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What is depression?

Depression is a persistent feeling of sadness or low mood that can last for weeks or months at a time or even longer-term than that.

Typical things that we notice if we are suffering from depression can include:

There are a number of theories as to the reasons why we can become susceptible to depression, ranging from genetics or reactions to illness or significant changes that may occur in our lives, trauma we may have experienced or reactions to medication or other substances we may be using. But there is very little conclusive evidence as to why some people are more likely to develop depression than others.

Anxiety and depression do have close links – it is fairly common for someone to experience feelings of depression as a result of the anxiety they have been feeling.

Broadly speaking, the main difference between anxiety and depression if we are separating the two, is that the moods experienced don’t fluctuate so much. We don’t get that extreme tense feeling when we are contemplating a situation that is coming up, or we think might be coming up and how we feel about the uncertainty around it.

We tend to be contemplating such situations as if we know that the outcome has always been and will always be negative. ‘I can’t do this, I will never be able to do this….’

It’s a negative cycle, a negative spiral of thinking. One thing goes wrong or feels wrong and we assume everything else will follow this pattern.

And often the issue is that if we follow this way of thinking, it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy and the ways that we think and act can lead to negative outcomes.

Addiction as a response to depression

So what we choose to do when we reach our limit of tolerating these feelings is to turn to something to try and block out these thoughts. This is often alcohol or drugs.

Our brains are receptive to these, they stimulate the reward circuitry and block out the depressive feelings.

So, we get away from the depressive feelings. However, as we know from considering the principles of why addictions develop, we are creating another issue to add to the one we have tried to cover up.

And that is all we are doing by using substances to get away from these feelings. Because the brain will want us to repeat this process when we experience the negative feelings again. We will be tempted to repeat the behaviour and will become reliant on doing so to get away from the depression.

We will then have the withdrawal to deal with when the effects of the substances wear off and that will cause temptation or craving to use the same method of getting away from the issue.

Once we are in that situation, our tolerance levels to the substance will increase and so our brains will be wanting greater quantities of the addictive substances in order to reach the same level of satisfaction we had experienced.

In addition to substance addiction, there is also the risk of other addictive behaviour developing in response to depression. Looking for something to fulfil us and move us away from these depressive feelings can lead to issues such as gambling or sex addictions to name just two. These behaviours have a similar effect as craving substances to alleviate negative feelings in that our brains will encourage us to access these activities more and more to satisfy our needs. Depression can also act as a trigger for developing eating disorders or self-harm, especially if we feel there is a lack of control in some aspect of our lives.

Dealing with depression effectively

We have seen many cases of clients dealing with depression successfully by developing and maintaining an active lifestyle.

This involves maintaining a sufficient number of activities or interests to keep our minds focused and stimulated. It can be any number of things, such as regular exercise, a variety of hobbies, socialising regularly, even something as simple as getting out and about and having a change of scene regularly enough. Feeling a sense of purpose and satisfaction from our work.

But the key here is variety. Enough different options for us to keep that stimulation working.

If we have enough variety of activity that can help regulate our sleep patterns, which can become irregular if we are experiencing depression. After a busy day, we can become naturally tired in the evenings, which means our minds and bodies are ready for the natural rest that sleep provides. If our mind has been suitably stimulated by our activities, then it is more likely to naturally switch off when we are tired and allow for restful sleep. Sufficient sleep will then allow us to feel rested and ready to focus to give our best and get maximum fulfilment again the following day.

Sometimes we need help getting to that stage where we can develop enough activity in our lives. We can work with our GP to use appropriate medication to reduce the effects of depression. We can seek counselling, which can help us to process the reasons for feeling depressed. Many different types of counselling exist and are suitable for different needs, but Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) techniques can be especially helpful in dealing with depression. They can help us explore our thought patterns and adjust those which may be having a negative or counter-productive effect on us.

Talking, whether through therapy, peer support groups or just chatting with friends or family, can be very useful. This can help relieve the burden of thoughts or feelings we have been building up and can help us start to take back control of shaping how we want our lives to develop.

If we feel that we have developed or are at risk of developing substance addictions, then  A Residential Rehab is a safe place where you can have a medical detox along with intensive counselling and psychotherapy. It will include all of the above-mentioned therapies and more. To find out if residential rehab is the right option for you, please call 0203 955 7700.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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