How to Recognize Depression in an Addicted Friend

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How to Recognize Depression in an Addicted Friend

How to Recognize Depression in an Addicted Friend

Whether the depression led to the addiction or the addiction led to the depression, you may be concerned about the state of mind of your addicted friend. Depression often leads to substance abuse, either in the form of drugs or alcohol. In fact, one study found that men diagnosed with major depression are nearly three times more likely to depend on alcohol, and women with depression are more than four times likely to become dependent on it.

Substance abuse often worsens depression and leads to drug or alcohol addiction, suicide attempts, or accidental or intentional overdoses. If you are concerned that your addicted friend is depressed, you need to know how to recognize the signs of depression.

Know the typical signs of depression

While it can be difficult to distinguish between depression and the sadness that all people experience, there are some typical signs to look for. First, when people are depressed their moods are much more intense and severe and their symptoms last for an extended period of time.

If the person has a major depressive disorder, he must experience at least five of the typical symptoms of depression for at least two weeks. These symptoms include:

  • A low mood during the majority of the week

  • Lack of interest in favorite activities

  • Physical exhaustion

  • Sleeping too much or not enough

  • Undesired weight gain or loss

  • Slow thinking or movements

  • Failure to focus on key tasks

  • Thoughts of death or suicide

  • Feeling guilty, hopeless, or worthless

Of course, there are different types of depression and only a qualified medical provider is capable of making an official diagnosis of depression. If you recognize the typical signs of depression, you should encourage your friend to seek professional help.

It also is important to enlist the help of a medical professional because some of the signs of addiction are similar to the signs of depression. These addiction signs may include sudden mood swings, abrupt personality changes, avoiding normal activities, losing interest in personal appearance, losing interest in hobbies or enjoyable activities, a sudden loss or increase in appetite, and engaging in reckless behavior. Either way, your friend can benefit from your help and the help of a medical professional to help overcome the addiction.

Recognize the triggers for depression

Substance abuse often worsens when a person with depression does not receive treatment. And, as the person begins to increase their drug or alcohol abuse, their depression usually worsens. Your friend may have been depressed before she ever developed her addiction, because addiction is common in people with mental disorders.

People often attempt to self-medicate when they are depressed, and substance abuse often brings underlying mental health disorders to the surface. You also may notice that substance abuse increases your friend’s depression or triggers new symptoms, especially because substance abuse makes antidepressants, anti-anxiety pills, and mood stabilizers less effective.

Do not take your friend’s denial seriously

Substance abusers most commonly are in denial. They often cannot admit to being dependent on alcohol or drugs, let alone to having depression. Your friend may be afraid of her depression symptoms and ignore them or use drugs or alcohol in an attempt to make them disappear. She also may be ashamed to admit her problems because she does not want to seem weak.

You cannot believe your friend’s claims of denial. You need to recognize it as a coping mechanism and understand that she will deny her denial and substance abuse if you confront her about it. Your best course of action is to use concrete examples to highlight that she is in denial and express your desire to help her because you still care about her.

Of course, you want to do all that you can to help your friend, especially if you suspect that she is suffering from depression in addition to her addiction. Be aware of the warning signs, be supportive, and you can help your friend through her mental and substance abuse disorders so that she can lead a happy, healthy life.


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