Overcoming addiction is a great feat. When a person overcomes addiction after treatment and is in recovery, he or she wants to feel renewed and ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen for people in addiction recovery. In fact, many people suffer from depression in recovery.
As hopeless as suffering from depression in recovery can make you feel, there are ways to overcome this as well. To learn these ways, you must first learn about depression itself. You must then understand the correlation between depression and addiction. Get ready to improve your life once and for all!
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What is Depression?
Depression is a mood disorder and mental illness that causes people to feel persistent sadness. People with depression lose interest in life due to their persistent sadness. As a result, they tend to close themselves off from other people and stop taking care of themselves.
As depression becomes worse, people that suffer from it will even begin to feel physical symptoms. If left untreated, those that suffer from depression may even commit suicide.
What are Some of the Causes of Depression?
Any person of any social or economic status can develop depression. This is because depression develops in people for a number of different reasons.
Some people contain a genetic predisposition to developing depression. Perhaps one of their parents suffers from depression. Maybe a grandparent struggles with a depressive disorder. Once this genetic predisposition is sparked by stressful or overwhelming life changes or situations, depression can occur.
Positive Life Changes
For other people, stressful or overwhelming life changes or situations are strong enough to trigger depression, even when those life changes are positive. Examples of positive life changes that can cause depression to occur include starting a new job, moving to a new city alone, or graduating from college. While all of these examples are positive by nature, they can all provide a stressful amount of pressure on a person that can cause him or her to develop depression.
Just think about women who experience postpartum depression after giving birth. While bringing life into the world is a miracle and a blessing, it doesn’t take away from the fact that many women struggle with postpartum depression afterward.
Part of the reason why women develop postpartum depression is the hormone changes that occur directly after giving birth. The lack of sleep that mothers experience due to breastfeeding and taking care of newborn babies may also contribute to the development of depression.
Negative Life Changes
Often, life changes or situations that cause a person to develop depression are negative in nature. For example, suffering from a life-threatening illness such as cancer can cause a person to become depressed. Losing a loved one to cancer or some other illness is also a negative life change that can cause someone to develop depression.
Other examples of negative life changes or situations that can trigger depression include losing your job, falling in debt, or becoming bankrupt. Even negative social life changes can trigger depression in some individuals. Examples of negative social life changes that can trigger depression include going through a romantic breakup or feeling lonely.
For many people, alcohol or drug abuse can cause a person to develop depression. This is often the case for those that developed depression in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. While some people develop depression after substance use, many others developed depression prior to containing a drug or alcohol addiction. Therefore, both depression can spark drug addiction and drug addiction can spark depression.
Identifying the Types of Depression That May Occur During or After Addiction
There are varying types of depression; they are characterized by when and why are people experience their depression symptoms. How long the symptoms persist also helps professionals to identify the type of depression a person is experiencing.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is when a person experiences changes in his or her mood due to the changes in season. For example, most people with seasonal affective disorder become depressed during the winter. This is because the winter months are the darkest and coldest.
As we’ve already mentioned, postpartum depression occurs after a woman gives birth to a child. Postpartum depression is primarily due to hormone changes and lack of sleep.
Minor depression is when you experience depressive symptoms for only a few days. Because people with minor depression experience depression symptoms for such a small amount of time, people with it likely don’t need treatment.
Otherwise known as dysthymic disorder, major depression symptoms are severe and typically last more than 2 weeks.
People with bipolar disorder go back and forth between manic episodes and depressive episodes. When going through a depressive episode, a bipolar person experiences classic depression symptoms.
This is a severe form of depression. That’s because people with psychotic depression will think in a psychotic and distorted way on top of their regular depression symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms of Depression
There are many ways to determine if a person is suffering from depression or not. The most common signs and symptoms of depression are listed below.
- Suicidal thoughts
- Suicide attempts
- Constant pessimism
- Low self-esteem
- Comfort eating
- Loss of appetite
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Poor concentration
- Poor memory
- Social isolation
- Body aches and pain
- Poor personal hygiene
- Excessive daytime sleeping
- Losing an excessive amount of weight
- Gaining an excessive amount of weight
- Trouble getting out of bed in the morning
- Feeling excessive guilt or shame about the past
- Not enjoying things and activities that you used to enjoy
The Correlation Between Depression and Addiction
As we briefly mentioned earlier in this article, depression can spark addiction and addiction can spark depression. When depression sparks addiction, it’s because many people that suffer from depression start abusing drugs or alcohol to cope. Eventually, these people’s chronic substance abuse turns into an addiction. Thus, such people will then suffer from both depression and addiction at the same time.
If people that suffer from both depression and addiction at the same time don’t also treat their depression while in addiction treatment, their lingering depression will cause their addiction to spark up again. This is especially true if the depression came first, and is thus the root of the problem. Therefore, if you suffer from depression and addiction at the same time, you need to receive dual diagnosis treatment.
When addiction sparks depression, it’s because addiction changes the chemistry in your brain. As a result, the feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain only go off when you consume alcohol or drugs. This causes you to become dependent on substances to feel good at all.
Therefore, whenever you minimize or discontinue your use of substances, you feel the opposite of good. You feel depressed. This is why people sometimes develop depression in recovery. This is also why depression and addiction are so strongly correlated.
Depression and Recovery: Addressing This Co-Occurrence
If you develop depression in recovery, it’s not your fault. If you’ve completed your addiction treatment program, you’ve done your part. Unfortunately, it sometimes just takes more time to fully get over all the symptoms and issues connected to your addiction. There are therapy and support groups that you can go to after your treatment is over to be rid yourself of any lingering depression that you may have.
Causes of Depression in Recovery
There are many reasons why a person can experience depression in recovery. Some of the more popular reasons are described below.
One reason why you may experience depression in recovery is that you were suffering from depression while you were suffering from addiction, but only received treatment for the addiction.
As we mentioned earlier, regardless of which disorder came first, many people suffer from both depression and addiction prior to receiving treatment. When you suffer from both depression and addiction simultaneously, you’re suffering from a dual diagnosis disorder.
Because the reason why most people experience a dual diagnosis disorder is that one of the disorders sparked the other one, the only way to treat both disorders is to do so simultaneously. Thus, you must receive dual diagnosis treatment. That’s why it’s important to receive an official medical diagnosis of your condition prior to attending treatment. That way you don’t look over any co-occurring disorders that you may have.
It’s a Post-Acute Withdrawal Symptom
Another reason why you may experience depression in recovery is that your brain is taking extra time to get used to not using substances to spark its pleasure system. While depression is often a withdrawal symptom of abused substances while in detox and treatment, if you’re addiction is severe, this symptom can take up to a year after treatment is over to fully go away.
When a withdrawal symptom continues on into early recovery, it’s called a post-acute withdrawal symptom. To help get rid of this post-acute withdrawal symptom as quickly as possible, attend therapy and different support groups directly after treatment is over.
You’re Still Getting Used to Living Sober
A third reason why you may experience depression in recovery is that you’re still learning how to enjoy being sober. If you’ve lived an extended period of your life in an altered state due to substance abuse, that state becomes your comfort zone. Therefore, when you’re freshly sober, you may experience newfound depression, as you relearn how to enjoy life sober. You also may still need time to deal with the shame and consequences that your addiction has brought into your life.
Dangers of Depression in Recovery
Suffering from depression in recovery can be soul-crushing. This is because even after putting in weeks or months into addiction treatment, you still feel horrible. It’s almost as if there is no way to escape your problems. As a result, many people who experience depression in recovery will lose turn back to drug use.
Others will lose so much hope that they commit suicide. To avoid the dangers of relapsing or suicide, it’s imperative to attend therapy and any other necessary treatment for your depression as soon as possible. With persistent and consistent help, you will get better.
Ways to Treat Depression in Recovery
To manage depression in recovery, consistently attend therapy throughout until you feel you’ve gotten a handle over your depression. You can also attend support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous after treatment is over. Doing so can help you build a community of support. In fact, many treatment programs contain aftercare services that you can take advantage of as soon as your treatment is over.
Just inquire about your treatment facility’s aftercare services after you complete treatment. You may even be able to join an addiction treatment alumni group. Regardless of which way you choose to manage your depression in recovery, do so as quickly as possible. There is no need for you to waste your life in misery after addiction treatment.
Free by the Sea Is Here For You Before, During, and After Addiction Treatment
Depression and recovery from addiction often occur together. At Free by the Sea, we understand that mental illness and addiction are deeply correlated with one another. That’s why we provide a wide variety of therapy services at our treatment center. We even provide dual diagnosis treatment for those that need to treat a mental illness at the same time as their addiction.
For those that are experiencing depression in recovery, we provide multiple aftercare services and support groups, on top of our therapy services. Therefore, you don’t need to suffer for one second after your addiction treatment is over. To learn more about Free by the Sea, and the other addiction treatment and therapy programs and services that we offer, contact us today. We’re excitedly awaiting your call.
Dr. Richard Crabbe joined our team in 2019 as our psychiatrist and medical director. He attended the University of Ghana Medical School where he became a Medical Doctor in 1977. From 1978 through 1984, he was a medical officer in the Ghana Navy and provided a variety of services from general medicine to surgeries. He received his Certificate in General Psychology from the American Board of Psychology and Neurology in 2002.