Depression as a Reaction to Addiction
Any addiction triggers a multitude of negative feelings such as guilt, sadness, shame, hopelessness, helplessness, powerlessness, anger, anxiety and fear. These emotional experiences are very similar to those found in episodes of depression that occur without addiction. Addictions progress in their debilitating effects and begin to erode one’s resiliency and sense of well-being. Additionally, depression builds with the increasing unmanageability of life and the subsequent sense of powerlessness that accompanies addiction. Consequently, many addicted individuals will develop a clinical depression as a direct result of their addiction.33


In this type of dual diagnosis experience, both disorders the addictive condition and the depression must be treated at the same time if full recovery is to occur.Unlike ordinary sadness or grief, which occur temporarily after a loss, the symptoms of depression occur nearly every day for weeks sometimes months or years interfering with all aspects of an individual’s life. Depression can increase the risk of chronic illness, including the disease of substance abuse. These chemical intoxicants can become a form of self-medication for soothing the feelings of low self-worth, hopelessness, and despair that characterize this psychiatric illness.Although substance abuse may be used to relieve symptoms, chemical intoxication can actually make depressive episodes more severe, increasing the frequency and intensity of negative thoughts and self-destructive behavior.

It is important to remember that a mood disorder like depression is not the result of bereavement or a personal setback, such as the death of a loved one or loss of a job, but a chronic, progressive illness that may get worse without treatment. People experiencing a depressive episode may have trouble getting out of bed in the morning due to a lack of energy, fatigue, and a loss of motivation. They may lose interest in hobbies or pursuits that they were once passionate about or avoid activities that used to give them pleasure. They may be frequently tearful, talk about harming themselves, or become obsessed with thoughts and images of death.

The treatment of co-occurring depression and addiction requires a dual treatment approach that views both as a primary condition. The most effective approach to treating depression is a program that integrates mental health and recovery services at the same facility, with a staff of professionals who are cross-trained in both fields. Dual diagnosis treatment implements and co-ordinates a plan for relief from symptoms of both disorders.

The overall goal of such treatment is to resolve both the depressive illness and the addictive disorder so that a successful recovery from both occurs. Individuals trained in treating dully diagnosed individuals understand each condition and can create individualized treatment plans to address both simultaneously. Therapies used for each disorder are combined into one manageable and effective treatment plan. Those with co-occurring depression and addiction may use antidepressants, psychotherapy and traditional substance treatment modalities such as education, addiction counseling and self-help groups to create a comprehensive plan for resolving both. Relapse prevention planning for dual disorders involve strategies to keep both acute episodes of addiction and depression from recurring.