Depression often goes hand-in-hand with substance abuse, leading to what treatment professionals call a co-occurring disorder. In many cases, depression is the main reason why people start abusing drugs or alcohol, and less often, the substance abuse causes or worsens symptoms of depression so that it becomes more severe and noticeable than it was before.
How Depression and Substance Abuse Interact
Most often, the depression comes before the substance abuse and contributes to it. Many people use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate their depression, then become addicted to the substance because it is not a good fix for the original problem.
Substance abuse can make depression harder to diagnose when both are present because the abuse may mask the depression. The kind of drugs people with depression gravitate toward may artificially elevate their mood and make it impossible to see that depression is part of the picture. Usually, though, the high experienced with drugs or alcohol fades, and then depression feels even worse than before.
Occasionally, drug or alcohol use can cause symptoms of depression rather than the other way around. Drugs and alcohol have been known to have different effects on different people, and while depression is not a widely known effect of most substance abuse, it can happen in some cases.
Symptoms of Depression
The following are common signs of depression experienced by many, both with and without substance abuse.
- Regularly and persistently feeling helpless and hopeless
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Difficulty or inability in experiencing pleasure
- Appetite or weight changes
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Lack of energy; persistent fatigue
- Strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Difficulty concentrating
- Anger, physical pain, and reckless behavior
For co-occurring depression and substance abuse, these symptoms will likely be more pronounced when not using drugs or alcohol. Times of withdrawal may produce some of these symptoms temporarily, but persistent symptoms are more indicative of depression than those that are occasional or fleeting.
Are You In Denial?
Denial is common for both depression and substance abuse. One can mask the other and make it easy to explain away problematic symptoms and behaviors. It is a big step to be able to admit that you have a problem and that depression and substance abuse are impacting your life negatively.
Many things can contribute to denial. It is common not to realize just how much depression and substance abuse are affecting your life, and denial can be strengthened by fears of all your friends and family seeing you as weak for having these issues. Overcoming denial enough to understand the way depression and substance abuse are affecting your life can be the first step to treatment and recovery.
Recovery Village at Palmer Lake is a Colorado drug rehab facility that understands the complexity of treating the co-occurring disorders of depression and substance abuse. Contact us for more information about our multidisciplinary treatment programs that treat the whole person in a personalized way.