Depression is an intense feeling of sadness and loss that persists, regardless of what’s happening on the outside. Someone who is trapped in depression seems physically incapable of experiencing joy, even when something wonderful is happening right now. It can be hard for people like this to discuss their concerns openly, simply because they’ve lost the ability to believe that life can get better. They have no hope, so they’re not certain that even bringing up the issue will do any good at all.
Not surprisingly, many people who are depressed choose to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol. In fact, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America suggests that about 20 percent of people who have a mood disorder like depression also have a substance abuse disorder. People like this may not understand that addiction can make depression so much worse, but understanding family members may be able to provide the guidance and support that can help the truth to come to light.
Types of Depression
When most people think about depression and they attempt to describe its symptoms, they focus on major depression. This is the type of depression that’s associated with an extremely low mood that persists for weeks and weeks with no end in sight, and it’s the type that can cause an intense amount of suffering. But it’s certainly not the only type of depression available. In fact, there are a number of different forms of depression, including:
- Psychotic depression, in which a low mood comes with delusions or hallucinations
- Post-partum depression, which is a form of depression brought about by the birth of a child
- Seasonal affective disorder, in which changes in the season trigger a low mood
- Premenstrual dysphoric disorder, in which depression strikes in tandem with a woman’s cycle
But there are some types of depression that often do not get better on their own. For example, the National Institute of Mental Health suggests that some types of depression last for two years or even longer.
A persistent depressive disorder like this can be intensely debilitating, as it can seem to become a way of life for the impacted person.
Similarly, depression can sometimes be a symptom of a deeper mental health disorder. For example, people who have bipolar disorder often have depressive symptoms. Some experience depression that alternates with feelings of power or mania, while others experience depression of varying intensity while feeling no joy at all. These people might not get a diagnosis of depression, but their feelings are definitely depressive in nature.
The Link to Substance Abuse
Few studies have pinpointed the exact statistics regarding substance abuse among people who have different types of depression. As a result, it’s difficult to state with precision what type of depression is most closely associated with the need to use and abuse drugs. That need is certainly there, but it’s not clear what type of depression causes people to feel that need most acutely.
However, research does suggest that some types of depression are borne out of a previous episode of substance abuse or addiction. For example, an article in the journal Violence Against Women suggests that post-partum depression is more common in women with a prior history of substance abuse, when compared to women who don’t use drugs.
It’s not clear why this is the case, but it’s possible that women do damage to their brain cells due to drug use, and that damage makes them more vulnerable to depression when their hormones go wild after a pregnancy.
Similarly, some cases of depression seem to be augmented by the use of drugs. People who abuse hallucinogenic drugs on a regular basis, for example, might have depression tinged by psychosis, while their non-drug-using counterparts might not deal with that kind of damage. Underlying cell death might again play a role.
Depression might also accompany addiction because many drugs seem to help people overcome their debilitating symptoms. For example, some drugs seem to cause people to feel:
These sensations are brought about by the intense release of dopamine that hits the inside of the brain when drugs are available. People who have depression often have a low level of dopamine available, so the hit of drugs seems to correct a chemical imbalance and provide them with relief. The first time people like this take drugs, they might feel better. That kind of reward is often associated with persistent addiction.
Help for Depression
While people who have depression often feel as though they’ll simply never get better, there are a number of therapies that can help them to leave both addiction and depression behind. For example, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration suggests that depression is remarkably amenable to psychotherapies, including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. In CBT, people work with a therapist and identify the triggers that tend to bring about depressive thinking. For some, it’s a change of the seasons or a time of the month. For others, it might be a critical person or a place in which they feel unsafe. Then, the team works together to come up with a list of alternate reactions to that trigger that don’t involve depression or drugs. It might sound easy or even simplistic, but therapy like this can often transform the way that people think, and they can get better as a result.
In addition to therapy, some people with depression do need to take medications to balance their brain cells and reduce the risk that they’ll relapse to drugs. There are a number of different therapies to try, including some made for bipolar disorder and others made for major depression. People who take these drugs often need to do so for months before they begin to work, but they can be quite helpful for people dealing with a low mood that won’t lift.
At Black Bear Lodge, we’re committed to helping our patients overcome depression, so they can go on to live a happier, healthier, drug-free life. We utilize psychotherapies, medications and more to break the spell of negative thinking, and our follow-up care ensures that our lessons stick for the long term. Please call. Our admissions coordinators are available now, and we’d love to tell you more.