What Came First – Addiction or Depression?
The Link between Depression and Addiction
It often happens that those of us who develop addiction problems will also have a history of depression symptoms. It may be that even after we quit alcohol or drugs, we still require treatment for this other issue. If this sounds similar to the situation you (or a person you care for) are facing, it may be that dual diagnosis rehab offers your best chance of recovery.
Is Depression the Cause of Addiction?
There is no doubt that those of dealing with symptoms of depression may be tempted to turn to alcohol or drugs as a way to ‘drown our sorrows’. If we get into the habit of self-medicating like this, we could easily end up with a dual diagnosis.
So yes, some of us do develop an addiction problem that has been triggered by our depression, but it would be overstating the situation to say that depression is the cause of addiction (e.g. there are lots of people diagnosed with depression who aren’t addicted to alcohol or drugs).
Is Addiction the Cause of Depression?
There are others of us who develop depression as a direct result of substance abuse. Recreational drugs have a toxic effect on the mind as well as the body – depressant drugs (such as alcohol) in particular can easily induce symptoms of depression.
It is hard to know exactly how many of us develop depression as a direct result of substance abuse. The problem is that some of us who think we fall into this category may have actually had symptoms of depression beforehand, but these symptoms were so mild we didn’t realise what was going on– we just knew that we felt better when we used alcohol or drugs. This failure to recognise the early signs of depression is particularly likely to happen with those of us who fell into addiction at a young age.
Will Ending My Addiction Cure My Depression?
If your episodes of depression are purely due to substance abuse, there is a good chance that these symptoms will completely disappear in early recovery. Some people (a minority) do develop post-acute withdrawal symptoms (PAWS), and this can mean experiencing occasional mild episodes of depression during the first year of recovery.
Some of us will have started to associate low mood with depression though, and this means that every time we experience a bad day, it can trigger a bout of depression. This is highly problematic because bad days are a part of life. Practices such mindfulness-based cognitive therapy have been shown to be highly effective when it comes to treating this type of recurrent depression.
In many cases, we do need to deal with both our depression and addiction if we hope to build a strong recovery. Ideally, we need to tackle both of these issues at the same time – otherwise the untreated issue can prevent you making much progress with the issue that is being treated. Dual diagnosis treatment is likely going to be the best option in this situation, and this is what we offer here at Twin Rivers Rehab.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process