Moderate to severe depression is a disorder that is facing almost 8 percent of Americans – an estimated one in 12 people over the age of 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, the data compiled by the CDC between 2009 and 2012 found that:
- About 3 percent of Americans are living with severe depression.
- More than 3 percent of black Americans report experiencing symptoms of severe depression, compared to about 2.6 percent of white Americans.
- Women experienced higher rates of depression as compared to men in every age group.
- Women between the ages of 40 and 59 had the highest rate of depression at 12.3 percent.
- Economic status played a role as well: Americans living below the poverty level were 2.5 times more likely to be living with depression as compared to others living at or above the poverty line.
A Highly Treatable Disease
Perhaps the greatest issue is not the mental health disorder itself but the fact that only about 35 percent of those living with the disorder sought treatment from a mental health professional in the year prior to the CDC survey.
Laura Pratt is an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) and lead author of the study. She told HealthDay: “Not enough people are getting appropriate treatment for depression. People with severe depression should be getting psychotherapy. Some might need complicated medication regimens, which psychiatrists are better equipped to do, which makes it even more concerning that only 35 percent of people with severe depression have seen a mental health professional.”
Depression is a highly treatable disease with a number of different evidence-based treatment options for patients, including a range of inventive therapies and various pharmacological options. However, because every patient is different, different combinations of medications and therapies will be differently effective in each case. Patients are encouraged to stick with it and try different doses and combinations of medications and different therapies as needed until they find something that can help them make demonstrable progress in managing their symptoms.
The Importance of Treatment
Too often, patients struggling with depression don’t seek professional care. Instead, they attempt to manage the issues at home – or simply ignore them. It’s not uncommon for people living with depression to turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to mitigate their experience of sadness, hopelessness, or disillusionment. The goal of feeling some level of happiness or joy is hopeful and positive, but the use of substances to attain this can ultimately lead to more problems. Many people find that when they try to self-medicate depression with drugs or alcohol, they experience:
- Increased frequency of depressive episodes
- Longer depressive episodes
- More intense depressive symptoms
- A co-occurring substance abuse disorder or addiction
- Increased financial, social, and home issues
Is it possible to recover from depression naturally? Yes, in some cases, but it is not necessarily sustainable, especially when substance abuse is part of the picture.
Simon Rego is the director of psychology training at Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, he said: “Even for those who manage to recover naturally, we know that the risk of recurrence is higher if mild symptoms remain during the remission and the last episode was severe.”
It should also be noted that once substance abuse becomes an addiction, a natural recovery is highly unlikely. It is recommended that those who cannot stop drinking or using drugs on their own seek out an addiction treatment program that can help them through detox and beyond. When both depression and addiction are co-occurring, a program that provides comprehensive care for both disorders is recommended for optimum recovery.
Does Someone You Love Need Treatment for Substance Abuse and Depression?
It is often the case that both substance abuse and depression can evolve from small issues into much larger ones. It may be necessary to take a step back and consider how things have changed in the past six months or more, and see whether or not issues have become increasingly more significant to determine whether or not it is time to take action.
Some of the signs of depression include:
- Ongoing sadness or anxiety
- Low energy
- Unhealthy sleep patterns (e.g., sleeping too much or too little)
- Unhealthy eating patterns (e.g., eating too much or too little)
- Chronic fatigue
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Lack of interest in hobbies
- An inability to take pleasure in things
- Lower libido
- Feelings of helplessness, guilt, or worthlessness
- Decreased ability to make decisions, focus, or remember things
- Suicidal thoughts or behaviors
Signs of substance abuse and addiction include:
- Increased isolation from friends and family
- Experiencing issues at work and at home (e.g., often late to work or unable to manage commitments at home)
- Experiencing financial issues (e.g., never enough money to pay bills)
- Experiencing legal issues (e.g., arrest for driving under the influence, buying or selling drugs, etc.)
- Possession of drugs and/or paraphernalia
- Often complaining of feeling ill or tired
- Extreme mood swings from highly interactive and feeling good to irritable and aloof
Ultimately, if someone is drinking and using drugs and unable to stop on his own despite multiple attempts and if he struggles with depression despite his best intentions to create positive change in his life, it’s time to seek treatment at a program that has the resources to address both disorders simultaneously.