There are types of depression you may experience in recovery
A common event that a recovering addict may experience during their recovery is depression. This can occur for multiple reasons: the body needs to heal from the damages of drugs, the recovering addict must confront emotions and thoughts that may have been otherwise suppressed when they abused substances, they feel lost with their sense of self and identity, or returning to normal life and society is extremely difficult – just to name a few examples.
The definition of depression
According to the American Psychiatric Association, depression (also commonly known as major depressive disorder) is a mental illness that negatively impacts your ability to overcome difficult emotions and reduces your desire to pursue interests and live a fulfilling life.
Contrary to popular belief, depression is not just a phase of sadness or grief for an individual. From a neurological perspective, the brain undergoes a series of complex chemical changes, all connected to your perception and ability to live life and are mainly triggered by the person’s environment, culture, self-perception, a traumatic circumstance, or genetics. In the case of recovering addicts, their substance abuse or personal reasons for substance abuse are the main catalysts for their depression. Depression should also never be assumed to be simple nor something that individuals can just “get over.”
The common symptoms of depression include:
- Constant sadness or a depressed mood
- Low self-esteem; feelings of unworthiness and guilt
- Losing interest in beloved hobbies and activities
- Appetite fluctuation; excessive weight gain or weight loss
- Decreased cognitive function
- Suicidal idealization
The different types of depression
The severity or type of depression is dependent upon the individual and the factors that play out in their life, i.e., diet, health, lifestyle, and ability to cope with stress. No one can expect to experience an exact type of depression during recovery, but the condition should definitely be watched out for because past drug use can set off a dormant mental illness in addition to depression.
These are the different types of depression that may be experienced in recovery:
Major depression (major depressive disorder; clinical depression) is the most common depression that individuals can experience during recovery and is diagnosed if a depressive episode has extended for more than two weeks. As mentioned before, the catalysts for depression are either internal or external elements or combination of both. But this type of depression is characterized by its primary focus on a continuous feeling of sadness.
Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder)
Manic Depression, also known as bipolar disorder, is defined by an individual having manic or hypomanic episodes. Which in other words, a person will go through extreme highs and lows in mood, believe in grandiose delusions such as thinking they’re immune to experiencing pain which can put them in dangerous and life-threatening situations.
Psychotic depression is a type of depression where a person experiences both depressive symptoms and psychosis at the same time. Psychosis is a state of mind where an individual loses touch with reality and experiences things that do not exist, such as voices commanding them to do harmful things to themselves or others and at the same time, believe in delusions. Individuals diagnosed underneath this category of depression are the 1 in every four people admitted to a psychiatric hospital. They are also more prone to fits of anger and aggression. Also, not to be confused with schizophrenia, which is a mental illness that also shares similar symptoms such as delusions and disassociations from reality, psychotic depression is consistent with symptoms of depression. Constant drug use from the past can trigger the brain to induce someone in a psychotic episode.
Substance-Induced Mood Disorder
Substance-Induced Mood Disorder occurs both during addiction and in recovery due to PAWS, (Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) during their recovery period, which can last for weeks, months, and even years. Withdrawal forces the recovering addict to deal with the physical consequences (i.e., prolonged nausea, fatigue, and insomnia), and cognitive damages that were a result of their substance abuse as well as come face-to-face with the realities that may have never been truly acknowledged during their addiction.
Thankfully, there are always treatments readily available for any kind of depression.
Regardless of depression’s negative impacts on one’s life, treatment is possible and medically assisted treatment is always available.
The main methods used to combat depression are antidepressants and psychotherapy. Antidepressants help increase the production of serotonin in the brain while psychotherapy is the act of seeking out the counseling of a professional therapist in order to equip oneself with the emotional tools to deal with day to day life.
Additional methods include attending group therapy to build a sense of community with others who have been in a place of addiction as well and seeking holistic methods that focus on healing the entire individual as opposed to simply the addiction. In the case of psychotic depression, electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is an option where a doctor puts one under anesthesia and sends several shock waves through their brain to reset neurological pathways. This method is not approved by the FDA but is an option some seek and have actually seen positive results and a reduction in suicidal thoughts and idealization.
Recovering from an addiction is no easy feat. The challenges never stop after one has chosen to walk away from drugs and alcohol forever. But despite the fact, the journey to sobriety is always a battle worth fighting. Once someone frees themselves from the shackles of drugs and alcohol, they have so many things to look forward to in life such as building new relationships, getting back into old hobbies, experiencing new things, and making memories. People are never their addictions nor mental illness. Depression is an obstacle, but obstacles are always meant to be overcome.
Guest post by Trevor McDonald