Mental illnesses and addiction tend to go hand in hand. Sometimes, people begin using in order to numb their emotions and other symptoms of a mood disorder. In other cases, they develop mental health problems over the course of several years of active addiction. Even those without a formal diagnosis of depression may feel a mood drop in the weeks after rehab. The question of which comes first – depression or addiction – therefore is of less importance than one may believe.
Regardless of where your journey with recovery and mental health began, it’s vital that you’re able to manage these intense feelings after treatment. Read on to learn how to combat depression in early addiction recovery.
Your Brain After Addiction
Addiction is often referred to as a chronic, progressive disease of the brain, and for good reason. By consuming mind-altering substances – whether they are stimulants or depressants – your body receives false messages and the reward system is completely rewired. Equilibrium is disrupted, and the mind becomes used to an incredibly skewed number of feel-good neurotransmitters. By detoxing, getting sober, and participating in a rehab program, you’re ridding yourself of the substances your body has grown to depend on. The longer you misused drugs or alcohol, the more significant the change to your brain.
As your body adjusts to a sober life without substance use, there will be a marked period of recalibration. During this time, your brain is attempting to compensate for the new, more realistic amounts of dopamine and other neurotransmitters required for functioning. This may result in feelings of depression or emptiness as you go through treatment and the weeks following it, but it does not mean that you are failing. This is a completely natural part of the process.
Depression in Early Recovery
Whether your depression is catalyzed by detox or has always been a part of your life, it is important to successfully manage it during the early days of sobriety. Luckily, there are several steps that you can take to improve your mental health and protect your recovery.
First, lean heavily on your support network, especially in the first thirty days after treatment. Surround yourself with friends and family who can cheer you on during this challenging time. If you need a little help completing daily tasks or readjusting to life at home, give them a call – don’t try to do it alone. In a similar vein, attending regular meetings gives you the chance to hold yourself accountable while expanding your circle of sober friends. Learning from others and feeling truly understood can go a long way to alleviating your concerns and being vocal about your struggles will stop them in their tracks – before things go too far.
Next, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. Many treatment centers will continue to make themselves and their resources available after your residential program has concluded. They can connect you with local groups and recommended therapists and psychiatrists who will continue your care. They may even provide long-term treatment solutions: sober transport, sober coaching, monitoring, and sober living may be a good fit for you at this stage.
By being aware of your mood and being proactive in your self-care, you can manage any feelings of depression that seek to sabotage your sobriety.
Symptoms of Depression
Education is power. Know what to look for in yourself or a loved one; the sooner a mood disorder is caught, the more effective treatment will be. Everyone’s mental illnesses manifest in unique ways, so you may exhibit all or just some of the symptoms outlined below. If you are concerned, it’s best to visit a doctor, even if your issues don’t match the content of this list.
Signs that you may be experiencing depression include:
- Low mood
- Feelings of worthlessness, helplessness, or pessimism
- Sleep problems (insomnia or hypersomnia)
- Chronic fatigue (lacking energy even after sleeping)
- Social isolation
- Anhedonia (diminished pleasure from previously enjoyable activities)
- Appetite disturbance (eating too much or not enough)
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feelings of guilt or shame
- Intrusive, repeating thoughts of death or suicide
Dual Diagnosis Treatment
Those who are battling both mental illness and addiction require a unique, comprehensive approach to their treatment. In order to successfully restore normality, both concerns must be addressed simultaneously by a qualified clinical team.
At BRC Recovery, we offer care for the treatment-resistant. Our ongoing support ensures that you will receive encouragement and the help you need for years to come. If you or a loved one need help managing depression in addiction recovery, call 1-866-461-1759 today.