How to Handle Depression in Recovery

Depression and addiction are scary and difficult enough on their own. When they show up together, you may not know how to even start to overcome them. Thankfully, depression and addiction can (and should) be treated at the same time. Are you unsure about whether or not you might have depression? Then keep reading to find out more about depression in recovery steps.

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10% of Americans deal with depression.

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“Is it depression or am I just sad?” is a question that a lot of people ask themselves. Everybody feels sadness – even extreme sadness – every once in a while. So how do you find out if your sadness is a mental health issue?


One rule of thumb is that if you’ve been feeling badly for two weeks or longer, you may have depression. Furthermore, while depression can indeed act just like extreme sadness, it often has different or additional symptoms. These symptoms can include any of the following:


  • Fatigue
  • Sleep pattern changes (getting either less or more sleep than usual)
  • Eating pattern changes (either overeating or avoiding food)
  • Emotional numbness (“I can’t feel anything.”
  • Lack of motivatio
  • Lack of interest in former passions and hobbies
  • Anger or short-tempered


If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms, talk to a doctor or psychiatrist. With an official diagnosis, you can start to get treatment.

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Depression and Addiction

People who receive the dual diagnosis of depression and addiction often wonder which one began first. Sometimes, the substance abuse causes the depression. This happens because drugs and alcohol actually change the brain. Alcohol acts as a depressant, slowing down the central nervous system and worsening depressive symptoms in people who are already prone to them. Many drugs, meanwhile, change the way the brain reacts to serotonin and dopamine, the two main happiness-boosting chemicals. If you think that your substance abuse disorder caused these changes in your brain, don’t panic. With the right treatment, the brain can gradually heal itself.


For other people, the depression leads to the substance abuse. People turn to drugs and alcohol to either numb the pain that they’re feeling or to get back the energy that depression took away. Unfortunately, the “crash” that comes after drug and alcohol use only causes more depression, leading to a cycle of dependence. The good news is that depression in recovery can be treated effectively.


depression in recovery

Dual Diagnosis Means Dual Recovery

Before the 1990s, drug treatment professionals used a sequential plan for people with depression and addiction. This means that they tried to treat the addiction before they would acknowledge the depression. This method rarely led to success. Depression and addiction tend to feed each other until a person can’t separate one from the other. To successfully treat one condition, you’ll have to treat the other at the same time. However, depression in recovery can be treated and happiness in treatment is possible.

If you need help recovering from your depression and addiction, call 800-492-QUIT.

Getting the Right Treatment

Having both depression and an addiction means that your treatment may take longer than if you’d just had an addiction alone. Residential treatment programs tend to last for either 30, 60, or 90 days, and you might consider choosing a program that leans toward the longer end of the spectrum.


You should start your treatment with medical detox, especially if you’re addicted to alcohol, opioids, or benzodiazepines. The withdrawal process from these drugs is quite dangerous, and medical staff can help you detox in a safe way. Medical detox can help people with depression deal with the mental health side effects that can come from detox.

Almost 1 in 3 people with depression also have a substance use disorder.

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Some detox facilities exist as part of a rehab program, and if you choose one of these facilities, you can go straight from detox into your regular rehab program. In any case, choose a rehab facility with staff who know how to treat a dual diagnosis. If a rehab program’s website mentions depression or dual diagnosis, then it’s probably worth checking out. If you have depression, your treatment will look different than if you didn’t have depression, and your therapists should be able to work with your needs.


During your treatment, a doctor or psychiatrist may suggest that you take antidepressant medication to help manage your symptoms. Many recovering people are terrified of the idea of taking medication, worried that they’ll become addicted to it. It’s an understandable fear, but you don’t have to worry about taking antidepressants. These medications are generally non-addictive for those who need them, and they do not cause cravings. Furthermore, because depression worsens addiction, using medication to control your depression can be a major step in managing your addiction as well.

Start with a Phone Call

If you’re suffering from depression and addiction, or just addiction by itself, we’re here to help you. Both of these illnesses require careful treatment and care, and we can help you find the care that you need to manage your symptoms. We want to help.


Call us at 800-492-7848. We are always open.

We’ll point you toward treatment programs that can help

you manage both addiction and depression. Start by calling 800-492-QUIT today.
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