Although not the most common mental illness, depression affects approximately one out of fifteen American adults. Struggles with depression touch the lives of thousands of people each year. Unfortunately, depressive symptoms often lead to co-occurring drug and alcohol use challenges.
What is Depression?
Everyone has moments where they feel unhappy or overwhelmingly upset about a particular situation or event. When this happens, people often say they are “depressed.” For many, these feelings are only temporary and disappear within a short time after the event or situation resolves.
The emotions someone experiences when they have depression, are different. They are severe and far more intense than temporary feelings of sadness. Depression is characterized by complex and pervasive feelings of sadness, emptiness, or irritability. For most, these feelings impact their ability to perform day-to-day functions. Without help, depression symptoms can become so overwhelming that they lead to a loss of function at work and home.
Signs of Depression
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or DSM lists several different types of depressive disorders. Although each has specific symptoms unique to the diagnosis, many symptoms are common across all forms of depression. These include several physical, emotional and behavioral symptoms such as:
- Noticeable weight loss or diet changes
- Mood swings
- Chronic exhaustion and weakness (without an underlying medical cause)
- Sleeping problems
- Problems focusing
- Overwhelming feelings of shame, hopelessness, guilt, or worthlessness
- Lack of desire to socialize or participate in hobbies
- Talking about suicide, death, or engaging in self-harming behavior
10 Tips for Overcoming Depression and Substance Use
The most effective way to overcome depression and a co-occurring substance use disorder is to seek professional help at a treatment center like Rise in Malibu. However, there are several things you can do on your own to help reduce the intensity and severity of depression symptoms. Many of the tools one can use to overcome depression symptoms are also beneficial in avoiding turning to drugs or alcohol as a form of self-medication. The tips below may help you begin your journey towards overcoming depression and substance use. Additionally, integrating some of the below tools as part of a relapse prevention plan after seeking addiction treatment can help you maintain lasting sobriety.
- Create and try to stick to your routine. A significant contributor to addiction relapse and struggles with depressive symptoms is a lack of routine. Creating a schedule helps you feel in control and ensures you have the opportunity to engage in vital self-care activities that could help you maintain your emotional well-being.
- Take up a hobby. Boredom and isolation are critical factors in relapse and contributors to ongoing depressive symptoms. Participating in a hobby, especially one involving others, can help you avoid isolation and increase the amount of time you spend interacting with others who share similar goals.
- Try something new. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn a new language, travel somewhere, take a college course, or even take up gardening. There will never be a better time than now. Participating in activities that bring you pleasure and joy can help take your mind off depressive symptoms while providing a safe and effective way to avoid substance use relapse.
- Practice mindfulness meditation. Meditation practices are an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety. Also, they can help you gain insight and focus your mind on what matters most. Meditation, yoga, and similar practices are effective relapse prevention techniques.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Although diet is not necessarily a “cure” for depression or substance use disorders, doing things to improve your physical health, such as following a well-balanced diet, can help improve how you feel, which can go a long way in improving depression symptoms.
- Incorporate physical activity into your day. While exercise is not a cure or guaranteed relapse prevention technique, it is effective in helping improve emotional health, which is a crucial factor in reducing depression symptoms and helping with relapse prevention.
- Follow a healthy sleep schedule. Although many people have a schedule that does not allow for a solid eight hours of sleep each night, getting an adequate amount of sleep is important for warding off feelings of depression and struggles with addiction. When you wake up feeling well-rested, you are less likely to focus on things that cause stress, anxiety, and, inevitably, depression. All of these symptoms can lead to struggles with drugs or alcohol.
- Consider volunteering. Isolation and loneliness are key factors in increased risk for depression and substance use relapse. By volunteering, you are offering your time to those who can benefit from the help of someone else. Additionally, providing these services to others can help vastly improve your mental health.
- Keep your goals achievable. Attempt to avoid creating a long, complex list of goals or “to do’s.” If your list is overwhelming, you will likely avoid addressing it altogether. Create a list of small manageable tasks that you can accomplish and reward yourself when you complete your list.
- Seek help when you need it. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, there may come a time where the safest and most effective way to overcome struggles with depression and addiction is to seek help at a professional rehab like Rise in Malibu.
Reaching out to a therapy provider can help you better understand the root causes of your depression and how addiction relates to your symptoms. If you or a loved one are struggling with addiction and depression, contact us at Rise in Malibu today. Let us help you heal and put struggles with addiction and depression in the past.