What Is Depression And Addiction?


What Is Depression And Addiction?

What Is Addiction?

Addiction is a disease of the brain and most often refers to the physical dependence on a chemical substance such as alcohol, nicotine or heroin. However, there are other types of addiction that are less straightforward. For instance, people become addicted to behaviors and activities such as gambling or shopping.

These are different forms of the disease, but there are commonalities. The addict feels cravings for the substance or behavior. She experiences withdrawal when she can’t get it. She feels out of control when using. She uses the substance or behavior to hide from or escape negative emotions.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a mental health condition that is characterized by extreme negative thoughts and moods. It goes beyond the usual case of the blues, which passes quickly for most of us. It can be triggered by a traumatic or upsetting event, but it may come on with no warning or explanation. Symptoms of depression include sad, hopeless feelings, lack of energy, apathy, changes in appetite and sleep patterns, difficulty thinking and concentrating and even suicidal thoughts.

Northbound Treatment Services specializes in treating co-occurring mental health disorders that are often paired with addiction. Although people with anxiety or depression are often ashamed or embarrassed of their disorder, symptoms like these are extremely common in those suffering from alcoholism or drug addiction.

In order to fully recover from an addiction, it is critical to identify and treat any underlying disorders. Our professional treatment staff is experienced in helping individuals recover from both their addiction and their mental health disorder, and helps our clients to renew their life with an enthusiasm they never thought possible.

Symptoms of Depression

Symptoms of depression vary from person to person. Some people sleep too much, others too little. Certain people can seek comfort in food, while others rarely eat at all. Regardless of the symptoms, the root feelings are shared by everyone who is suffering from depression, and we use a wide range of therapeutic tools to help alleviate symptoms and causes.

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) describes depression with the following symptoms:

  • impaired ability to concentrate or make decisions
  • exhaustion or low energy
  • Feelings of guilt, shame, or unimportance
  • Negative feelings
  • Nervousness or irritability
  • Lack of interest in hobbies or old interests
  • Persistent feelings of sadness or discomfort
  • Suicidal thought or ideation

The combined effects of addiction and depression can be crippling, and Northbound uses everything we can to work with our clients to help them address their needs and move forward with their lives.

In order to provide the most comprehensive treatment plan available, California rehab treatment Services uses the combined power of individual therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, group processing, 12 Step programs, and medication as part of our treatment plan.


Unfortunately, curing depression is much more complicated than simply taking a pill. That being said, finding a medication that works for you in an important part of that process. Additionally, medications often need to be changed or have their doses increased in order to continue to be effective. Our approach at Northbound is to put less emphasis on medication and more emphasis on therapy. Positive coping skills are crucial in order to recover from alcohol, drugs, and depression, and we use multiple therapeutic approaches in order to offer our clients the skills they need to succeed.

Recovery Through the 12 Steps and Therapy

Our experience has shown us that the combination of 12 Step groups and multiple forms of therapy is the most effective means of combating addiction and depression. Therapy gives our clients the opportunity to really look at themselves, facing and overcoming some of their self-deprecating thoughts, behaviors, and habits.

Northbound Treatment Services provides our clients with a range of positive, self-esteem building outlets, including exercise, relaxation techniques, and experiential therapy Scientific evidence has shown that something so simple as a little bit of sunlight and fresh air can go a long way towards improving moods..

12 Step groups help to form strong bonds and relationships with other people that are having our same experiences. Isolation and separation are common feelings in those with depression and addiction, but 12 Step groups offer us a whole community of individualized who have felt this way, and are in various stages of recovery.

Treatment does help.

It’s tempting in situations such as these to write off attempts at treatment. Why bother, some ask, when this is the outcome?

But it’s important to remember that although mental health and substance abuse treatments may not always result in continuous remission, they can drastically improve quality of life and lead to stretches of highly productive living. In Williams’ case, his early alcohol and drug use was followed by 20 years of sobriety before a return to drinking in 2003.

This was followed by treatment and a return to sobriety in 2006. Just before his death, suffering from severe depression, he checked himself back in to treatment for “fine-tuning,” not because he had again relapsed, he said, but because he felt he needed the support. That he ultimately succumbed to his depression says more about the power of the illness than about any treatment shortcomings.

The reality is, there is no simple cure for depression or for addiction. The best we have is treatment that can be lifesaving for many – but sadly, not for all.

Addiction and depression are a dangerous combination.

Addiction and depression are tough enough to deal with alone. Together their negative effects multiply. For example, those with depression have about a 10 percent lifetime suicide risk; those with a substance use disorder have about the same. When combined, the suicide risk skyrockets to about 1 in 4.

Depression also acts as a relapse trigger. In fact, studies have found that it’s the single biggest predictor of alcohol relapse. Drugs and alcohol also appear to interfere with the effectiveness of depression treatment.

In short, addiction and depression are a common combination and a dangerous one. But the good news is that treatment that works on both issues can lead to good outcomes. Treatment that focuses on one without also dealing with the other, however, is a virtual guarantee of relapse.

Treatment rarely lasts long enough.

One of the biggest failings of modern treatment for depression and addiction is that people aren’t educated about the need for ongoing treatment. Instead, there is a mythology that we will take a few weeks of antidepressant pills or go to rehab for 30 days and come home cured. It doesn’t work that way.

The reality is that after an initial treatment period, only about 1 out of 3 people with depression is in remission, 1 out of 3 people is improved but not in remission, and 1 out of 3 is no better than when they started. The greatest success is seen when therapy and medication are combined in long-term treatment. For those with recurrent depression who don’t receive ongoing care, the likelihood of relapse within two years is close to 100 percent.

With substance use disorders, treatment should be delivered and success measured over the long-term. A substantial group will maintain continuous abstinence but a larger group will be able only to change their behaviors in ways that significantly reduce the impact of drugs and alcohol on their lives. This may mean sobriety comes in spurts, but each period should be counted as a victory. It may not be the best outcome, but it does mean a life changed for the better.

Long-term treatment also has enormous protective power for those whose substance use disorder comes with chronic suicidal thoughts; it’s been shown to be the single most effective way to reduce that risk.

Treatment options are expanding.

There is no magic formula for treating depression or addiction, but treatments are growing and improving along with our understanding of the illnesses and are far superior to the options available just 20 years ago.

In addition to more and better antidepressants, we now have novel techniques such as transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), a type of noninvasive brain stimulation that often succeeds when traditional depression treatments fail. And medications are in the pipeline that are expected to tap new neural pathways to depression relief. There’s even hope that we may eventually be able to harness the power of genetics to switch off addiction cravings.

Depression isn’t a weakness.

I’m always startled by the misunderstandings of the nature of depression that seem to rise to the forefront in tragedies such as these. So it bears repeating: depression is a brain disorder that is most likely caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental and psychological factors.

It is not something you snap out of any more than you snap out of cancer. It’s not a refusal to be grateful for all of the blessings of life. It’s not a character flaw. And it’s not something that wealth, fame, international acclaim or even respect and love can protect you against.

With each bout of depression, the sufferer may feel a type of emotional blunting or, worse, find his mind crowded with all the old bad feelings – hopelessness, anxiety, preoccupation, dread, fear, self-loathing – often leading to sleep and appetite issues and spurring a turn to alcohol or other drugs for relief.

In Robin Williams’ case, we are again reminded of the strength of this foe. Treatment, therapy and medication for depression can help most and save many. But sometimes, despite mighty efforts, there is no Hollywood ending.

How Addiction And Depression Are Similar

They are isolating. For many who struggle with depression, the thought of being around people is simply too much. Instead of forcing yourself to get up and go out and spend time around people, you may retreat into isolation. This can be dangerous because it allows you to continue to dwell on feelings of depression.

When substance abuse is added into the equation, this becomes even more dangerous. For people such as myself, who turned to a substance in order to deal with depression, it makes sense to use that substance alone so that others are not aware of the potential problem. For someone who is already isolating themselves and then drinking or using drugs while in isolation, the results can be disastrous.

They take a toll on your sense of self. Depression can be tricky because it has a way of convincing you of things that simply are not true. When you feel depressed, you feel like a lesser person. You feel alone and scared and confused, with no real reasons why. Feeling this way can be detrimental to the way you think of yourself.

Likewise, alcohol and drugs can have this effect. Sure, it’s true that using drugs or alcohol may make you feel better about yourself for some period of time. But using such substances is often followed by a feeling of shame about things you may have said or done while under the influence, or simply shame about the fact that you turned to a substance in the first place. As time passes, you will likely find that substance abuse begins to have a negative impact on the way you view yourself.

They both feel beyond your control. To put it bluntly, feeling out of control sucks. And it sucks even more when there are two disorders at work in your life and you feel like you lack control over both. Addiction and depression are both diseases, and like most diseases, if left untreated they will progress.

Depression sets in with no control, but given the right tools, it can be managed. The same is true of addiction. It may feel beyond your control to overcome alcohol or drugs, but with the right course of action, addiction can be overcome. The trick to getting control of both disorders is taking the first step and realizing you need help, then asking for that help.

Most Common Types of Depression

Major Depression

One of the most common types of depression, major depression affects roughly seven percent of the nation’s population at any given time.

Symptoms for this type of depression include extreme sadness, lack of energy, irritability and changes in sleeping patterns that usually last for more than two weeks.

If left untreated, major depression can recur throughout someone’s life.


A milder form of depression, people with dysthymia suffer from a continuous “gloomy mood” that lasts for more than one to two years.

Substance abuse may mask these negative emotions in the short-term, but it can drastically disrupt a person’s relationships, work and daily activities later on.

Since dysthymia is a chronic condition, it may eventually lead to major depression.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Generally occurring in the wintertime, Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression associated with variations of light.

People with this type of depression may experience anxiety, mood changes, overeating and sleep problems.

In order to diagnose SAD, someone must exhibit these symptoms over three consecutive winters.

Atypical Depression

With atypical depression, an individual experiences symptoms of depression; however, their mood is briefly uplifted with the news of a positive event.

However, during the “low” periods, depression can become so severe that people feel as though life is not worth living.

Using alcohol or other addictive substances to self-medicate atypical depression can result in detrimental emotional and behavioral problems.

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