Co-morbidity Between Depression and Substance Use Disorders

You may know someone who demonstrates depression symptoms and drinks or uses illicit substances to “feel better.” A loved one may drink or use and then become moody or depressed. The two disorders can occur together and increase the severity of one another. This is not to say that the depression was the egg coming before the addiction (the chicken) or vice versa. Both disorders are thought to have an underlying genetic component to them. Alcohol and drugs change the brain as time goes on; self-medicating can increase the symptoms of depression. The reward pathway that could be stunted due to clinical depression may light up when substances are utilized, which increases the desire to continue using illicit substances and alcohol.

How Can I Tell If My Loved One is Depressed?

Everyone has times where they feel blue. Each of us experiences grief and there are days that do not turn out the way we hoped that they would. However, this in itself does not constitute a depressive disorder diagnosis. True clinical depression is thought to occur due to a combination of hereditary, biological, environmental, and mental health factors.

Some reasons your loved one may have an increased predisposition to depression include:

  • Having a family history of depression;
  • Undergoing something traumatic, which may include the death of someone they cared for greatly, financial troubles, or undergoing an assault or abusive situation;
  • Any big change, as life alterations are scary and require time to adjust, regardless of whether or not the change was planned;
  • Medical issues or medication side effects; and/or
  • Substance use or drinking.
Co-morbidity Between Depression and Substance Use Disorders

One out of every six adults is diagnosed with depression at some point in their life. Sixteen million adults have identified annually as having a depressive disorder. If your loved one’s symptoms last for an extended length of time and begin to interfere with their realms of life, such as social, hygiene, work, and school, you may want to consider having them undergo a psychological evaluation to see if it could be caused by clinical depression.

Some symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling empty, sad, or nervous for an extended period of time;
  • A lack of interest in activities they once found enjoyable;
  • Reacting in an irritable or frustrated manner;
  • Restlessness;
  • Difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep;
  • Over-sleeping;
  • Waking up earlier than usual;
  • Lack of appetite;
  • Self-harm;
  • Difficulty making up their mind;
  • Struggling to focus;
  • Memory issues;
  • Fatigue, regardless of sleeping well;
  • Physical aches and pains, especially in regards to the stomach or the head;
  • Guilt, feelings of being irrelevant, powerlessness;
  • Low self-esteem; and/or
  • Suicidal ideation, intent, or plans. If this is the case, please make sure to call for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-TALK or you can call 911. It’s not always a cry for attention!

Therapy and medication can help your loved one cope with the symptoms of depression.

Do Not Let Your Depression Keep You Self-Medicating

If you, or a loved one, has been abusing cannabis, opioids, alcohol, or other illicit substances to “treat” symptoms of depression, contact the Discovery Place in Burns, Tennessee today at 1-800-725-0922. We are easy to reach from Memphis or Nashville. Our trained professionals are on standby to help you and your loved ones twenty-four hours a day. We know that addiction affects the whole family and that family support helps the healing process.

Speak with someone who understands

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