Life’s going to throw a lot of different curveballs our way, but one of the hardest can be depression. Depression is one of the leading causes of disability throughout the world, and when we stop relying on healthy coping mechanisms—or never start them to begin with—that’s when we can find ourselves relying on substances to ease the pain. Before we know it, a deadly combination has occurred and we’re stuck in a place that’s hard to get out of.
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The Connection Between Depression and Addiction
Previously, studies have shown that approximately 1/5 of those cases with an addiction also experience depression, but it’s hard to identify exactly which one comes first. Both are quite complex, as there are so many different dynamics that can contribute to the development of one or both at the same time; in fact, there are three regions of the brain that are involved in both types of conditions, such as the hypothalamus, the amygdala and emotional memory, which means that both are linked. When they occur simultaneously, however, that’s when it’s hardest to understand which came first.
For those with depression, it often feels like a “natural state of being,” especially if that individual hasn’t received a diagnosis and isn’t aware of treatment for what they’re going through. When this occurs, some people may begin to rely on substances like drugs or alcohol to take away some of the pain that they’re experiencing, whether it be mentally, physically, or spiritually. In fact, substances can serve as a nice distraction from depression at times—but it doesn’t always last, and it can actually make things worse.
Of course, we all have certain people, places or activities that can ease us in times of stress or depression. However, some of these behaviors were learned during childhood and, after growing up and seeing our parents or caretakers turning towards substances to deal with painful emotions, we may have picked up on that habit in our own adult lives. In other cases, we may turn to substances if our immediate friends have shown that it’s commonplace to do so, and if everybody else seems to be doing it, it makes it that much easier for us to follow that path as well.
It’s not uncommon for depression and substance use disorders (SUDs) to occur alongside other mental health conditions, such as:
- Social anxiety disorder (SAD) – drinking in order to feel less anxious around other people
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – intrusive thoughts, paranoia, nightmares and more can feel overwhelming, and alcohol may make these experiences seem less confusing or traumatic
- Panic disorder – those who fear having panic attacks during certain times of the day, in certain places or around certain people may find that alcohol or other drugs can ease some of that anxiety
A Dangerous Mix
The hard truth is that it’s easier to turn to things that are unhealthy for us when we’re in the middle of disaster. It’s much easier to criticize ourselves, to blame others, to make risky decisions and to pursue denial than it is to see from a much larger perspective, taking responsibility for our actions and choosing to make choices that would better benefit our health and well-being. Human beings are rather emotional creatures and, if we don’t find the right tools and resources to get us through some of life’s most challenging moments, we’ll find that we can become sucked into some of the most deadly situations out there.
Addiction recovery isn’t just about recovering from addiction, but it’s also about prepping the mind, body and spirit to build a life that’s meaningful and filled with purpose as well as one that comprehends that fragile state of what it means to be human through the help of God or another Higher Power. There are several types of treatment that can aid in a lot of these aspects, of living, such as:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – a highly effective approach to therapy in which a therapist helps their client overcome destructive, negative thoughts patterns by recognizing how it impacts their behavior; this places more responsibility on the person as it’s up to them to practice what they’ve been learning with their therapist
- Acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) – by accepting what we cannot change, we’re more likely to handle difficult situations with wider perspective and more grace
- Dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) – “black and white” thinking can bring about more extreme reactions; however, there are several tools that we can use to work through these thought patterns
- 12-Step support groups – sponsors and peers in recovery have weekly discussions surrounding relapse prevention and managing emotion.
If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction and mental health issues, a quality treatment program can provide you with strategies for maintaining long-term sobriety. At Renewal Lodge by Burning Tree, you will find a team of compassionate, knowledgeable professionals ready to coach each client through the 12-Steps and beyond. By structuring treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders, Burning Tree facilitates an environment of healing and holistic wellness. Here, our clients tackle their addictions head-on and harness the power to restructure their lives through high accountability and life skills that foster lasting sobriety. We specialize in treatment for the chronic relapser and believe that with the right tools, you can put an end to the cycle of addiction.