When Depression and Substance Abuse Coexist

The Connection Between Depression and Substance Abuse

Depression and Substance AbuseHaving depression or symptoms of depression is a test of your coping skills. If your skills are strong and resilient, even the most pervasive depression can be managed. On the other hand, if your coping skills are lacking you will struggle with mild symptoms.

Coping skills come in many shapes and sizes, but generally, you can divide them into two groups: positive coping skills and negative coping skills. The positives work towards resolving the issue in the long-term. The negatives are only worried about making you feel better now. The desperation and urgency that comes with depression paired with the instant gratification is a scary combination.

Substance abuse is the culmination of negative coping skills for depression. Alcohol and other drugs (AOD) do not solve problems. What they do is cover up problems, issues, unwanted feelings and undesirable thoughts by serving as a distraction. Distraction plus time equals avoidance. Unfortunately, all of the things that AOD help you avoid lay in wait, to spring out at you when you are most vulnerable.

Understanding the power of substance abuse, assessing your relationship with AOD and knowing how specific substances interact with depression gives you the power to stop addiction from entering your life. If AOD abuse is already a problem, gaining information can help point you in healthier directions. It is time to remove the negatives from your life to allow the positives in.


Assessing AOD

Do you have a problem with alcohol and other drugs? Knowing can be difficult, as people look for specific measurements that clearly point to a definitive answer. Are you an alcoholic because you drink three beers nightly? Are you a drug addict because you used marijuana last weekend or because you sometimes take an extra pain pill when you back is really hurting? Like many things in life, the shades of grey are infinite.

If you are drinking a fifth of whiskey every day, it is reasonable to say you are dependent on alcohol. If you drink one glass of wine on your birthday, it is safe to say you are not. These examples are simple, but most situations are not so obvious. Rather than base your decision on the quantity you are consuming, consider the reasons why you use, how you feel when using and the consequences of using.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I different when I use AOD?
  • Has my use ever caused problems like poor grades in school, missing appointments or poor performance at work?
  • Do I have trouble using in moderation?
  • Do people in my life see my AOD use as a problem?
  • Do I need to use some type of substance every day?
  • Have I had trouble with the law because of my use?
  • Do I use AOD to escape or deal with reality?

Next page: use, absuse, or dependence?

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