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How Depression and Substance Abuse go Hand-in-Hand

The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that between 1 in 6 adults in the United States suffer from some form of mental illness. That means between 48 million and 80 million Americans struggle with depression at any given time. Interestingly, substance use and depression seem to go hand-in-hand which makes for an even bigger problem. Here’s what you need to know about depression and substance use.

What is Depression?

Clinical depression is a serious mental illness characterized by persistent sad moods, decreased interest in activities once enjoyed, fatigue, insomnia, poor concentration, and thoughts of death or suicide. The symptoms are so severe they interfere with daily functioning and cause significant distress. People who suffer from depression may feel like nothing matters anymore and do not care about anything. They may lose interest in sex, hobbies, friends, and family. Some people feel worthless, guilty, or ashamed and become isolated. Others withdraw socially and isolate themselves from others.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression affects more than 16 percent of U.S. adults ages 18 and older each year. This includes approximately 8.1 million children and adolescents ages 12 through 17.

Depression is treatable, but it takes commitment on your part. Treatment involves medication, therapy, support groups, and other interventions. If you think you may be suffering from depression, Tennessee Valley Recovery in Knoxville, TN offers free confidential assessments.

Substance Use Disorders

Addiction is defined as compulsive drug seeking and use despite adverse consequences. Addiction is a chronic disease that requires long-term treatment and recovery. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), there are three main types of addiction:

  • Alcoholism: Alcoholism is a condition where a person has developed a physical dependence on alcohol and continues drinking despite negative health effects. People with alcoholism usually drink heavily over a period of many years.
  • Opioid Dependence: An opioid is a class of powerful pain relievers such as heroin, morphine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, fentanyl, methadone and buprenorphine. These medications are used to relieve moderate to severe pain. When taken regularly, opioids can lead to tolerance and physical dependence.
  • Cocaine & Amphetamine Dependence: Cocaine and amphetamines are stimulants that increase alertness, energy and focus. A cocaine habit can lead to tolerance and withdrawal if stopped abruptly.

Connection Between Depression and Substance Abuse

Depression and substance abuse are two very common issues that coexist together. People who struggle with both disorders tend to have higher rates of relapse after treatment. This is because they don’t fully address the root causes of their addiction.

The following are some ways depression can contribute to substance abuse:

  • Feeling down or depressed makes you want to escape reality. You might turn to substances to help you cope with these feelings.
  • Low self esteem can make you believe you aren’t good enough to handle life without using drugs or alcohol.
  • Feelings of guilt and shame can prevent you from seeking help when you need it.
  • Anxiety and panic attacks can keep you up at night, making sleep difficult.
  • Loneliness and isolation can cause you to seek comfort from someone else by using drugs or alcohol. You may not realize how much this helps until you stop.
  • Lack of motivation can lead you to give up trying to get better.
  • Poor impulse control can cause you to act impulsively and irresponsibly.
  • Stressful situations can trigger cravings for drugs or alcohol.

Additionally, alcohol and drug use also cause mental symptoms like depression, sadness, hopelessness, worry, blame, and other perceivably negative emotions and feelings.

Treating Both Depression and Substance Abuse

The best way to treat both substance abuse and depression at the same time is through a combination of behavioral therapy and medications. Behavioral therapy helps patients learn how to cope better with stress, while medication treats the underlying medical conditions causing depression. Those with both conditions are considered to have a dual diagnosis. Tennessee Valley Recovery offers dual diagnosis treatment in Knoxville, TN to help those with co-occurring conditions.

There are several effective treatments for depression and substance abuse:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT): A type of talk therapy that focuses on changing thoughts and beliefs about yourself and your situation. CBT is used to treat mild to moderate depression and anxiety.
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT): A form of group counseling that combines mindfulness meditation, goal setting and problem solving. DBT is designed for those suffering from borderline personality disorder.
  • Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT): A type of group counseling that focuses on improving social skills and coping strategies. IPT is used to treat severe depression and anxiety.
  • Medication: Antidepressants and other medications can be prescribed to treat depression. However, these medications do not eliminate the need for ongoing therapy.
  • Psychotherapy: The use of counseling to treat depression. This includes individual, couples and family counseling.
  • Support groups: Group counseling in which members share experiences and support each other.
  • Self-help books: Books written specifically for individuals who want to overcome depression.
  • Spiritual healing: Healing through prayer, meditation, visualization and other methods.
  • Individual therapy – This type of treatment focuses on teaching you new ways of thinking and behaving. You learn how to recognize triggers and cravings and how to cope with them.
  • Family therapy – This type of therapy helps families deal with the effects of addiction and co-occurring disorders such as depression.
  • Twelve Step programs – These programs offer hope and guidance to people struggling with drug and alcohol problems. They encourage participants to make amends to others and themselves.

Depression and Addiction Treatment in Knoxville, TN

The first step toward recovery is knowing what the signs of addiction and depression are so you can seek treatment. There are many types of treatment available, but it’s important to find the right fit for you. Tennessee Valley offers various outpatient programs as well as sober living services to help you relieve the symptoms of your depression while achieving and maintaining sobriety. To learn more about our treatment options, give us a call or use our contact form today.