Effectively Managing Depression In Drug Addiction Recovery

Effectively Managing Depression In Recovery - Addiction Hope

Contributed by The Camp Recovery Center clinical team member Kathryn Taylor, MA, LPC/MHSP.

Everyone has bad times, and the recovery course from addiction is sure to bring some tough challenges that might put even the most determined of individuals into a down mood here and there. For some, these moods are more than passing phases.

In fact, as many as 10 percent of Americans suffer from clinical depression, and among those are many recovering addicts. In fact, addiction treatment clinicians prepare to receive about 50 percent of addicts into treatment not only for substance abuse, but also for symptoms related to co-occurring mental disorders, such as depression. [1]

The Tie Between Alcohol Abuse And Depression

Alcohol addiction, more specifically, tends to bring out depression symptoms in a person. Alcohol is a drug that calms, or depresses, the natural reactions of a person’s body and mind. Drinking alcohol often causes sleepiness, lack of motivation and lethargic feelings. As a person drinks more to ease sad feelings, the alcohol produces more depressed feelings. A frustrating cycle then develops into chronic depression with an addiction to alcohol. [2]

Alcoholism and depression are a common dual-diagnosis, and as one disorder is treated, the other usually gets better, too. No one goes into addiction treatment to feel bad, but to feel better. Treating addiction, in general, can ease depression. Discovering the effects of depression and distinguishing how to fight it will also encourage a more rapid recovery from addiction.

In Managing Depression, Understand The Lies That Depression Tells

It can be difficult for a depressed person to feel like completing addiction treatment with any success is possible. This is because depression causes negative thoughts and feelings of overwhelming hopelessness. There may be an emotional pain or feelings of emptiness that do not seem to ever go away, especially without the use of substances.

In these times, it is practical to recognize that such feelings, as untrue as the thoughts that cause them may be, do cause real pain. The agony that is experienced while letting go of the effects of a substance is a very genuine emotional distress. It would be unrealistic to expect to be happy, even during socially celebrated occasions, while dealing with depression and the newfound absence of drugs and/or alcohol.

Expecting to feel great right away will result in guilt that will lead to more depression. However, understanding this basic concept might help the individual to establish reasonable expectations within recovery. [3]

Overcoming Guilt

As guilt is another component of depression that is magnified with addiction, a depressed person can feel guilty for the addiction and blame the depression on his or her previous personal decisions. Such guilty feelings can actually cause a person to feel unworthy of accepting necessary help, or to reason that the personality traits that led to his or her disorder are too deeply ingrained to change.

Neither addiction nor depression is a personal decision. If a person could simply decide to feel better and stop abusing substances, no doubt he or she would have already done so.

A good way to fight guilty feelings is to show them up with determined and responsible actions, such as sticking to commitments made during one’s treatment plan. Developing a system of honesty is a major attack on guilt – and also a major change from the symptoms of a life lived in addiction. Even when it means fessing up to negative actions, speaking the truth in the home and to one’s treatment providers will send feelings of guilt away.

Practical Steps For Managing Depression

Woman looking away struggling with Managing DepressionDepressed feelings should be shared with addiction counselors. Treatment for addiction will include therapy that should teach a person to become mentally and emotionally stable enough to cope with life’s anxieties and disappointments without relapse.

Some depressed persons will be prescribed medications to manage the disorder. Such medications do not need to become replacement addictions. Keeping clear communication with the prescribing doctor regarding one’s symptoms and use will be a safeguard against addiction to depression medications. Medications do not replace psychotherapy, however, so a dual-plan is most successful.

A depressed person must be willing to be patient enough to find what works in the way of medical treatment. In the meantime, not enough can be said about taking the reins on depression, even in the home.

Effectively Managing Depression At Home

There are many positive actions that a depressed person can take to loosen the depressive bonds, such as:

  • Write a list of all of the substance-free activities that you sometimes enjoy.
  • Choose one of these activities to do every day.
  • Write and talk about what you enjoy.
  • Do not expect to enjoy it fully at first. Joy will increase with repetition.

Sleeping and exercise habits have much to do with depression, as do eating patterns. Eating and sleeping at regular times daily and getting a nutritious diet are great self-care practices that will benefit any recovering individual.

Simply making others aware of the depression is a practical step to getting a little understanding from others. Making regular efforts to relax emotionally while performing mentally or physically active tasks, such as household chores or listening actively to another person, are great steps to stop bouts of negative thinking.

Final Advice for Managing Depression

Addiction and depression are treatable conditions. [4] There is no need to let them dominate your life. If you have concerns about your own alcohol use and/or emotional well-being, please consider seeking treatment today.

To learn how to effectively manage anxiety while in addiction recovery, click here.


[1]: Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 48. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. Rockville (MD): Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (US); 2008. Retrieved online 04/09/16 at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64060/.
[2]: “Alcohol’s damaging effects on the brain.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Retrieved April 11, 2016 at http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa63/aa63.htm.
[3]: “Depression Definition.” National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved April 11, 2016 at https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml.
[4]: “Depression: What You Need To Know.” National Institutes of Mental Health. Retrieved April 11, 2016 at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/depression-what-you-need-to-know-12-2015/index.shtml.

About the author:

“Effectively Managing Depression In Drug Addiction Recovery” was written by The Camp Recovery Center (Scotts Valley, California) clinical team member Kathryn Taylor, MA, LPC/MHSP. Kathryn has several years of experience working in dual diagnosis addiction treatment, women’s issues and trauma treatment as a licensed mental health counselor.

About the Program:

Located on 25 acres and nestled among the majestic redwoods of Northern California’s Santa Cruz Mountains, The Camp Recovery Center has been providing life-changing residential addiction treatment services to adults and adolescents for more than 30 years. Licensed by the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs and certified by the Commission of Rehab Facilities (CARF), The Camp provides holistic comprehensive care that is customized to meet the unique physical, psychological, and spiritual needs of each person who chooses to heal with us. The principles of the Ongoing Recovery Support Network philosophy are incorporated into all aspects of treatment at The Camp, and we place great emphasis on ensuring that our clients have the skills, resources, and support that they will need to resist triggers, avoid relapse, and successfully achieve lifelong recovery.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer a discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from multiple physical, emotional, environmental, and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on July 25, 2016
Reviewed and Updated by Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on January 11, 2021
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.