Dual Diagnosis Depression and Addiction: It’s Complicated, But Treatable

Sadness is an inevitable part of the human experience. At some point, we all experience heartbreak over a lost love, the grief of a family member’s passing or the occasional out-of-nowhere blues. But if you’re overwhelmingly sad or hopeless most of the time, experience significant changes in your appetite or sleep patterns, feel fatigued or low energy every day or have thoughts of suicide or self-harm, you may be struggling with depression – and that’s a serious cause for concern.

For many depressed people, it often follows that substances become an attractive way to escape its all-encompassing grasp. If you’re struggling with depression, you may have felt tempted to reach for alcohol to numb your feelings of pain, or stimulant drugs like cocaine to give you the boost of energy and confidence that’s missing from your daily life. And if that has been going on for awhile, it may be taking place more often than you’d like to admit, or causing problems in your relationships.

How Depression Leads to Substance Abuse

If you’re struggling with both depression and substance abuse, you’re certainly not alone – depression is overwhelmingly common among people who struggle with addiction. In fact, one-third of people with substance abuse disorders also have depression. According to a study published by the US National Center for Biotechnology Information, “Of individuals with lifetime major depression, 16.5 percent had an alcohol use disorder and 18 percent had a drug use disorder.” That’s a lot of hurting people.

When an addiction and a mental health disorder occur at the same time, we call it a co-occurring disorder – also known as a dual diagnosis. These two disorders tend to feed into each other and amplify symptoms. People with depression are more susceptible to addiction, and prolonged drug and alcohol use, in turn, makes depression worse. This condition is an especially difficult one to diagnose and treat: Because symptoms of depression look so much like symptoms of drug use, it can be hard to distinguish one from the other.

Your Brain Can Change

Co-occurring depression and addiction is best treated with an integrative approach – that is, one that treats both at the same time, and takes all aspects of your self (body, mind, soul and spirit) and your concerns into account. While the vast majority of medical professionals typically offer anti-depressants as a way to correct the brain’s chemical imbalance (which may explain why one in 10 Americans takes antidepressants), this approach doesn’t always work. It may temporarily relieve depression symptoms, but it doesn’t treat its underlying cause, and it doesn’t acknowledge the true power of your brain to fully recovery on its own.

Advancements in modern medicine have evidenced that our brains can, in fact, change – a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. And a thorough, multifaceted treatment plan aimed at doing so can help you “retrain” your brain to engage in healthier, happier patterns.

Getting the Right Treatment for Dual Diagnosis Depression and Addiction

At The Sanctuary, we don’t believe you’re powerless over your depression and addiction or doomed to live the rest of your life in their grasp – we believe that with the right support, you can be recovered. We’ve created a holistic, non-12-step addiction and mental health treatment program that treats both conditions simultaneously through a range of therapies like one-on-one counseling, superfood nutrition, meditation and bodywork. We can help you identify causes of your symptoms that you may not even be consciously aware of, and treat them on the emotional, spiritual and soul levels on which they exist.

If you’re ready to start living your best life, help is just a call away – contact us at (877) 710-3385.

For more on depression, see our article: Debunking the Chemical Imbalance Myth.