Addictions and depression, health and wellness, Treatment for depression

Addiction and depression: often diagnosed together

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In my city, like many cities in North America, the opioid crisis is affecting many people and taking many lives. I haven’t lived here for long, but it seems all types of people are suffering because of drug addiction. I just learned today of a person passing away from mixing cocaine and fentanyl; she was young and now she is gone. I didn’t know her, but I feel for her and her family.

It is known that depression and drug addictions go hand in hand for a lot of people. Often, people who are addicted have turned to drugs to relieve stress, trauma and were recreational drug users. The crisis isn’t only occurring in adults; adolescents are turning to drugs to self-medicate when they experience the symptoms of depression.
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If you would like an in-depth study, you can take a free course on Edx, courtesy of Harvard University. I have taken it and it is well worth studying to know more about drug addiction and how to treat people with an addiction to opioids. It is highly recommended.

Drug addiction doesn’t discriminate, all socioeconomic classes are affected ranging from homeless people to doctors and teenagers addicted to prescription medicine. How much is too much in a prescription? There is debate going on now about restricting the use of opioids to treat pain because of the high potential for addictions to start by their use.

It is estimated that in the United States, over 1,000 people are treated daily in the country’s emergency departments for incorrect administration of an opioid based drug.

The effects of the dual-diagnosis of addiction and depression

Studies show that women suffer from depression first and men suffer with a drug addiction first. Many feel hopeless and lost and turn to the drugs to feel better, yet they feel worse in the end. A study conducted by the National Institute on Health found that one-third of people suffering from the mood disorder had struggled with an addiction. Men who were addicted to alcohol were diagnoses three times as much as the general population.

Children of people who are addicted are at risk of developing the same addictions; they are also at a higher risk for developing a mood disorder. In an article written by Dennis C. Daley, Ph.D, he sums up the effects of addictions and depression on a family:

“clients with addiction and depression are at higher risk for suicidal and homicidal behaviors, poorer treatment adherence, higher relapse rates to either disorder, and higher re-hospitalization rates (Cornelius et al, 1997; Salloum et al, 1996; Daley & Zuckoff, 1998 & 1999).”

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Not only does an addiction and mood disorder affect a family, it affects the local community as well. People who are untreated may not be able to show up to work, school or important events. Locally, the prison has been under investigation involving eight prisoners who died from an overdose. Medical personnel were questioned, and one nurse agreed that communication when an overdose occurs needs improvement. It was said that the problems in the community are now in the jail.

Of course, when news spreads of an overdose in a community it can frighten people and sadden people when it has lead to death. It is important to realize the seriousness of mental illness and drug addiction in combination with one another.

Help for people with concurrent diagnoses

Some people have difficulty finding the help they need for recovery because some institutions or places of help demand that a person be free from drug addiction before they can receive treatment. Having depression and a drug addiction can be difficult to be treated separately because they both affect each other. It seems like double the pain for addicts and persons with a mood disorder. The symptoms of both can be debilitating and the worst consequences of each is death from the condition.

More public awareness is helping to educate people about depression and addiction. There are conversations occurring world wide on how to view addictions. Some people may be afraid to ask for help because illicit drugs are illegal, but some cities are providing immunity in certain cases where drugs are found on the scene of a medical emergency. It is called the Good Samaritan law.

Good self-care can help tremendously as well. Some tips from Psychology Today include:

  • Get some sunshine
  • Exercise
  • Make attainable goals
  • Stand up and ground yourself
  • Get help from a professional

Using illicit drugs and alcohol can make depression worse even though the person may feel the drugs will make them feel better; it is a dangerous combination that left untreated can lead to serious consequences. Alcohol is a depressant that also impairs good judgment; being intoxicating increases the risk of a suicide attempt.

When seeking help from professionals, it is best to ask if they are qualified to help in both areas of addictions and depression. It is important that they both be treated at the same time.

If you are in need of help for suicidal thoughts please visit where you can find the resources such as hotline numbers to help with your crisis.

Would you like someone to talk to for free? Visit 7 Cups to talk to an active listener and you can be referred to a therapist if needed.

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health and wellness, major depressive disorder family and friends, Treatment for depression

How to know when you should see a doctor for depression

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The symptoms of depression can start off subtly and if they last for longer than two weeks you would be wise to see a doctor. It can be tempting to think that the symptoms will go away on their own, but this may lead to a worsening of the symptoms you are experiencing. If you had a broken arm you would go to the doctor, right? The same is true for depression even though it is an invisible illness. It is the leading cause of disability in the world and should be taken seriously.

You may not want to go to see a physician for several reasons including facing rejection from others because of the stigma with mental illness, you feel it isn’t that serious, and maybe you are feeling to tired and unmotivated to go. The longer you wait for help, the longer it will take for you to feel better. You are the best judge of what kind of therapy is best for you; the doctor can recommend treatments that work well alone or together for your ultimate well-being.

To do an online check of your possible depression symptoms click on the image below.

Symptoms to look for before seeing a doctor

There are a few types of depression but many of the symptoms are the same. To start if you just aren’t feeling quite like your normal self it may be a clue that it is time to see a doctor. Depression is despair, overwhelming tiredness, irritability and sleep disturbances. These are a few of the obvious symptoms that debilitate and cause a person to be confused.

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It is confusing to be used to functioning and then be rendered incapable of even the simplest tasks. You may try harder yet feel like a failure. You may try to think positively which is good, but it won’t cure the depression. It is a daily battle and at its worst can lead to suicide. Yes, it is a serious condition.


  • Fatigue
  • Over or under eating
  • anger
  • Lack of interest in once enjoyable activities
  • insomnia
  • Oversleeping
  • Thoughts of suicide
  • hopelessness
  • helplessness
  • Weight loss or gain
  • Feelings of despair
  • Body feels heavy
  • Movements are slower
  • Negative thinking
  • Isolating oneself

You may feel some or all these symptoms in varying intensities. There is help in dealing with these symptoms usually in the form of a combination of talk therapy and drug therapy. It may be hard to admit at first that what you are possibly experiencing is depression, but once you get a diagnosis from your doctor you’ll understand that it is real, serious and treatable.

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health and wellness, major depressive disorder family and friends, Treatment for depression

Children and depression

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Diagnosing depression in children

It is difficult to imagine a child suffering from the depths of depression but there are many who are diagnosed with different types of depression.  One may mistake the symptoms of depression as the child misbehaving or being lazy. When you see children acting out of sorts check for the symptoms of depression before you make a wrong judgement that could cause more harm by going without the medical care required to manage the illness. Types of depression includes:

  • Seasonal affective disorder
  • Major depressive disorder
  • Dysthymia
  • Bipolar disorder

If you are concerned talk to your family doctor of pediatrician for a diagnosis and treatment. Even though they are young the thought of suicide can occur, so don’t be afraid to ask for help from the health care professionals including counselors.  

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Symptoms of depression in children

The symptoms of depression are mostly the same as for adults, but children need extra tlc so be kind even when children are in the rottenest mood because it is the disorder talking. You may think the child is being rebellious and disrespectful when they show irritability but it is a symptom of all forms of depression. When the child is not doing their homework or is slow in the morning to get ready for school on a regular basis it could be fatigue from depression causing them to be so slow. Children may lose interest in playing with their friends, hobbies and sports. Other symptoms include:

  • Angry outbursts
  • Feeling rejected
  • Sleep troubles — over and under sleeping
  • Aches and pains
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating

Looking back, I see that doctors started to catch on to my symptoms including stomach aches when I was in grade 8 and just had my appendix taken out. I didn’t have the ability to tell them how I felt suicidal, I didn’t realize it is a medical concern, I thought it was because of a negative attitude. I told one of my friends once that I thought about suicide, but children don’t know what to do to help so I suffered alone. I missed a lot of school in grade 7 and was quite irritable; it is amazing that I had any friends. When you see symptoms please don’t ignore them because it is very painful and confusing to a child, you may save the child a lot of needless pain and suffering alone.  

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major depressive disorder family and friends, Uncategorized

Being supportive is the best thing you can do to help people with depression

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Finding out that a loved one has been diagnosed with having depression may make you uncomfortable, surprised, saddened, angry, compassionate and/or more understanding of the person. It can be awkward finding out not knowing much about depression, especially when there are stigmas attached to the illness. With more understanding of major depressive disorder, you will be able to help your companion in a caring and supportive way that is beneficial to you both. Don’t mistake the symptoms as being a part of their character; you may see signs that you would characterize as out of character and it may well be that what you are witnessing is the symptoms of this serious mood disorder.

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Many people, including people who suffer from major depressive disorder otherwise known as clinical depression, believe that they can will their way out of the illness. This is not so. It is not a matter of weakness on the person’s part; it takes a lot of strength to get through the toughest days with hope for getting better. For most people the illness is due to a chemical imbalance in the brain. Depression can be hereditary meaning other people in the family suffer from it. It can also be due to difficult life circumstances that requires medial help for learning how to deal with the despair and other discomfort that the symptoms of the illness cause.

Symptoms of major depressive disorder

There isn’t a specific test that can measure and diagnose depression. It is only when the symptoms have lasted more than two weeks that a person should see a medical care provider as soon as possible. These symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Despair
  • Body pains (unexplained)
  • Change in appetite
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Agitation
  • Irritability
  • Isolation
  • Non-communicative
  • Rumination about suicide
  • Memory lapses
  • Insomnia
  • Over sleeping
  • Lack of concentration

Because some of these symptoms don’t present as the common perception of depression as deep sadness, many people don’t get the help that they need to prevent the illness from getting worse. Sufferers may not understand that what they are experiencing are the debilitating symptoms of major depressive disorder. Alarmingly, most people who suffer from depression aren’t receiving help the help that they need. Help comes from friends, family, psychiatrists, family doctors and counselors. There are a few ways to treat depression and some in combination with one another. Both children and adults can be diagnosed with depression, but it is more common in women aged 40-59. Depression can affect any kind of person though it may be more common in people who are living in poverty.

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How do I react when someone tells me they have been diagnosed with depression?

Depression is an illness just like any other; you can respond with the same care and compassion as you would with someone with a different ailment. Many people fear mental illnesses, and this is partly due to old ways of thinking where any mental disorder labelled people as being crazy and irrational.

People who suffer from depression haven’t lost their mind and deserve to be taken seriously and without prejudice. The illness hasn’t changed the person who you know; the symptoms may make people sullen and withdrawn, you are not responsible for this. Being kind is helpful for the sufferer but leave it to health care professionals to treat and diagnose major depressive disorder.

Think about how you would like to be treated; put yourself in their shoes. You can use common sense and keep acting the same as you did before you found out your companion was ill. Depression can be somewhat contagious and there are steps you can take so that it doesn’t affect your day to day life.

Tips for dealing with a friend or family member with depression

Your close one may not be able to be the friend or loving family member you are used to when the symptoms of depression worsen. You may have to adjust your way of living if the person is your spouse or child living in your home. Being a caregiver can cause burnout if you don’t take care of yourself as well. You can work together while learning how to adapt to the changes. Helpful tips include:

  • Talk positively to the person
  • Avoid pessimism
  • Don’t think that the worst will happen
  • Know that the depression is not your fault
  • Take time out for yourself
  • Do the things you like to do
  • Don’t take on the role of a health professional
  • Call or text just to say hi
  • Get help for yourself from a therapist

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It may be tempting to give up on a person when they are in the depths of depression, but this is the worst time to do this; it is when they need you the most. At it’s worst people become more isolated, lacking motivation to get help and suffer from low self-esteem. It can be difficult for them to get out of bed some days. Understand that they have not rejected you; they are having difficulty in all areas of their life such as work, school and other relationships. Ask if you can do small things that they cannot do for themselves like grocery shopping, making doctor’s appointments, accompanying your companion to medical visits and making meals.

Get help

You don’t need to help the person suffering from clinical depression on your own. There are several therapies available for treating depression that have differing perspectives on what causes depression and how to best treat it. One misconception about people with depression is that they are addicted to anti-depressants or “happy pills”. This is not true.

  1. Biological perspective– from this area of study doctors believe that depression is a symptom of a physical disorder caused by biochemical or structural abnormality in the brain or genetics. Treatment is prescribed after diagnosing like a physical disorder. Treatment includes anti-depressants and other drugs, electroconvulsive therapy and/or psychosurgery.
  2. Psychodynamic perspective– the illness is caused by a traumatic childhood, unresolved conflicts that are sexual or aggressive in nature, and an imbalance between the ego, superego and the id. The therapist will bring repressed material into the open and help the client better cope with unconscious conflicts. E.g. psychoanalysis
  3. Learning perspective-abnormal thoughts, feelings and behaviours have been learned and continue to be acted upon; there has been a failure to learn appropriate behaviours. Therapy includes the use of classical, modelling and operant conditioning to eliminate the unwanted behaviours and increase the desired behaviour. E.g. behaviour therapy and behavioural modification
  4. Cognitive perspective– the belief is that wrong thinking can cause psychological disorders. The goal of the therapist and client is to change irrational and/or faulty thinking. Beck’s cognitive therapy, rational-emotive therapy
  5. Humanistic perspective– The blocking of the tendency towards self-actualization causes a psychological disorder. The therapist will encourage self-acceptance and self-understanding and to help the client become more inner-directed. Client-centred therapy, Gestalt therapy.

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When your friend or family member goes to the doctor for therapy, they will most likely receive help using one or more of these perspectives. For some clients, the treatment works immediately but for some it takes some time to get the right medication for them. Some medicines have side effects that just don’t agree with some people. In fact, sometimes an antidepressant can make a person worse. In this case the person will have to be weaned off the medicine and try another one. The new medication may take up to six weeks before the client notices a difference.

Keep in touch

It would be beneficial to your companion for you to be patient and encouraging throughout the treatment process. There may be some days when they could really use your help to motivate them to get to the doctor with some help. They may become too tired and unmotivated to go on other days and it is just seemingly impossible to go; encourage them to at least call the doctor if they can to cancel the appointment. You may not believe it but sometimes it even becomes too much for a person suffering from depression to pick up the phone to call or text anybody.

Stay positive and remain hopeful that your loved one will be back to normal soon. It may be a long process before they are able to function well in areas of relationships, school or work and with your help they will be well on their way in their recovery journey.

Remember to take care of yourself and don’t take the illness personally. It isn’t your fault and there is help available to treat this under treated and serious medical condition. Mental illness may be invisible, but its symptoms are real.

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