It’s normal to feel sad, loneliness or grief when you experience a loss or bump in your life. But when those feelings linger and start affecting your work, sleep, appetite, relationships or even your ability to function, you may be suffering from major depression. Also known as clinical depression, major depressive disorder or unipolar depression, major depression is a medical condition that goes beyond life’s ordinary ups and downs.
People with major depression simply can’t regain control of their emotions to get better. They have a consistently low mood or a loss of interest in things that normally matter to them. A person must suffer these symptoms on most days for a period of at least two weeks to be diagnosed.
What are the causes of depression?
The causes of depression are complicated and research indicates that there is no single cause. Some people may be genetically or biologically predisposed to the disorder. Environmental and social factors, such as trauma and significant psychological stress, may also play a role.
The National Institute of Mental Health tells us that most likely, it is caused by a combination of genetic, biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Depressive illnesses are disorders of the brain. Brain-imaging technologies, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), have shown that the minds of people who have it look different than those of people without it. The parts of the brain involved in mood, thinking, sleep, appetite and behavior appear different. But these images do not reveal why it has occurred. They also cannot be used to diagnose depression.
Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories, too. Scientists are studying specific genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. Also, trauma, loss of a loved one, a complicated relationship or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without a visible trigger.
WebMD.com reports that almost 18.8 million American adults experience depression each year with women nearly twice as likely as men to develop major depression. However, clinical depression symptoms, even if severe, usually improve with psychological counseling, antidepressant medications or a combination of the two.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed piece about Andreas Lubitz, the suicidal co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525, Robert M. Sapolsky, a professor of biology at Stanford University and of neurology and neurosurgery at Stanford’s medical school, points out that “depression, like all mental illness, is an illness, a disease…” He notes that “depression is a neurochemical disorder rooted in genetic vulnerability and stressful environmental triggers…”
Sapolsky describes clinical depression as “the disease in which every cell in the body drowns with groundless anguish, and with suffocating feelings of being hopeless and helpless, in which any attempt to keep despair about the exigencies of life at bay with rationalization fails, replaced with a chest-crushing, metastasized sadness.” He continues, “Major depression is enormously dangerous to its sufferers — for example, about 40,000 people commit suicide annually in the United States, and most of those cases involve major depression. But it is immensely rare for depression to result in violence to others.”
Clinical Depression and Substance Misuse
Mental health disorders and substance abuse commonly go hand in hand, creating co-occurring disorders or a dual diagnosis. Either disorder can occur first, but often the result of one condition is the development of the other. Someone who suffers from mental illness like depression may over time begin to self-medicate in order to ease their mind. Before long, these individuals begin to depend on the substance in order to manage their mental health disease, and they quickly find themselves addicted.
Other individuals who have a history of drug addiction find that they also develop a mental health disorder. Whether the drug or alcohol abuse causes the mental illness or if some individuals are more prone to both is often unknown, but the result is clear; the person needs help from a dual diagnosis program.
Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe diagnosis, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people who are struggling with the brain disorder.
The Benefits of Treatment for Depression
Addiction therapy and psychological treatments for depression are essential. Without treatment, addiction is apt to progress and seriously affect the state of one’s health. Addiction can also worsen depression. Many people who battle depression respond well to pharmaceutical treatments like antidepressants and psychological therapy. Addiction sufferers have many treatment options to consider upon checking into rehab. Although these diseases may never have cures, they can be put into remission with treatment where they can remain in the background of one’s life, where they can be successfully managed so that they no longer detract from one’s daily well-being.
While intensive treatment is the best place to start for someone battling concurrent disorders, experts say that long-term treatment is ideal for people who suffer from addiction and depression. Studies have shown that long-term treatment is associated with reduced suicide rates and improved quality of life. From support groups to counseling sessions, these therapies can help keep these co-existing disorders in check.
If you are wrestling depression and addiction, you should remember that you are not alone. Both of these diseases affect millions of Americans and others worldwide. Treatment can help immensely, but you have to seek it out by entering rehab as soon as possible.
Treatment for Depression and Substance Abuse at Adjustments Family Services
Adjustments Family Services, located in the Simi Valley area of Los Angeles, utilizes integrated treatment programs for co-occurring disorders that allow each client to receive the individualized care they deserve. The Southern California rehab center offers cohesive treatment for addiction and co-occurring mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, grief/loss, bipolar disorder, secondary eating issues, personality disorders, mood disorders and psychological trauma. Our program combines both the treatment for addiction and the treatment for the mental disorder so that the resident can heal every aspect of their life and continue on to complete sobriety.