be treated once it’s officially diagnosed by a medical doctor such as an OB-GYN.

9. Atypical Depression

The last type of depression is atypical depression or depression with atypical features. People with this type of depression may feel the typical symptoms of depression one day, then receive positive news or experience something positive that temporarily lifts those depressed feelings. This usually doesn’t last long and people with atypical depression can also have the following symptoms:

  • Overeating
  • Sleeping too much
  • Heaviness in arms and legs
  • Emotional sensitivity
  • Suicidal thoughts

Despite the name, atypical depression doesn’t require atypical treatment. In fact, treatment is pretty straight forward with medication and talk therapy.

What Are the Symptoms of Addiction?

Addiction happens when a person becomes dependent on a substance like drugs or alcohol. The road to addiction isn’t always a straight one. It can happen over a period of time and there can be a lot of factors that contribute to how and when a person becomes addicted to a substance—one of them being depression.

Signs of addiction to drugs (illicit or prescription) can be:

  • Mood swings
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Decrease in appetite
  • General restlessness
  • Lack of social interaction
  • Increased tolerance
  • Cravings
  • Psychological changes (development of depression and/or anxiety, psychosis, paranoia, etc.)
  • Using controlled substances beyond their prescribed time
  • Taking higher doses of prescription medications than recommended
  • Engaging in dangerous behaviors
  • Stealing
  • Loss of job, familial ties, custody of children, etc.
  • Experiencing mental and physical withdrawal symptoms with decreased use

Signs of alcohol addiction can be:

  • Binge drinking
  • Changes in behavior/personality when drinking
  • Drinking in secret
  • Noticeable weight loss or gain
  • Loss of motor skills or balance
  • Slurred speech
  • Appearing bloated or puffy
  • Appearing pale or red
  • Drinking early in the day
  • Moderate to intense cravings
  • Regularly blacking out
  • Increased tolerance
  • Loss of interest in hobbies
  • Engaging in hazardous activities (drinking and driving, unprotected sex, etc.)
  • Experiencing mental and physical withdrawal symptoms with decreased use
  • Routinely waking up hungover
  • Loss of job, familial ties, custody of children, etc.
  • Continuing to drink despite affecting everyday life

If you have any of these symptoms of drug or alcohol addiction, you may need professional help.

The Connection Between Depression and Addiction

As mentioned earlier, the combination of addiction and depression is common. Either can occur first and when people suffer from both at the same time, it’s called a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder.

Depression can be a gateway to alcohol and drug abuse, which, in reality, makes coping with depression a lot harder in the long run. About 16.5% of people with depression also have an alcohol use disorder and 18% have a drug use disorder.

On the other hand, substance abuse can also cause depression because it can change the chemistry of the brain. Prolonged use of drugs can disrupt neurotransmission, while prolonged alcohol use can cause significant changes to the neurological pathways that lead to tolerance and physical dependence.

Whether it’s depression causing addiction or addiction causing depression, either is possible. Here’s who’s most at risk for depression, substance abuse, or potentially both:

Risk factors for depression:

  • Familial history of depression
  • Death of a loved one
  • Traumatic experiences
  • Abuse (physical, sexual, or psychological)
  • Major life changes (becoming a parent, moving, new job, etc.)

Risk factors for substance abuse:

  • Genetics
  • Surroundings (physical and social)
  • Dual diagnosis
  • Type of drug and how it’s used (some have highly addictive qualities like methamphetamine and heroin)

If you or someone you love is pre-disposed to or experiencing any of the risk factors mentioned above, you can fall victim to addiction and depression.

Recovery From Depression and Substance Abuse

Recovery from depression and substance abuse requires an integrated intervention, meaning you’re treating two or more conditions and using a multi-treatment approach. Treatment for addiction and depression usually consists of a combination of psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy, which are found to be more effective than treating the individual disorders separately.

Integrated intervention treatment can consist of the following:

  • Detox and inpatient rehabilitation
  • Comprehensive psychotherapy
  • Prescription medication
  • Sober living facility (halfway house)
  • Support groups (talk therapy, AA, NA, etc.)

With the right plan and direction from a licensed medical professional, recovery from depression and substance abuse is absolutely possible.

You Do Not Have to Suffer From Addiction and Depression Alone

If you are suffering from substance abuse and depression, you do not have to do it alone. Help is available and recovery is possible with an effective course of treatment.

At AION Health Group, we help thousands of people each year who are coping with addiction and depression through a comprehensive range of addiction treatment programs at three, Florida-based locations.

We aim to provide patients with total healing and long-term recovery with comprehensive and personalized recovery plans that combine our evidence-based and adventure-focused treatment modalities.

If you’re ready to overcome depression and addiction, call for help today at 888-912-2454, or contact us through our secure website. Our experienced and compassionate admissions staff is standing by 24/7 to help.

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