Anxiety and depression can impact addiction recovery in many ways because mental health and the ability to live a healthy lifestyle are closely linked.
Understanding What it Means to be in Addiction Recovery
To best understand addiction recovery and how anxiety and depression impact recovery, it’s important to understand what addiction is at its core. Addiction is a chronic disorder generally characterized by continually seeking drugs, even in the face of ongoing, negative consequences.
The disorders of either substance use or alcohol use are often seen to cause significant changes to the function and structure of the brain. These changes cause considerable changes in behavior that lead to significant alterations in the pleasure and reward centers. Sometimes, these changes will be easily and rapidly reversed when the individual stops. However, in other cases, the changes can become permanent, particularly if the individual never seeks help for their issues.
On the other hand, addiction recovery is a complex process of changing an individual’s health and wellness through conscious changes to their thought patterns and problematic behavior. Addiction recovery is sometimes quite lengthy. However, even those struggling with severe addictions can begin to overcome those challenges with professional help, laying the foundation for a successful recovery process.
Being in addiction recovery means that an individual has committed to sobriety and voluntarily undergone significant lifestyle changes necessary to keep that commitment. Many people end up with different primary goals as well, with the goal of some remaining abstinent and the goal of others being the ability to handle stress or triggers without using drugs.
What is Depression?
Depression is a mental disorder resulting in the patient feeling constant or frequent thoughts of sadness, worthlessness, hopelessness, fatigue, apathy, and a general loss of interest in things they once loved or enjoyed. Depression is known as major depressive disorder or clinical depression. While many people think this is sometimes just a simple case of the blues, it can last for weeks or even months and cannot be avoided with willpower alone. It can have significant impacts on the quality of life for the individual.
Just like most mental health disorders, the symptoms of depression include a wide range of both physical and psychological symptoms. Which symptoms even present in someone with diagnosed depression can vary considerably from one person to another. Each person’s symptoms may change during a depressive episode. The individual will often feel the symptoms almost every day and will be present most, if not all, of the day. The common symptoms include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and overall emptiness or numbness
- Outbursts of anger or frustration that happen even during minor issues
- Reduction in interest in things they once loved, even things like sports and sex
- Disturbed sleep cycles, even including insomnia
- Increases in feelings of anxiety or even panic
- Feeling tired and depleted of energy
- Feeling and moving sluggishly
- Slowed thinking
- Difficulty concentrating and maintaining focus
- Thoughts of self-harm, death, or suicide
Many people with depression find that the symptoms of depression are often severe enough to have difficulty maintaining daily activities. However, some symptoms may not be powerful enough to become noticeable or influential in day-to-day operations and activities.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder Explained
Generalized anxiety disorder is a mental disorder marked by a sudden and inescapable compulsion to worry. An individual with a generalized anxiety disorder is not only constantly and unavoidably worrying, but they know they are worrying and cannot control it. One of the criteria for your healthcare provider to diagnose generalized anxiety disorder is when you have experienced the symptoms more or less daily for at least six months.
Generalized anxiety disorder often develops when someone has trouble coping with large amounts of internal stress. It is known to be easily passed from one generation to the next. Why some family members get it, and some don’t is still being studied. Sometimes, generalized anxiety disorder will develop due to substance abuse or alcohol abuse.
How Anxiety and Depression Impact Recovery
Psychologists understand that there is a significant link (1.) between anxiety and depression and recovery. Since nine million adults in the US experienced both mental illness and substance use disorder in 2018, many will attempt to self-medicate using drugs or alcohol. This makes their co-occurring disorders, and when mental health disorders are combined with anxiety disorders or general anxiety symptoms.
This means treating the active addiction and the behavioral shortcomings that reinforce and perpetuate it is vital. In some cases, the Symptoms of substance use disorder can hide another potential diagnosis. The effects of anxiety and depression were also noted by Psychology Today.
What Happens if My Dual Diagnosis is Untreated?
While endless combinations of potential mental illnesses can be part of a dual diagnosis, some are far more common than others. Some of the most common disorders include PTSD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder, panic anxiety, and schizophrenia. Leaving the disorders untreated can significantly increase the risk of the individual developing other issues.
A common risk is the development of suicidal thoughts. Those with dual diagnosis are at a far higher risk of harming themselves. They also carry a higher risk of becoming homeless, violent, and chronically unemployed. For many individuals with a dual diagnosis, getting help is the most significant step. Still, it’s the one that could potentially save their lives.
Getting Help if You Step Off the Recovery Path
If you or someone you care about are battling anxiety or depression and potential addiction, getting professional help can be the difference between a long-lasting recovery and a quick relapse. Reach out today to speak with a local addiction professional that can begin creating a tailor-made recovery plan that addresses your treatment needs.
Stephanie Catalano is an accomplished Clinical Director at Agape Behavioral Healthcare. With a Master of Social Work degree, LCSW license, and extensive training in Rapid Resolution Therapy under her belt, she brings a wealth of expertise to her role. Her unique combination of education and experience allows her to provide exceptional care to clients and lead her team with confidence. Stephanie’s joy comes from witnessing the moments when her patients creatively connect the dots and bravely move toward reclaiming their power. Her purpose is to help individuals understand their past so they can create a future full of hope, growth, and success. Stephanie attributes a large portion of her success to the supportive culture and strong sense of community fostered by the Agape team.