Depression and addiction often go hand in hand. Many times, people who are afflicted with one of these conditions are also suffering from the other as well. Both problems are treatable, and you can return to a happy and healthy drug-free lifestyle if you are armed with the right information and the right support. However, many doctors today look to drugs like antidepressants as a part of a comprehensive depression treatment program. If you are trying to remove drugs from your life and avoid further addiction, more drugs are the last things you want. Many doctors believe and even insist that antidepressants are not addictive, but some research suggests otherwise. Luckily, there are many treatments for depression that do not involve drugs or a prescription at all. Seeking out these methods of battling depression can be vital to your new clean and sober lifestyle. Trying depression treatment methods that do not involve drugs are, at the very least, worth investigating to see if they work for you.
What is a Dual Diagnosis?
A dual diagnosis is a term for when someone experiences a mental illness and a substance abuse disorder simultaneously, and it is very common. Depression on its own is very common, actually; the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimate that as many as ten percent of Americans are suffering from some form of depression. Of those people, many turn to drugs or alcohol to cope, and soon, they are also suffering from a substance abuse disorder as well. The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry reports that as many as one in three adults that struggles with alcohol or drug addiction also suffers from depression.
Although there are many different levels of depression, from mild to severe, depression of any kind can cause further health problems. Depression can suppress your immune system, thereby threatening your physical health, and can make your day-to-day life seem glum, difficult, or even insurmountable. Severe depression can lead to self-harm and suicide. Clearly, it is vital that people who are suffering from depression seek treatment for it.
Everyone gets sad once in a while, so how do you know if you are just sad or if you are experiencing depression? Well, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, actual clinical depression lasts for more than two weeks, and interferes with the individual’s ability to work, maintain healthy relationships, and function socially. Symptoms may include feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, loss of appetite, sleeping too much or too little, loss of energy, difficulty concentrating, general irritability, and more.
It’s no surprise then, that people suffering from depression often turn to drugs and alcohol to cope and to escape their negative emotions. This can quickly lead to substance abuse and addiction. If you suddenly realized that you have a drug problem, chances are, you are also depressed. If your doctor or treatment professionals have not yet determined this, and you feel it may be a factor, mention it to them right away. A dual diagnosis requires special treatment; the presence of one of these conditions will make it more difficult to treat the other, and it is important that both are treated simultaneously for optimum success.
Are Anti-Depressants Addictive?
As mentioned above, many if not most doctors view antidepressants as a integral part of any depression treatment plan. Some research claims that antidepressants are not addictive at all, and that may be enough for you. However, some research also suggests otherwise. Some people who take antidepressants find that they feel pain and nausea when they stop, and that is a clear sign of withdrawal. Research suggests that these symptoms are not withdrawal at all, but rather are depression relapse, but it’s as of yet unknown if this is truly the case. Some experts estimate that 50-80% of patients experience withdrawal when quitting antidepressants cold turkey, and this can be a major problem, since this withdrawal can also result in other symptoms as well such as fatigue, confusion, and even suicidal impulses. However, experts also suggest that tapering off these drugs, rather than quitting abruptly, can help patients avoid these symptoms, and believe that doing so can lower the percent experiencing withdrawal to fewer than 5%.
Depending on how you feel about this information and this research, perhaps antidepressants may be something you will want to try. Talk to your doctor for advice from him or her and move forward from there. However, if you want to try to treat your depression without drugs, there is a wide variety of options available to you, too.
How Can I Treat My Addiction Without Antidepressants?
There are many alternatives for depression treatment that do not involve drugs at all, and many people find them to be just as effective. Trial and error may be helpful here, and some combination of several of these things may be the only prescription you need. Keep in mind that research has found that antidepressants do greatly help those with moderate to severe depression, but they are usually less effective for those with mild depression. If you are diagnosed with mild depression, perhaps try some of these methods first before moving on to trying prescription medication.
- Cognitive behavioral therapy. Working one on one with a therapist can be a big help to anyone. This type of short term therapy will help you understand that thoughts trigger feelings, and by controlling your thoughts and the way that you react to certain situations, you may be able to avoid or decease depressive episodes.
- Support groups. Meeting regularly with others who are suffering from depression similar to yours may help. Support groups give you a chance to vent and provide support, and you can learn a great deal from others when trying to develop new ways to cope.
- Exercising produces chemicals in your body that make you happy, so the more exercise, the better! Norepinephrine, serotonin, and endorphins are released into your brain when you run or work out, and the effects can last for hours or even days afterwards.
- Light therapy. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a specific kind of depression that can arise during the dark winter months. If you live somewhere that is cold and gloomy for much of the year, you may benefit from light therapy. Light boxes emit the type of light you are not getting when you stay inside, away from the cold, and can ease depression symptoms when used frequently.
- Research suggests that meditation may be a big help in preventing depression relapse. By meditating, we become more aware of our thoughts and feelings. Being aware of difficult emotions as they arise can help us to cope with them more easily as they develop, and can help us to keep depression from growing and building upon itself further.
- Like meditation, yoga promotes greater personal awareness and that can be a big help to people suffering from depression. Combined with the happy chemicals produced by exercise in general, yoga can be very helpful in combatting depressive feelings, and can help you sleep better, eat better, and feel less anxious and hostile.
Although non-prescription methods of treating depression may not be effective for everyone, if you are something trying to cut drugs out of your life altogether while working on your recovery from addiction, these options are at least worth trying out. And, if you do take medication, each of these suggestions can certainly help to further eliminate your feelings of depression and are undoubtedly part of a comprehensive depression recovery program. It’s different for everyone, and it’s important that you work with your doctor and other professionals to determine what is right for you. With the right treatment and the right support, you can overcome addiction and depression – even at the same time.
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