Depression is a health disorder that can affect your mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Dealing with depression can cause someone to seek out many forms of relief, including drug abuse. However, temporary relief from depressive symptoms can quickly give way to addiction.
There are several ways to work through depression without substance use. Keep reading to learn how you can stay sober while managing depression.
How To Identify Depression
It may be difficult to distinguish what is clinical depression versus temporary sadness.
Depression is usually long-lasting and can come in waves, while the feeling of sadness may come and go depending on circumstances.
Signs and symptoms of depression are:
- feeling distraught or apathetic most of the day
- constant fatigue
- a lack of self-worth
- difficulty making decisions
- oversleeping or experiencing insomnia
- losing interest in activities you once enjoyed
- contemplating suicide
- weight gain or weight loss
- digestive problems
In many cases, depression is lifelong. But with behavioral therapy and other supportive services, the symptoms of depression can be managed effectively.
7 Tips To Stay Sober With Depression
Many people have co-occurring disorders, which refer to the presence of two or more mental health disorders.
As of 2018, 7.7 million Americans have a substance use disorder and a mental health disorder, which most often include anxiety, bipolar disorder, or depression.
Below we’ll go over seven tips that can help you stay sober while experiencing depression and alcoholism or drug addiction.
Reach Out To Sober Support
If you’ve been to treatment or attended a 12-step program, you’ve likely amassed a number of sober acquaintances.
Some of these people may have accumulated many years of sobriety, and have dealt with the ups and downs of depression.
Start a conversation with one of your sober peers. They may be able to offer a solution or direct you to another sober person who can better assist you.
If you don’t have any sober friends yet, attending a 12-step program for addiction such as Alcoholics Anonymous is a great place to find sober companionship.
If you find it difficult to connect with your emotions and understand why you’re feeling depressed, journaling is a good way to take an unbiased look at your current mood.
By putting pen to paper about whatever is going on, you can get some perspective on the matter, and may even find some new insight.
Writing has proven to be therapeutic because it allows you to articulate your feelings more clearly.
Many addiction treatment specialists recommend writing as a part of continued care after attending a recovery program.
Seek Professional Help
Reaching out and talking to therapists, counselors, or psychiatrists can help you uncover deep-seated reasons why depression occurs, and ways to manage it.
In the same way that a substance use disorder requires treatment, depression should be treated with professional help as well.
It may be best to seek dual diagnosis treatment, which is specifically designed for people with co-occurring disorders.
Psychiatric help can also offer medication-assisted treatment that can balance out serotonin levels in the brain, which may lead to a more balanced mood.
Create A Daily Routine
Many in their active addiction had unorganized and stressful lives. Days revolved around getting intoxicated or setting up their next binge.
Even if sober, going through days or weeks with no set schedule can influence your mood greatly.
Feeling frenzied and unsure of what to do next in the day can lead to boredom or stress, and eventually relapse. A great way to prevent relapse is to incorporate more structure.
Try creating a daily schedule that clearly lays out the day’s tasks. You can gain a calm and peaceful mood knowing what is coming up in the day.
Help Someone Else
One cause of depression is constantly thinking about a current or past issue. When someone is stuck in depression, they cannot think about anything else.
Volunteering your time to help someone in need doesn’t just benefit them: helping others benefits you, too.
Volunteering has been proven to activate positive emotions, reduce negative attitudes, and even strengthen your immune system.
Helping out someone can look like:
- listening to a fellow friend’s current issues
- taking a parent on a spontaneous day trip
- buying a friend lunch or dinner
- volunteering at a food shelter
- driving an elder adult to a doctor’s appointment
- getting a commitment at a 12-step group meeting
Get Physical Activity
Producing endorphins with physical activity does a vast array of good for the mind and body.
Activities such as running, walking, playing a sport, or hiking can help get you out of a funk, and keep a busy mind occupied.
Some benefits of physical activity are:
- reduces stress
- relieves pain
- better sleep
- improved cognitive abilities
- strengthened body
- rise in self-confidence
Get A Pet
If suitable, getting a pet can be a huge benefit. The responsibilities that come with owning a pet incorporate many of the aforementioned tips.
With owning a pet you will have to set a daily feeding routine, be in service of another living thing, get some physical activity through walks, and never feel alone.
A pet will always be there for you and can make you feel worthwhile because you have something to take care of.
Treatment For Substance Abuse In Massachusetts
If you or a loved one seek help for a substance use disorder, Northeast Addictions Treatment Center can help you recover.
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Alcoholics Anonymous — What Is A.A.?
National Institute On Drug Abuse — Comorbidity: Substance Use And Other Mental Disorders
New Jersey City University — How Helping Others Benefits You!