Depression is one of the most common co-occurring mental health disorders with substance use disorders. Additionally, depression occurs about twice as frequently in women as it does in men. If you are a woman with an addiction, your chances of having depression as well are significantly higher than the typical male population. What exactly does depression look like? Can it be treated, especially when it is co-occurring with a substance use disorder?
Clearing Up Myths About Depression
There are a lot of misconceptions about depression. Perhaps the biggest misconception is that those who are depressed feel sad or cry all of the time. This is not true at all; in fact, many people with depression do not feel sadness or cry at all. You can be depressed and just feel empty, worthless, hopeless, or alone.
Depression is also different from grief or feelings of sadness or loss after a difficult life event. Many people with mild to moderate depression appear to be emotionless or “flat” from the outside. When something negative happens, it is natural to experience negative emotions. In fact, someone who has depression may not react appropriately to positive or negative life events.
How Do You Know You Have Depression?
Because depression is more than just feeling sad or down, which is normal, it is important to know what symptoms to look for. When you have several of these symptoms for two weeks or more, you may have depression:
- Persistent moods of sadness, emptiness, or feeling anxious
Feeling Hopeless or Pessimistic About Everything
- Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or guilt
- Decrease in energy level or fatigue
- Sleep disturbances, including insomnia or hypersomnia (oversleeping)
- Slower speech or movements
- Loss of interest in preferred activities
- Feelings of restlessness or irritability
- Difficulty with memory, concentration, or decision-making
- Changes in appetite or weight
- Unexplained pains, headaches, cramps, or gastrointestinal issues
- Suicidal thoughts or attempts
Why Trauma Increases Your Risk of Depression
Trauma or Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) can increase your risk of depression. Not only does trauma affect your feelings of self-worth, but trauma also can cause lasting changes in the chemistry in your brain. Because depression is usually caused by changes to the levels of serotonin or other chemical messengers in the brain, trauma can increase the risk of depression.
The more trauma you have experienced, the higher your risk factors will be. Whether the trauma occurred in childhood or more recently, whether it was only one time or experienced repeatedly, all trauma can have a lasting impact on your brain and body. Some of the types of trauma that may increase your risk of depression include:
- Emotional abuse
- Physical abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Chronic illness or pain
- Natural disasters
- Community violence
- Loss of a loved one
- Sexual harassment
- Sexual assault
Other Increased Risk Factors for Depression
In addition to being twice as likely to become depressed as a woman, genetics is another risk factor for depression. If depression or mood disorders run in your family, you are more likely to experience depression as well.
Women experience many hormonal changes throughout their lives, even throughout each month. Hormones can also increase your risk of depression. Some of those hormonal factors and the associated types of depression include:
- Pregnancy - Prenatal and Postpartum Depression
- Menstrual cycles - Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)
- Menopause - Perimenopausal Depression
Women are also affected more by environmental factors such as relationship issues, breakups, and divorce. These kinds of issues are more likely to cause depression in women than in men.
How to Get Help for Depression and Co-occurring Addiction
Many people suffer from depression because they either do not know how to get help or because of the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health disorders. This can be, unfortunately, a life-threatening decision due to the danger of suicide associated with depression. Therefore, seeking mental health treatment for depression is something that cannot simply be swept under the rug.
Help for depression usually consists of treatment by a psychiatrist, who will often prescribe medication such as an antidepressant and also recommend therapy. When treating a mental health disorder, both chemical and therapeutic treatments are important in the healing process. Likewise, with co-occurring addiction, treatment of both the addiction and the depression are necessary simultaneously in order to be effective.
Untreated depression can worsen your addiction, and untreated addiction can cause your depression symptoms to worsen as well. Because therapy is an integral part of treatment for both depression and addiction, having a therapist treat both simultaneously will offer the best chances for your success in recovery.
Women are twice as likely as men to have depression, and having an addiction increases those odds. Other risk factors for depression include genetics, hormones, relationships, environmental factors, and women who are victims of trauma or abuse. Seeking treatment for both depression and addiction will give you the best chances for success in recovery. The Ho Tai Way – Recovery For Women is a detox and residential treatment program in Costa Mesa, California. We treat women with addiction and co-occurring disorders such as depression. Our trauma-informed care offers you safe, non-judgmental, compassionate healing. Our facility is located between the soothing mountains and the sunny beaches of Southern California to create a quiet refuge from the stressors of life. Our goal is to provide a safe place for you to find your way again. Contact us at The Ho Tai Way at (714) 581-3974 to learn more.