Depression in Recovery

The Challenges of Recovery

Just because an individual has managed to escape from addiction does not always mean that their life will be fine thereafter. There will usually still be challenges to face, and part of this might be dealing with depression. Many people will have turned to addiction in the first place because they were suffering from depressive symptoms. This can mean that when they stop using these addictive substances they can be back to where they started. It is important that anyone who is dealing with depression in recovery should never just ignore this symptom. In most instances there will be an effective treatment available so that the individual can once again get the most out of recovery.

Depression Defined

Depression is more than just feeling a bit down. It is a medical illness that involves both mental and physical elements. Depression can impact every aspect of the individual’s life and can make normal functioning almost impossible. The severity symptoms will vary greatly. Most people will get a day here and there when they experience a lot of negativity, but depressive illness is far more long lasting. It is estimated that 850,000 commit suicide as a result of depression each year.

People can experience depression in different ways, but it tends to contain the following components:

* Negative thinking. The individual will depression will have pessimistic thoughts about the future. They will also usually find that their thinking is foggy, and it is difficult to concentrate.
* Negative feelings. There is no longer much enjoyment to be found in life. Even things that were once enjoyable are no longer so appealing.
* Negative behavior. Negative thoughts and feelings impact behavior. The individual does not have much energy and my try to isolate from the rest of the world.
* Health problems. Depression leads to health problems. People who feel this way will lose interest in taking care of themselves. There is also evidence that depression also weakens the immune system.

Causes of Depression

Some people seem to be more prone to depression than others, but the most common triggers for this condition include:

* Death of a loved one
* Substance abuse
* Previous mental trauma
* Arguments at home or at work
* Life changes such as changing job or moving to a new location
* Personal difficulties such as dealing with chronic illness
* A history of depressive symptoms in the family
* Some medications can lead to depression as a side-effect

Types of Depression

The different types of depression include:

* Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is experienced by up to 9.7% of the population in some parts of the US. It involves mood changes triggered by the seasons. Such people can experience the symptoms of depression during the long winter months.
* Postpartum depression occurs with some women who have just given birth. It is believed to be caused by hormonal changes.
* Minor depression is when these symptoms only last a few days. This may resolve without any need for treatment.
* A major depression is also known as Dysthymic disorder. Here the symptoms can be severe and they last for more than 2 weeks.
* Bipolar disorder is when the individual moves from periods of mania to periods of depression.
* Psychotic depression is a particular severe form. As well as the symptoms of depression the individual will experience distorted thinking which will be psychotic in nature.

Symptoms of Depression

It is important to be able to spot the symptoms of depression so it can be treated promptly. The longer the condition is ignored the more devastation it can cause in the life of the individual. The most common symptoms include:

* Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
* Lack of energy
* Things that were once enjoyable are no longer as satisfying
* Thoughts of suicide
* Pessimism about the future
* Low self esteem
* Comfort eating
* Loss of appetite
* Insomnia
* Alcohol or drug abuse
* Poor concentration
* Feeling that life lacks meaning
* Irritability
* Memory difficulties
* Unexplained body aches and pains
* Guilt about the past

Experiencing Depression in Recovery

It is not unusual for people in addiction recovery to experience depression. Even Bill W, who was the founder of the Twelve Step movement, battled hard against depression after he became sober. There is a close link between depression and addiction, and for a lot of people this link continues to exist even after they escape their addiction. This condition can take much of the enjoyment out of recovery so it is important to seek medical help in order to rectify the situation.

Dual Diagnosis in Recovery

A dual diagnosis exists when the individual suffers from a mental health problem combined with addiction. Some studies suggest that as many as 47% of those with mental health problems will also abuse alcohol and drugs. A dual diagnosis can occur as a result of substance abuse, but in a lot of cases it may have led to the addiction in the first place.

People who are dealing with a mental health problem may decide to turn to substance abuse in order to escape their symptoms. This type of self-medication can provide short-term relief, but once addiction has taken hold the individual will be in a far worse situation. They will then have two problems to deal with instead of one. Breaking an addiction is hard for anyone, but it is particularly difficult for those who have a mental health problem like depression.

Some addicts develop a dual diagnosis as a result of their substance abuse. Alcohol and drugs can have a devastating impact on mental health. Alcohol is a type of depressant and long-term abuse can lead to depressive symptoms. In fact many of the popular recreational drugs have the negative consequence of increasing the risk of experiencing depression. Sometimes substance abuse induced depression will continue on into recovery.

The Dangers of Depression in Recovery

Depression can take much of the joy out of recovery. It also increases the risk of relapse. People may believe that suicide is their only way out. Going through all the effort of escaping alcohol or drug abuse should mean a good life in recovery – nobody gets sober to feel bad. It is therefore vital that people recognize the symptoms of depression and act upon them.

People can blame themselves for their depression. They may suspect that it is occurring because they have been doing something wrong. Friends in recovery may even suggest that such symptoms occur because of lack of effort in the recovery program. Such thinking can be dangerous because it may delay the individual from seeking help. Unless proper treatment is obtained the condition may continue to deteriorate. The idea that they symptoms of depression are always a sign of ‘not working the program properly’ is wrong. While friends will be often well meaning it is important that a diagnosis be given by somebody qualified to provide it.

Treatment for Depression

Once depression has been diagnosed there will be a number of different treatment options available. The best type of treatment to use depends on the type of depression but can include:

* The most common way to treat depression is to prescribe medication. These work by interacting with the body chemicals that produce depressive symptoms. It can take a few weeks for this type of medication to produce results. There can sometimes be unpleasant side-effects from these drugs. The doctor will be able to experiment with different medications until the most effective one is found. In most instances these drugs will be effective at resolving the symptoms of depression.
* Psychotherapy is sometimes referred to as the ‘talking cure’. These days such therapy is often offered in combination with anti-depressant medication. During these sessions the individual can learn coping strategies for dealing with their symptoms.
* With severe depression it may be decided that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is the best option. This involves passing an electric current through the brain to induce a seizure. This is described as being similar to pressing the reset button on a computer. These days ECT only tends to be recommended when all other options have failed.

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