Depression is a globally experienced mental health disorder. Over 350 million people around the world experience depression. According to the World Health Organization, not all of those people are aware that they are struggling with depression. Often, depression goes undiagnosed. Even when depression is diagnosed it can go untreated. Many of the hundreds of millions of people around the world living with depression are undiagnosed as well as untreated.
Untreated depression can take on different forms of symptoms, one of which can be a substance use disorder. Addiction and alcoholism can be, in many ways, coping mechanisms, for dealing with underlying mental health issues like depression. Whether someone is diagnosed and treated or not, they might find a positive benefit by coping with depression through the abuse of drugs and alcohol. When someone is not aware of their depression and is abusing drugs and/or alcohol, that depression is usually discovered in the treatment process.
Co-occurring disorders is the term used to describe when there is a pre-existing mental health disorder, like depression, with a substance use disorder, like addiction to drugs and alcohol. Through the initial process of assessment, the practicing psychiatrist may realize a co-occurring depression. Other times, symptoms of depression may make themselves more obvious as the symptoms of withdrawal continue to fade.
Depression is a co-occurring disorder as well as a passing experience of recovery. Experiencing depression is a symptom of withdrawal from most substances. As a diagnosis or as an experience, coping with depression in recovery can be a challenge. Supporting someone who is simultaneously learning to cope with depression as well as being sober.
Offer your support
You cannot know exactly how they feel and you cannot make their depression go away. Sometimes, the best thing someone needs when they are struggling with depression is the basic knowledge that they are seen, heard, known, and loved. Letting them know that they are supported is critical.
Offer your knowledge of who they are
Depression can come with a multitude of confusing and irrational thoughts. People with depression commonly lose sight of who they really are as they begin to believe that their emotions are facts. Remind them of who they are, what their life is like, and what they need to believe. Support this initiative by providing personal favorite things. During an episode, bring a favorite treat, offer to watch a favorite movie, or engage in a favorite activity.