Overcoming a substance use disorder is a huge accomplishment. Although someone has done the hard work to achieve lasting sobriety, most in recovery understand that there will be some bumps in the road. However, something that may not be anticipated on the recovery journey is encountering a bout with depression. Famously, even the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, Bill W., struggled with depression after he attained sobriety.
Depression is definitely not reserved for individuals in recovery. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 17.3 million American adults suffer from depression. For those in recovery, however, mental health challenges such as depression have the potential to trigger a relapse and therefore must be addressed and treated as early as possible.
The causes for depression can vary significantly from one person to the next, making it difficult to predict who might be vulnerable. Some may be struggling with relationship issues in recovery, others may have financial setbacks that trigger it, while others may be genetically predisposed to depression. Regardless of the cause, recognizing the signs of depression and proactively taking steps to manage it is essential for protecting recovery.
Recognizing the Signs of Depression
The symptoms of depression can range from mild to debilitating, with most who struggle with depression falling somewhere in between. A depressive episode can interfere with daily functioning and has the potential to disrupt all aspects of life. Become familiar with these signs and symptoms of depression:
- Sadness, despair, hopelessness
- Loss of desire to participate in usual activities
- Weight loss or gain
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Slowed motor and cognitive functioning
- Inappropriate feelings of shame or guilt
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions
- Suicidal thoughts
When a cluster of five or more symptoms is present for more than two weeks that would indicate a diagnosis of major depressive disorder.
Getting Help for Depression in Recovery
Putting your recovery first means tending to it each and every day. When the symptoms of depression have stubbornly persisted for more than a couple of weeks it is important to take the necessary steps to get support from a mental health professional. Ignoring the symptoms is a mistake, as that allows the depression to worsen and possibly result in a relapse. Treatment for depression in recovery may involve the following interventions:
- Medication. Antidepressant therapy is the cornerstone of depression management. These medications are effective in reducing the symptoms of depression in about 50% of patients, so definitely worth trying. The doctor will likely trial a couple of different antidepressants to determine the best fit with the least amount of side effects.
- Psychotherapy. A therapist can help you work through any underlying emotional issues, which can be immensely helpful in overcoming depression. The psychotherapist can guide you through the healing process using a variety of evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), mindfulness-based cognitive therapy (MBCT), psychodynamic therapy, or prolonged exposure therapy.
- Support groups. The intimacy of a small group format can help foster peer support among others who also struggle with depression. A licensed clinician guides the discussions, presenting topics and encouraging participants to share their personal experiences.
- Holistic. Complementary activities can enhance emotional wellness and improve overall mood. These include improving sleep quality, getting regular exercise, eating nutritiously, practicing yoga, mindfulness, or other types of meditation, aromatherapy, and therapeutic massage.
If you recognize the symptoms of depression do not hesitate to obtain the compassionate support you deserve. Acknowledging the signs of depression puts you on the path of meaningful actions that will protect your recovery while improving your quality of life.
Ashley Addiction Treatment, formerly Father Martin’s Ashley, is a nationally recognized nonprofit leader in integrated, evidence-based treatment for substance use disorders and is accredited by The Joint Commission. We offer both inpatient and outpatient programs, holistic addiction treatment, drug detox, relapse prevention plans, family wellness programs and a variety of other services tailored to each patient’s needs. Our driving principle — “everything for recovery” — reinforces our mission to heal each individual with respect and dignity, and reflects on our ongoing commitment to meet new challenges. For information about our comprehensive programs, please call (866) 313-6307.