Depression and substance abuse are two conditions that are often closely related to one another — in fact, about one in three people with depression also struggle with substance abuse. Most people recognize depression as a serious problem and can, at the very least, empathize with it. Substance abuse and addiction are serious mental health problems themselves, although sometimes others don't understand this and blame the victim. As you'll see, though, the two problems can combine in a dual diagnosis to cause a whole slew of complications.
Why Does This Link Exist?
Why are depression and substance abuse related? On the surface it makes a lot of sense: depression can cause overpowering feelings of despair, and the sufferer will want to escape this dark place. Alcohol or illegal drug use can, of course, alter the way a person feels, so they present a great temptation to the suffering person. What ends up happening, however, is that the person will need to constantly turn back to the substance and ultimately develops an unhealthy substance dependency. In some cases, substance abuse comes first. At the end of the day, what matters is getting treatment.
The Vicious Cycle of Depression and Substance Abuse
The link between depression and substance abuse is very much a problem of short-term vs. long-term relief. The person may get some short-term relief from the substance, but be causing themselves harm in the long-term — whether that's bodily harm, harm to their ability to function, or just overall worsened depression. The user winds up in a vicious cycle of dependency.
Whatever You're Struggling With, There's Hope
If you find yourself suffering from depression along with substance dependency, don't worry: there is hope! Many people have overcome cases of substance abuse tied to depression. Typically, you'll have to tackle the substance abuse first. It's always a good idea to enlist the aid of a therapist or some kind of support network, as this can be very hard to do. Overall, though, with some effort and dedication on your part, you absolutely can get to a much healthier, happier place. You may find it difficult to become motivated to conquer your substance dependency due to your depression, however. This is a prime example of how the two conditions can feed off each other negatively. This is why an approach that tackles both the substance dependency and depression at the same time is so important and why you'll find a therapist, inpatient or outpatient rehabilitation center, or other support networks very helpful.