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7 Ways Depression Affects Your Sobriety

Depression symptoms and addiction commonly go hand-in-hand because depression can often lead to substance abuse, and substance use can increase the risk of developing mental illness.

People with both disorders who receive treatment only for addiction often face a greater risk of relapse after their rehab program ends, especially if depression triggers an urge to use drugs and alcohol.

Here are seven ways depression can affect sobriety and recovery, along with information on where to get help and treatment for both disorders.

depression symptoms

1. Depression Can Cause Aches and Pains

Unexplained aches and pains are a common symptom of depression. Chronic joint pain, back pain, limb pain, and gastrointestinal upset are some of the many pain conditions linked to depression. People who experience these symptoms may turn to substances like alcohol and opioids to find pain relief, which can be especially problematic for recovery from addiction.

2. Depression Can Cause Insomnia and Tiredness

Tiredness, fatigue, lack of energy, and sleep disturbances like insomnia are other physical symptoms of depression that can interfere with sobriety. Some may turn to prescription or illicit stimulants such as Adderall, methamphetamine, and cocaine to combat these symptoms and feel more energetic during bouts of depression.

3. Depression Can Cause Loneliness and Isolation

Depression can lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation, and vice versa. Loneliness and isolation are also characteristics of addiction. Loneliness and isolation can make people feel sad and worthless, and may also lead to substance abuse if people use drugs and alcohol in an attempt to relieve their symptoms and make themselves feel better.

4. Depression Interferes With Brain Chemistry

Dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine are the three main brain neurotransmitters (chemicals) implicated in developing depression.

Dopamine plays a role in positive feelings associated with reward and motivation, while serotonin is a “feel good” chemical regulating mood. Norepinephrine plays a role in adrenaline and energy and the body’s natural “fight or flight” response to stressful situations.

People who suffer from depression have lower amounts of these brain chemicals, which may explain why they tend to suffer symptoms such as sadness, hopelessness, and fatigue, among many others.

Drugs and alcohol interact with various receptors in the brain to increase these chemicals to make people feel better temporarily, such as by producing euphoria (extreme happiness). As a result, people who suffer from depression may relapse back to drug and alcohol use in an effort to lift and improve their moods.

5. Depression Can Impair Concentration

Depression can impair the ability to concentrate and pay attention, which can cause problems for people who need to manage important responsibilities related to their careers, education, and families. Those who aren’t being treated for depression may turn to drugs and alcohol to help them cope with overwhelming responsibilities. They may also use stimulant drugs to enhance their concentration and attention span.

6. Depression Can Interfere with Appetite and Weight

Depression can reduce a person’s appetite to make them eat less frequently or consume smaller portion sizes, which increases the risk of malnutrition and extreme weight loss. Depression may also stimulate appetite and increase the risk for overeating, weight gain, and obesity.

In some instances, people who suffer from depression and problematic eating behaviors may use drugs to counteract the effects of depression on their eating behaviors. For example, marijuana is often used to stimulate appetite and increase food intake in people with cancer or HIV. Therefore, a person with reduced appetite may relapse to drug use to stimulate their appetite.

7. Depression Can Lead to Loss of Interest in Activities

Loss of interest in enjoyable hobbies and activities is another common sign of depression that can affect sobriety and trigger a relapse. Some people who suffer from depression may use drugs and alcohol to increase their confidence and feel more sociable or make certain activities feel more fun and exciting.

Dual Diagnosis Therapy for Depression and Addiction

Many addiction treatment centers offer dual diagnosis therapy to help people recover from and manage co-occurring disorders (addiction and another behavioral health disorder, such as depression).

Dual diagnosis therapy often combines behavioral therapy with medications to help people change behaviors and thoughts related to their addiction and improve chemical imbalances related to depression and chronic drug and alcohol abuse.

Receiving treatment at a drug rehab center that offers dual diagnosis therapy can often help reduce the risk of relapse among people with depression and a substance use disorder.

Recovering from Depression and Addiction with the Recovery Team

Contact The Recovery Team at (800) 817-1247 if you or a loved one needs treatment for both depression symptoms and addiction.

We can include dual diagnosis therapy in your addiction treatment program and discuss all other available treatment options that can help you achieve long-lasting recovery.