Depression and addiction often go hand in hand. Many people who are diagnosed with depression also struggle with substance abuse, and it can be difficult to know what came first. Is it the depression that causes people to self-medicate, or is it the use of drugs that causes the depression? For some individuals, the answer may never be clear.
Treatment for depression and addiction is long-term. If you stop treating the depression, it can put you at risk for relapse. If you return to using drugs and alcohol, it can make the depression worse. Fortunately, there are ways to manage your depression and protect your recovery.
5 Tips for Managing Depression During Addiction Recovery
Depression is a serious mental health condition that can impact every aspect of your life. During your recovery, you may lack motivation or have a harder time attending 12-step groups. To keep you on track with your recovery goals, follow these practical steps.
1. Rely on Your Support Network
Addiction recovery is easier when you have a strong support system to rely on. Having close relationships reminds you that you are not alone. It’s important to feel as though you mean something to someone and have a reason to get up in the mornings. Substance use disorders can be isolating, so it’s refreshing to see that others truly care about you and your sobriety.
Research shows that strong support networks are linked with lower relapse rates. Not only do these networks provide compassion and support, but they also prevent you from looking elsewhere for social interaction. You don’t need to be exposed to others’ judgements that can put recovery at risk. Your support system will have everything you need to achieve long-term sobriety.
What if you don’t have a strong support system at home? Not having close friends and family to fall back on can make things more difficult, but it’s not impossible to build your own network. Look to the people in your 12-step groups (including your sponsor) and join online support groups. Be open to new relationships and how they can benefit your journey.
2. Be Open to Medical Treatment
Depression is a mental health disorder that negatively affects how you feel, think and act. Without treatment, symptoms can persist and lead to social isolation, problems at work, substance abuse, self-harm and suicide. Fortunately, there is treatment for depression that is effective and non-habit forming.
Be open to receiving medical treatment to deal with the symptoms of depression. Do realize that it can take up to six weeks to receive the full benefits of the medication and, even then, your medication may need to be adjusted. Treatment for depression can be tricky, as one medication may work for one patient and not the other. Dosage is also a consideration, as you may need more or less of a particular medication. Be patient, and do not give up.
As you recover from addiction, your brain will also be healing. The depression may feel worse because your brain is going through so many changes, but this won’t be forever. The brain has an incredible ability to form new, healthy connections and return to normal functioning. When this starts to happen, you may notice that the depression goes away on its own or is well-managed with the right medication.
3. Practice Self-Care
Self-care is incredibly important during the recovery process. Taking care of your mind, body and spirit is one of the best gifts you can give yourself, and the only person in control of it is you. As you start your recovery, make a promise to yourself that you will make self-care a top priority.
Here are some of the best ways to take care of yourself psychologically, physically and spiritually.
- Eat the right foods. Even though there is no diet that will cure depression, what you eat affects your mood. Be careful about starting new diets because some limit your food groups and restrict what you can eat. Rather, it’s best to focus on fresh foods that you would find on the perimeter of the grocery store: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy products.
- Get enough sleep. The body needs around seven hours or more of sleep each night to rest and repair itself. Don’t cheat yourself on this well-needed rest. Set a healthy sleep routine that has you going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
- Get some exercise. Physical activity has built-in benefits such as social interaction, time outdoors and weight management. Any activity that gets your heart pumping is beneficial for your physical health. In the brain, exercise produces feel-good chemicals that fight depression.
- Keep your doctors appointments. See your doctors regularly. It’s a good idea to review your medications and stay on top of your health. If you need a referral, you can ask for one during your appointment.
- Seek counseling. Counseling is important in early recovery. A counselor will work with you to explore past trauma, accept experiences in your life and shut down negative self-talk. Individual counseling is most common, but you may also want to explore group counseling, marriage counseling or family counseling.
4. Give Back to Others
Staying connected to others is extremely important for those with dual diagnosis. An excellent way to do this is by volunteering your time at a local soup kitchen, homeless shelter or animal shelter. If you prefer more hands-on opportunities, check out organizations that build homes for the less fortunate or help with cleaning up the local parks.
Volunteering allows you to build skills that will be useful for future work. For example, you can practice being accountable, arriving on time, completing tasks and working with others. Many people say that they were able to “find themselves” by volunteering.
Of course, we can’t overlook the fact that helping others is a powerful feeling that gives you a sense of purpose. It keeps you active and engaged in your local community, prevents relapse and avoids negative thought patterns. Choose an activity that you are passionate about. It won’t be long before you see that one small act of kindness can change someone’s life.
5. Adopt Stress Management Techniques
Life is stressful, but you must work hard to manage your stress levels so that they don’t make you physically, psychologically and spiritually unhealthy. Many people turn to drugs and alcohol to help manage their stress, but there are far more effective ways to cope with stressful situations. By learning functional stress management techniques, you can prevent relapse and manage symptoms of depression.
Here are some of the best ways to cope with stress.
- Meditation. Achieving meditation through calmness and relaxation allows you to focus on the present and remove yourself from the past and future. Meditation reduces stress and anxiety, promotes emotional health and enhances self-awareness.
- Biofeedback. Biofeedback uses monitoring equipment to track how the body responds to stressful situations. By changing the way the brain responds to stress, stressful situations can be better managed.
- Guided imagery. This form of therapy can be used by anyone. To calm the mind and body, look at pleasant and relaxing images while controlling your breathing.
- Yoga. Yoga combines deep breathing and stretching to improve flexibility and relaxation. Other activities to consider are Tai Chi and Qigong (both are martial arts).
- Deep breathing. Take slow, deep breaths to distract you from your surroundings. Controlling your breathing also helps you to focus on your body in a more positive manner.
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with depression and substance abuse, know that you are not alone in this. Depression and addiction go hand in hand. The good news is that we know more about treating dual diagnosis than ever before. An integrated approach is best, as it allows both the addiction and the mental health condition to be successfully treated.
Continuum Recovery Center today at 855.869.7132