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Getting Therapy for Depression

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

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Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Depression is a common dual diagnosis among those battling substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder. If you think you or a loved one is struggling with depression, it is vital to reach out to a depression treatment facility.

Abusing drinks or drugs can trigger depression, and it can also intensify existing symptoms of depression.

an image of two men standing next to each other discussing depression treatment

Most estimates suggest that one-third of those people suffering from a major depressive disorder – the most common form of depression – also have alcohol use disorder. All ranges of depression including major depression, severe depression, bipolar disorder, and mild depression often accompany substance use disorders or alcohol use disorders. This is one of the most common co-occurring disorders diagnosed at addiction treatment centers.

Life ebbs and flows. It’s perfectly normal to feel down from time to time, particularly in response to adverse events in your life. When depression persists, though, and when it starts interfering with your daily living, you may have a major depressive disorder or another form of depression. It’s wise to seek therapy in accompaniment with your addiction treatment when that happens so you can effectively recover and maintain your well-being while in recovery.

When someone is in the depths of a major depressive disorder, everything can feel hopeless. Young adults are often diagnosed with this co-occurring disorder. Reaching for alcohol, prescription painkillers, or illegal drugs seems like a viable option for many people with depression. Using substances can bring some temporary relief from symptoms, but you’ll be doing absolutely nothing to address the root cause of the problem. Beyond this, abusing drinks or drugs can inflame symptoms of depression. Throw in active addiction and suddenly a simple case of depression or mental illness is complicated, requiring specialized dual diagnosis treatment.

Depression is commonplace among those battling substance use disorder and alcohol use disorder.

Abusing drinks or drugs can trigger depression, and it can also intensify existing symptoms of depression or other mental illnesses.

Most estimates suggest that one-third of those people suffering from a major depressive disorder – the most common form of depression – also have alcohol use disorder.

a woman thinking about depression treatment

Life ebbs and flows. It’s perfectly normal to feel down from time to time, particularly in response to adverse events in your life. When depression persists, though, and when it starts interfering with your daily living, you may have a major depressive disorder or another form of depression.

When someone is in the depths of a major depressive disorder, everything can feel hopeless. Reaching for alcohol, prescription painkillers, or illegal drugs seems like a viable option for many people with depression.

Using substances can bring some temporary relief from symptoms, but you’ll be doing absolutely nothing to address the root cause of the problem. Beyond this, abusing drinks or drugs can inflame symptoms of depression. Throw in active addiction and suddenly a simple case of depression is complicated, requiring specialized dual diagnosis treatment.

Depression 101

Depression makes life a seemingly insurmountable struggle for the millions of people suffering from this debilitating mental health condition. Treatment of depression while in recovery may seem daunting and even impossible to overcome but programs in addiction treatment therapy are often designed to cater towards co-occurring disorders due to its frequency.

If you are suffering from substance use disorder co-occurring with depression, you may find considerable overlap in the signs and symptoms. Getting the right specialized treatment is vital if you don’t want depression to govern your life while substance abuse is unraveling it.

Depression and addiction both lead people to do the following:

Deny the existence of a problem

Lose interest in hobbies and social activities

Experience friction in relationships

Isolate from friends and family

For anyone suffering from severe downswings characterizing clinical depression, seeking temporary respite with drugs or alcohol is often tempting. This route leads to nothing but more harm, though.

Different Types of Depression

  1. Major depressive disorder
  2. Atypical depression
  3. Dysthymia
  4. SAD (Seasonal affective disorder)
  5. Major depressive disorder

Among the most common types of depression, around 7% of the population in the United States are affected by major depressive disorder at any given time.

Characteristic symptoms of major depressive disorder include:

Extreme sadness

Irritability

Reduced energy levels

Disrupted sleep patterns

These symptoms typically last for more than two weeks.

If untreated, major depressive disorder can recur throughout your life.

Atypical depression

While people suffering from atypical depression experience crushing lows, they are often temporarily uplifted and encouraged with news of a positive event.

People with atypical depression frequently abuse drink or drugs as a means of self-medicating.

Dysthymia

With this milder form of depression, people struggle with an ongoing gloomy mood that could last for years if untreated.

Symptoms can be masked short-term with substance abuse. Not only will this do nothing to improve things, but it also introduces the complication of addiction.

Dysthymia is a chronic condition that can ultimately lead to major depressive disorder.

SAD (Seasonal affective disorder)

Seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression that typically occurs during the winter and is associated with variations in sunlight.

Symptoms include mood changes, anxiety, overeating, and problems with sleep.

To be diagnosed with SAD, symptoms must present for three consecutive years.

Symptoms of Depression

Sadness or grief following a loss or adverse event is normal. The symptoms of depression, by contrast, occur every day, and last for weeks or months, sometimes even years when untreated. These symptoms can be crippling and interfere with all aspects of your life.

an image of a group in a depression treatment program

To meet the diagnostic criteria for depression laid down in DMS-5 (the fifth edition of the industry standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, you must:

Experience 5 or more of the symptoms listed below almost every day for at least two weeks

These symptoms must not be associated with the effects of substance abuse or an existing medical condition

The symptoms of depression are as follows:

Loss of pleasure in daily activities

Persistently low and depressed mood

Sleep disturbances

Extreme fatigue

Unintentional weight gain or weight loss

Reduced energy levels

Dulled responses

Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or self-loathing

Issues with memory and focus

Intrusive thoughts about death

Suicidal ideation

When you’re battling the symptoms of depression, you may find you run into problems at home, work, or school. You may find problems developing in your interpersonal relationships.

Depression is characterized by a drop in energy levels, making daily living seem like an uphill struggle. Dipping energy levels can also impact mood and motivation.

Depression and Substance Abuse

Research shows that many of the contributory factors for depression also play a role in substance use disorders.

When depression and substance use disorder co-occur, this is known as dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder.

Both depression and substance abuse often involve:

Family history

Imbalances in areas of brain chemistry

Past trauma

If you’re using drink or drugs but not sure if you have alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, ask yourself the following questions:

Are you using more drugs or alcohol than intended or for longer than intended?

Does substance use interfere with your life at home, work, or school?

Do you spend an inordinate amount of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the substance in question?

Have you experienced cravings for the substance?

Have you tried and failed to moderate your use?

Do you engage in risky behaviors, using substances where it’s dangerous to do so?

Is your tolerance to the substance growing so you need more to achieve the same effects?

Do you continue using substances despite these negative outcomes?

If you find you answer yes to several of these questions, you should consider speaking with your healthcare provider to determine whether you might have substance use disorder.

Correlation Between Alcohol Use Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder

Alcohol use disorder and major depressive disorder are closely linked.

A recent nationwide study showed that of those suffering from alcohol use disorder, 20% also had co-occurring depression.

Those seeking treatment for alcohol use disorder are 40% more likely to have at least one mood disorder.

Often the symptoms of alcohol addiction inflame depression. Equally, the symptoms of depression lead many people to blot out the pain and sadness with alcohol. Each disorder can feed the other in a vicious cycle.

Alcohol is a CNS (central nervous system) depressant. While it may initially and in short doses serve as a stimulant, feelings of drowsiness, lethargy, and depression follow.

Abusing alcohol lowers inhibitions and can increase the risk of suicide in depressed individuals.

Medications for Depression

Antidepressants come in many different forms but they all perform the same role: balancing brain chemistry.

This medication can take several weeks to kick in. It may be necessary to try several antidepressants before finding one that works.

The most widely prescribed antidepressants are SSRIs, now considered a frontline treatment for depression.

Therapy for Depression

CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) helps address the flawed thoughts that lead to poor behaviors in those suffering from depression.

You’ll learn how to reframe self-defeating beliefs and belittling self-talk like “I’m worthless” and “I’ll never get better” into positive statements of intent concerning your long-term recovery.

Through CBT, you’ll also learn superior coping skills so you can better navigate life’s inevitable stressors.

Treatment for Co-occurring Depression and Substance Abuse

If substance use disorder co-occurs with a depressive disorder, integrated dual diagnosis treatment tackling both issues simultaneously is proven effective.

You’ll address your addictive behaviors while taking into account the symptoms of depression like lowered energy levels and motivation that can impact engagement with treatment.

Many people with co-occurring disorders benefit from at least a short stint in residential rehab. This is especially valuable if you have suicidal thoughts or a history of previous suicide attempts.

Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs) and intensive outpatient programs (IOPs) can also be effective for treating dual diagnoses. Here, you’ll get less structure and restriction with more independence and self-determination. Outpatient treatment is also much more affordable and typically covered by insurance.

Treatment will consist of medication as appropriate alongside psychotherapy like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy). We can help you with that here at Renaissance Recovery Center.

Depression Treatment at Renaissance Recovery

If you’re struggling with substance use disorder or alcohol use disorder and you are also diagnosed with major depressive disorder, help is at hand.

Here at Renaissance Recovery, we offer intensive outpatient programs and dual diagnosis treatment. This allows you to deal with both your addiction and your mental health condition at the same time. As you detox from drink or drugs and engage with medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy, you should find your depression starts lifting.

We offer highly personalized treatment programs at varying levels of intensity and commitment. All that remains is to determine which makes the right fit for you. Find out by calling the friendly team at 866.330.9449.

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Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country