Depression and Substance Abuse: Dealing with a Dual Diagnosis

Many who struggle with substance abuse are also dealing with a co-occurring mental health disorder, a phenomenon we refer to as a dual diagnosis. When we help someone with a dual diagnosis at The Treatment Center, we know it isn’t just about treating an addiction – it’s also about the other aspects of a mental issue that might have gone untreated for years. For someone to recover from an addiction fully, they need to get help for their whole self – mind and body.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, an average of 17.5 million adults is living with a mental health diagnosis. Of those, 4 million are also struggling with some kind of alcohol or substance use disorder. Unfortunately, not many get the treatment they need – only 40% of these 4 million people get treatment for one disorder, while 5% get treatment services for both.

Effectively addressing substance abuse disorder relies on treatment of any dual diagnosis. One of the most common dual diagnoses for substance abuse is depression. People dealing with depression often turn to drugs or alcohol to escape their negative emotions.

Substance Abuse And Depression: Which Comes First?

Some people see dual diagnosis as a chicken and egg problem, in that it’s never clear what came first – the depression or the substance abuse. It’s difficult to discern whether drinking leads to depression or whether substance abuse is a result of negative emotions. Here’s what we do know – family history, environmental factors, and social factors all play a role in the development of depression and substance abuse.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20% of people with a mood disorder also have a substance use disorder. A substance abuse blog might try to draw out the origins of depression and substance abuse, but it doesn’t matter which comes first. For us at The Treatment Center, the real question is how can we effectively treat both conditions?

Do I Have Substance Abuse Depression?

To have a dual diagnosis, you must have mental health and substance abuse conditions that occur at the same time. Symptoms of a substance abuse disorder may include withdrawal from friends and family, sudden changes in behavior, loss of control over the use of substances, developing tolerance, experiencing withdrawal, feeling that you need a substance to function, or engaging in risky behaviors while under the influence of a substance.

Symptoms of depression may include things like withdrawal from friends and sudden changes in behavior. You may become isolated and lose interest in activities you used to enjoy. Feelings of despair, hopelessness, guilt, or an inability to concentrate are also hallmarks of depression. If you experience symptoms like these for two weeks or more, you may be suffering from depression.

Depression can vary from person to person. Women are more likely to experience depression as the blues, while men are more likely to experience irritability, hostility, and anger. Regardless of how it manifests, it’s different from an individual’s usual mental state. A sad mood won’t interfere with your ability to work or complete daily living tasks, while clinical depression will.

How Can I Treat A Dual Diagnosis?

It’s easy to see why there’s a relationship between depression and substance abuse. Those who contend with depression may turn to drugs or alcohol to numb their negative emotions, but this isn’t a healthy solution. Those suffering from clinical depression will stay depressed until they seek appropriate treatment – some substances will make these feelings worse. And for those individuals attempting to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol, coping mechanisms can turn into a full-blown addiction if the underlying cause (depression) goes unchecked.

At the same time, treating only one disorder won’t eliminate the other. This approach can backfire. For some people who have a substance abuse disorder and depression, giving up alcohol or drugs can make the depression worse. Depression will rise to the surface in the initial period of sobriety, so it’s essential to receive integrated interventions for both conditions at the same time.

The Importance Of Simultaneous Treatment

If you don’t effectively address the depression that drives your addiction, or the other way around, you’re more likely to relapse. If individuals receive treatment in facilities without dual diagnosis intervention, they may be more likely to drop out of rehab because the depressive feelings are too much to bear. We offer proper therapeutic support for both diagnoses at The Treatment Center. An integrated treatment program for dual diagnosis provides the best outcome for people struggling with both depression and a substance abuse disorder.

According to SAMHSA, an integrated plan for the treatment of a dual diagnosis has several goals. First, it helps the clients understand the nature of their depression while teaching them that recovery from both their depression and substance abuse is possible. Next, it motivates them to make major changes in their lives, giving them practical skills for handling their negative emotions.

It will give them the ability to identify and change their addictive behaviors. To enjoy a successful recovery, a person must understand the role the depression and the addiction play on one another and how to cope with both successfully. With an integrated treatment approach, this is possible.

Treatment For Dual Diagnosis At The Treatment Center

Your dual diagnosis might be depression, but it could also be bipolar disorder, PTSD, or anxiety – among many others. It’s crucial to treat both addiction and any mental issue that might accompany it. Otherwise, treating either can become too overwhelming. At The Treatment Center, we don’t solve one crisis and leave someone to handle the other on their own. We treat every part of the person – addiction and any co-occurring diagnoses.

The Treatment Center Specializes in Treating Addiction and Co-Occurring Disorders

Learn About Our Dual Diagnosis Program