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July 24, 2022

5 Signs and Symptoms of Depression and Substance Abuse

Overcoming depression and substance abuse can feel like an uphill battle. Significant symptoms of depression can make you feel like you need to drink or use drugs to escape the sadness, numbness, and hopelessness you may feel. But the effects of drugs and alcohol are short-lived, which can compel you to turn to them more frequently, increasing your risk of addiction. At the same time, using drugs and alcohol can interfere with your mood and emotional wellbeing, making you more vulnerable to depression. Often, the relationship between depression and substance abuse creates a closed loop, and the symptoms overlap.

5 Key Signs of Depression and Substance Use

Many characteristics of depression also match the symptoms of substance abuse. Living with depression and substance abuse struggles can cause you to:

1. Lose Interest In Hobbies and Social Activities

Anhedonia, or the loss of interest in previously rewarding or enjoyable activities, is one of the main symptoms of depression. This happens because depression typically shuts down some of the pleasure circuits in the brain. When you do feel good, depression can make it difficult for you to sustain that feeling. Abusing drugs and alcohol can also cause you to lose interest in people, places, and activities you once loved. Once your brain associates addictive substances with happiness and pleasure, everything pales in comparison, causing you to lose interest.

2. Change Your Appetite

People with depression can also lose interest in food, or they may be so fatigued that they have very little energy to cook or eat. Others deal with pervasive feelings of sadness and worthlessness through emotional eating, which increases their appetite. Using drugs and alcohol can also cause unexpected appetite changes. While illicit drugs like cocaine, heroin, alcohol, and ecstasy often suppress the appetite, substances like marijuana can increase your appetite.

3. Have Difficulty Concentrating

In addition to affecting your emotions, depression can change how you think, including impairing your attention span, interfering with your memory, disrupting your decision-making skills, and impacting your ability to concentrate. Many people with depression feel like they live in a constant state of brain fog. Drugs and alcohol can also make it hard for you to focus because they rewire the brain to concentrate on seeking, acquiring, and experiencing pleasure-inducing substances more than anything else.

4. Experience Interpersonal Problems

Both depression and substance abuse can cause relationship problems. Depression can cause loneliness and detachment issues, while substance abuse can cause distrust, violence, and abuse. Both challenges can provoke irritability and anger, as well as breed co-dependent, enabling behavior, which can be frustrating and strain relationships.

5. Have Difficulty Managing Your Emotions

As a mood disorder, depression can easily disrupt your ability to regulate emotions. The same is true for drugs and alcohol. Both depression and substance abuse can make managing emotions difficult, which can lead to symptoms such as:

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Guilt
  • Hopelessness
  • Erratic thinking
  • Excessive fears and worries
  • Unexpected mood swings
  • Overwhelming sadness

Luckily, depression and addiction can be treated through a reputable co-occurring disorder treatment program.

Flexible, Outpatient Treatment For Substance Abuse & Emotional Challenges

Here at Meta, we’re dedicated to helping you take charge of your recovery. Our flexible outpatient treatment programs can help you overcome substance abuse challenges. Our clinical support service can help you better manage your mental health. Depression and substance abuse don’t have to continue to disrupt your life. You can recover and we can help you get there. Contact us to learn more about your recovery options in the greater Boston area.