We have all had days when it feels like everything is awful. We have all heard people say, “Ugh, I’m so depressed.” It is easy to write off depression as something that you need to just “deal with” or “get over.” But that is not true. Depression is a real mental illness, and it can have a huge impact on a person’s entire life.

What Depression Is

When someone is depressed, the feelings do not go away. It is persistent and makes it difficult to live a daily life. For a diagnosis of depression, the feelings need to last for at least two weeks and include feelings of hopelessness, fatigue, and either difficulty sleeping or difficulty waking up. It can lead to difficulty working, functioning in social situations, and having healthy relationships. It can even lead to suicidal thoughts.

Depression is extremely common in Americans – caused by a range of factors, including genetic, environmental, and psychological. It typically begins in adulthood but can present in teenagers or even children as well.

Depression is typically recurring, and episodes can last up to several years. It can impact people in all situations and at all ages. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that ten percent of all Americans suffer from depression. Thankfully, in recent years, depression has been seen as less of a shameful thing to suffer from and more as a real disease, and people have become more likely to seek treatment instead of suffering in silence for years.

Substance Abuse and Depression

Depression and substance abuse are connected in many ways and often happen at the same time. Some people choose to self-medicate their depression by overusing alcohol or abusing drugs. However, substance abuse can also lead to depression when it alters brain chemistry. Alcohol is a depressant (though many people believe that it is a stimulant), so it can lead to lethargy and sadness.

These two disorders can coexist in a very harmful way, each causing the other to worsen. However, treating one without the other is not necessarily helpful. Going cold turkey on drugs or alcohol can cause the underlying depression symptoms to bubble up, especially if you have been self-medicate for a long time.

People with depression often drop out of rehab because it is too difficult to be sober without help handling their depression. On the other hand, treating just the depression symptoms does not do anything to treat the addiction.

Approaching Treatment

All dual diagnoses are challenging to treat because it requires a treatment program that understands how these different disorders intertwine. The counselor needs to help a person build motivation to change their life (which can be especially difficult for people who suffer from depression) and handle the difficulty of dealing with two major challenges at the same time.

However, treatment is far from impossible. With support, and often some pharmacological assistance, people can overcome depression and addiction at the same time, and move forward with a life that they can enjoy. We are here to help.