The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that roughly 40 million Americans suffer from some form of anxiety or depression. However, the number could be greater because many individuals may not seek treatment for depression.

Depression is one of the most common mental health disorders in America today. What does depression feel like?  It’s overwhelming for the person experiencing it.  Unlike typical grief and sadness that may come and go, depression is a crippling sadness that can permeate every aspect of a person’s life.  Clinical Depression is a mental illness and should not go untreated, as it may worsen over time.  Symptoms can be so severe that an individual turns to drugs and/or alcohol to cope. Abusing alcohol and drugs is a way to try and mask the symptoms of depression to make day-to-day existence seem more bearable.

While this may seem to work initially, alcohol and drugs only increase the symptoms of depression and may set the stage for substance abuse and addiction.  When a person suffers from a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder simultaneously, it is a “dual diagnosis.

When a person suffers from chronic depression, they may require an inpatient treatment program to help them find relief.

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What are the Signs of Depression?

In addition to being one of the most common mental health disorders, depression is also misunderstood. At any given time, humans experience a range of emotions, from happiness to sadness. Depression is not simply feeling sad; it’s experiencing a range of physical and mental symptoms that make it impossible to lead a normal and healthy life. The ability to connect with other people on a deep, meaningful level isn’t easy for someone experiencing depression.

Having a bad day now and then may not be depression. Depression is a mental disorder characterized by long periods of feeling despondent and dejected. Those who suffer from depression have difficulty enjoying regular activities. Some other symptoms of depression include:

  • Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Sudden weight loss or weight gain
  • Feeling of hopelessness
  • Reduced energy
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Body pain or aches
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Restlessness and anxiety

Experiencing these symptoms for an extended period of time often points to depression.

Does Depression Lead to Substance Abuse?

As a chronic illness, depression is likely to foster addictive behavior. This is especially true when considering the symptoms of depression. Feeling despondent, hopeless, having trouble sleeping, and other symptoms are often masked by drug or alcohol use.

The issue with this is that once a person starts using drugs and alcohol to deal with depression, they may become addicted and regularly rely on these substances. In reality, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol won’t help depression; they actually worsen the symptoms and cause individuals to enter a downward spiral to try to use more substances to cope.

In these situations, dual diagnosis treatment may be appropriate. Dual diagnosis programs treat all disorders concurrently so that each issue can be addressed holistically.

Depression can be a secondary illness to other issues such as bipolar disorder, PTSD, eating disorders, and more, which means those with depression are even more likely to become addicted to drugs or alcohol and seek a substance abuse treatment program.

Types of Depression

When it comes to categorizing depression, the Anxiety and Depression Association of America recognizes three main types. These types all have similar symptoms and identifying signs. However, there are a few key differences that set them apart.


This is probably the most commonly known form of depression. Bipolar disorder is characterized by periods of mania followed by periods of intense depression. Also described, as high-highs and low-lows, bipolar is a dangerous form of depression that can result in rash decision-making, inappropriate social behavior, and risky behavior. The shift between mania and depression can happen suddenly or gradually depending on the person.