Depression and Substance Abuse: A Guide for Women
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women are twice more likely to suffer depression than men. The National Institute on Drug Abuse also places the number of women above age 18 to have used drugs in their lifetime at 19.4 million. With such compelling statistics, it is clear that depression and drug abuse are key issues among women in the country.
Below is a depression and substance abuse guide for women:
The relationship between depression and addiction
Research shows that there is a strong connection between major depression and substance abuse. This is mostly because the main factors that contribute to depression also play a part in substance abuse disorders. Similarly, the various effects of addiction can mask or worsen the symptoms of mental illness. If you notice that your loved one has co-occurring depression and substance abuse, you should consider discussing the problem with them affectionately and compassionately before seeking a structured intervention.
Facts about depression and substance abuse
To identify the most effective treatment program for depression and addiction, here are a few facts you should know about the two disorders.
- Generally, women have various reasons for using drugs and will use these substances in a different way than men.
- There are times when women will respond differently to substances. For instance, they could have more drug cravings, become more sensitive to the effects of drugs due to sex hormones, or experience significantly different brain changes.
- The risk of dying from a drug overdose or the effects of certain substances is higher in women than in men.
- Women who are addicted to certain substances can experience panic attacks, anxiety, or even depression.
- Factors that can trigger substance abuse and depression in women include domestic violence, divorce, death of a partner, or loss of child custody.
Substance use during pregnancy can pose a serious health risk to mother and unborn baby, both in the short and long term.
Common causes of depression
While the exact causes of depression have not been identified, there are several theories about the roots of the condition.
- Brain structure and chemistry – brains of individuals with depressive disorders have a different structure from those without. The areas responsible for cognition, mood, sleeping, and metabolic function will have a unique appearance. Depression has also been linked to imbalances in brain chemicals that regulate moods, appetite, and energy levels.
- Environmental factors – a history of emotional, sexual or physical abuse and a disorderly home environment during childhood can contribute towards depression in adolescence or adulthood. The good news is that trauma therapy can help heal the wounds inflicted by these experiences. Some scientists have also linked depression to genetics, with people who have relatives suffering from the condition being at risk of developing the same condition.
- Situational factors – some of the experiences and setbacks we face in life can also result in depression if the emotions surrounding the events are not resolved.
Signs and symptoms to look out for
It is important to identify depression and substance abuse in good time to seek the necessary interventions. Here are some of the signs and symptoms to look out for.
- Mood swings, erratic behavior and shifts in personality
- Substance abuse affecting school, work, family obligations and responsibilities
- Problems with concentration and memory
- Sleep disturbances
- Withdrawing and loss of interest in hobbies and daily activities
- Unintentional weight loss or gain, poor hygiene
- Suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts
- Inability to control the amount of time spent using drugs
- Financial problems
Consequences of untreated depression and substance abuse
When ignored or left untreated, depression and substance abuse disorders can have serious consequences. Long-term health problems may include
- Heart disease
- Respiratory complications and diseases
- Liver and kidney damage or disease
- Skin infections
- Brain damage
- Overdose or death
- Cognitive defects
In case one abuses drugs during pregnancy, the baby may be born with several health problems. These include low birth weight, congenital disabilities, premature birth, small head size or sudden infant death syndrome.
Types of depressive disorders
Depression comes in many forms, making it important to know the different subtypes of the condition. The different forms are influenced by the cause of the symptoms, duration, and severity. Some common types of depressive disorders are major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, bipolar, postpartum, seasonal affective disorder, and psychosis. All these types require attention and specialized treatment.
Treatment options and programs
Since depression and substance abuse affect women differently, treatment for the two conditions may be different than for men. Struggling with these conditions can bring feelings of isolation, loneliness, and worthlessness. Similarly, family members can feel frustrated and stressed. It is important, to be honest about the problem as you seek help.
In most cases, depression and substance abuse disorders will be treated using a combination of therapy and medications. Effective interventions and depression treatment will include antidepressant medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, motivational interviewing, trauma therapies, and family systems therapy.
There are different treatment options that you can choose from. These include outpatient services, intensive outpatient programs, partial hospitalization program, medical detox, residential treatment programs, and inpatient rehabilitation. It is important to choose the right treatment for the patient’s condition.
In conclusion, once a patient has received the necessary treatment, family and loved ones should offer the care and support they need to resume a normal life. There is always the possibility of relapse when it comes to depression and substance abuse. A strong support network will help the affected persons feel loved and valued, putting them firmly on the path to full recovery.