Since the rise of anti-depressants in the early 1990s, “depression” has become a bit of a buzzword in American culture. While you might feel “depressed” after a setback at work or even a loss by your favorite sports team, those feelings alone do not constitute clinical or major depression. Even though many people are not quite sure what clinical depression really is, that does not mean they are not affected by it. In fact, according to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, in any given year, approximately 14.8 million Americans over the age of 18 are affected by major depressive disorder. Keep in mind that major depressive disorder is a chronic condition and does not refer to the temporary depression experienced during the loss of a loved one or caused by a thyroid problem or other medical condition. But what does it really mean to have depression?
Depression is easily defined as a mood disorder that causes persistent feelings of sadness and loss of interest in life in general, but how does it come about? It is currently impossible to pinpoint the exact source of clinical depression, but we know it arises through a combination of genetic and environmental factors such as:
- Personality: Some people are more susceptible to depression simply because of their own particular personality traits. People who are “perfectionists” or who have persistently low self-esteem are more likely to develop depression than people who are less self-critical or given to worry.
- Family History: The genetic factor in depression is evident in the fact that the illness often runs in families. In fact, studies show if you have a parent or sibling with clinical depression, you are 1.5 to 3 times more likely to develop it yourself.
- Medical Illness: There are multiple ways having a serious illness can affect depression. For one, being diagnosed can trigger depression directly. Secondly, the long-term stress and worry that comes with pain management and other treatment can lead to depression over time.
The causes of clinical depression may be different for each individual, but the effects of the illness are far-reaching and often easy to identify.
Depression and the Brain
It is no surprise depression affects mood regulation and emotions, but you may not know it actually changes the structure of your brain. One ambitious study took on the challenge of gathering Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) data from nearly 9,000 people from around the world and came up with some disturbing evidence of depression’s effect on brain shape:
- Sixty-five percent of all depressed people experienced a decrease in the volume of the hippocampus, a part of the brain deeply involved in emotional regulation, memory, and the autonomic nervous system.
- People with hippocampal shrinkage also reported getting depression earlier on in life, before the age of 21.
- Participants experiencing their first bout of major depression did not show any evidence of hippocampal shrinkage.
What does this mean? In the past, studies have shown a relationship between depression and shrinking in the hippocampus but were not able to pinpoint a cause-and-effect dynamic. Thanks to this more recent research, we now know it is in fact depression that causes brain damage and not the other way around.
Signs and Symptoms
Now that you know just how deeply depression impacts the brain, it is time to move on to the outwardly visible symptoms those brain changes cause. Depression is not just about sadness — there is a whole host of other effects to be aware of. The most distressing aspect of depression is how inescapable it can feel. It affects every facet of life, and it can seem impossible to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Unfortunately, this can lead people to engage in seriously unhealthy behaviors as a form of “self-medicating.”
The term “dual diagnosis” means an individual is suffering from both a mood disorder and a substance abuse disorder at the same time. Though the two conditions are separate and may not arise at the same time, they are most effectively treated with an integrated program. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) collected some revealing statistics about co-occurring mood and substance abuse disorders:
- An estimated 43.8 million Americans have dealt with a serious mental illness in the past year, and another 7.7 million struggled with dual diagnoses.
- Only 34.6 million received any help for their mental health issues.
- Out of 22.7 million people who needed treatment for substance abuse, only 2.5 million received it.
Why is it that so many people avoid seeking the help they need in treating and managing these conditions? The answers may vary, but it nearly always comes down to sheer misunderstanding of how treatment works. Most people know depression is usually treated with psychotherapy and anti-depressants known as Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), but they may not be aware of an extremely effective alternative: rehab.
The unfortunate fact is for some people dealing with depression and dual diagnosis, medication just might not be enough. Because these disorders affect every aspect of your life, it can seem nearly impossible to break free from apathy and destructive patterns. The best way to jump-start a recovery from depression and substance abuse is to “start new,” and that is most effectively done by enrolling in a depression treatment program offered by a reputable rehab facility.
Treating depression and substance abuse is a job that can only be properly done by the professionals at depression treatment centers, who understand the way dual diagnoses work together on the mind and body. While both disorders must be treated concurrently, a unique approach must be taken to help clients get back on their feet. Many people opt for outpatient programs, which are tailored to people who cannot leave their work or family for significant periods of time. They are generally held in day or night sessions, with the rest of the day and weekends left free. Outpatient programs are also an excellent option for people whose diagnoses are relatively new or less severe.
Inpatient Depression Treatment Programs
For people who are serious about the road to recovery, inpatient treatment offers the best outcomes for sufferers of substance abuse and depressive disorders. The opportunity to completely separate yourself from the temptation of substances as well as many of the stressors of your everyday life is invaluable in terms of starting your recovery. Care and support available 24/7 allow you to make the most of the expertise offered by medical and clinical professionals, and a live-in depression treatment program also allows for more precise medication management for those on anti-depressants or other medications. While the idea of leaving home for 30 days or more might seem intimidating, it is the most effective way to step outside of the conditions that may have led to depression and substance abuse in the first place. But what exactly can you expect from a depression treatment program?
Depression Treatment Techniques
Treatment centers for depression offer multiple approaches to recovery, but the most effective ones aim for holistic treatment techniques. This means focusing not just on the mind or body, but nurturing both equally. Below are just some of the methods used by top-tier depression treatment centers.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This powerful tool is often the cornerstone of most treatment regimens. It involves one-on-one time with a psychologist, who can help:
- Deconstruct the roots of your depression or substance abuse disorder
- Replace destructive behaviors
- Create healthy coping skills
The key to CBT is fostering self-awareness in the client, who can then begin to recognize triggers for unhealthy behavior and change it for the better.
This cutting-edge treatment tool essentially trains the brain over time to function more effectively. It does this by using software that:
- Identifies imbalances in brain waves
- Creates audio and visual feedback that targets those regions
- Assists the brain in correcting imbalances
Clients report experiencing improved mood and cognitive function, and over time those changes become hard-wired to the brain. This type of therapy is especially effective in dual diagnosis cases, where multiple imbalances are occurring at once. It can produce greater confidence, and better memory, and soothe the obsessive thoughts that drive addiction.
It is difficult to attain mental health while your body is in an unhealthy state. In the effort to increase the connection between the mind and body, nutritional counseling is an excellent tool. This helps clients:
- Identify any nutritional deficiencies
- Develop a healthy attitude toward food
- Prevent food from being a contributing factor in mood or substance abuse disorders
Many people seeking treatment for depression or dual diagnosis can benefit from dietary counseling since depression can often have roots in dietary issues. For example, the most common nutritional deficiencies among people with mental disorders are a lack of omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. These nutrients are precursors to the neurotransmitters people with depression generally have fewer of, so identifying deficiencies in them can have a palpable impact on mood and emotional regulation.
Art and Music Therapy
Tapping into the more spiritual and self-aware aspects of depression treatment can be hard for many people to do on their own. For that reason, art and music therapy can be fantastic tools in the fight against depression as well as addiction. It is not always easy to say what is on your mind, and oftentimes it is flat-out impossible to communicate exactly what you are feeling. Using non-verbal media as a means of expression in a non-judgmental setting can provide the liberation you need to communicate freely and continue working through your depression.
Depression Rehab Centers
Co-occurring disorders are conditions that have to be handled professionally for most people to have any chance of a successful recovery. The strain of the interplay between depression and addiction is one that can cause even the strongest people difficulty. Depression’s emotional effects compound the destruction of addiction by creating feelings of persistent helplessness in people who are already struggling with substance abuse. When it is hard to cover all the bases of everyday responsibility—like doing the laundry or even just getting out of bed—the urge to self-medicate with substances is strong. That is why enrolling in a depression treatment center program is a must for anyone with a dual diagnosis.
The Inpatient Advantage
Working closely with both medical and clinical professionals gives you the best chance at a permanent recovery from drug and alcohol addiction and a much higher probability of learning to manage your depression. Inpatient programs are the ultimate holistic treatment, allowing you to escape the old patterns that brought you to this point and develop new ones through activities that bring your mind and body closer together.
If for any reason you are unable to participate in an inpatient program, do not give up hope. Outpatient treatment centers offer many of the same treatment techniques you’ll find with inpatient programs, with the added bonus of being able to put your new skills to the test in real life as you are learning them. You can keep your job and return to your bed at night, still secure in the fact that you are getting excellent care.
Rehab for Lasting Recovery
The advantages of rehab for depression are clear, but making the decision can still be tough. Seeking treatment for dual diagnoses means acknowledging behavior patterns that are compulsive destructive and hard to talk about. But the benefits of a high-quality rehab program do not end with treatment—the skills you learn are what will make managing depression and maintaining sobriety possible throughout your whole life. All-around healing truly is possible with holistic treatment, and the blend of traditional and nontraditional methods offered by The Ranch PA is the most effective way to achieve it. If you or a loved one are suffering from depression and addiction, it is time to choose recovery. Contact The Ranch PA today to begin the journey to the recovery you deserve.