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Medically Reviewed

Does Depression Go Away After Addiction?

- 8 sections

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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medically-verified

All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Unfortunately, getting sober is only the first step to living a happy and stable life. Oftentimes, early sobriety is filled with uncomfortable emotions and feelings. This can cause you to become frustrated, wondering why you aren’t feeling better now that you are off of drugs and alcohol.

Most recovering addicts deal with depression in early sobriety due to changes in brain chemistry. You may have been abusing drugs and alcohol to cope with feelings of depression in the first place. This would mean that you have a co-occurring mental health condition that must be addressed for your feelings of depression to subside.

Either way, depression during early recovery is a normal experience. If you are experiencing feelings of depression that won’t go away after addiction, you must begin to understand where your depression is coming from and how to cope with it.

Why am I Depressed Now That I’m Sober?

There are many reasons you could be feeling depressed in early sobriety. First, the changes you are experiencing are drastic, which is enough to make anyone feel a little emotional. Additionally, you could be dealing with post-acute withdrawal syndrome or a chemical imbalance.

Change

Change is hard, especially when you are altering your life in such a momentous way. Before sobriety, you were probably used to living life without any expectations or responsibilities. Now that you are sober, people expect things from you.

This can be difficult to deal with and may be the source of your depression. Thankfully, this is nothing you can’t sort out with your therapist. Talking with someone and learning new coping strategies on how to deal with new responsibilities and expectations can help relieve your depression.

Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is a condition that causes the symptoms of withdrawal to persist for months or years.

If you suffer from PAWS, you may deal with the following symptoms:

  • brain fog
  • cravings
  • irritable or hostile behavior
  • mood swings
  • sleep problems
  • fatigue
  • stress
  • anxiety
  • memory difficulties
  • depression
  • lack of motivation
  • issues with fine motor coordination

Because depression is a symptom of PAWS, it is possible that you are dealing with this condition. Self-care and speaking with a professional is of the utmost importance when you are struggling with PAWS. This condition usually goes away on its own after some time, however, how you care for yourself can make a difference in how severe your symptoms are.

Chemical Imbalance

Lastly, it is possible that you have a chemical imbalance that is causing your symptoms of depression. Many people who are recovered from addiction also deal with co-occurring mental health conditions like depression. In fact, according to the National Library of Medicine, people with depression are twice as likely to develop a substance use disorder.[1]

If you are worried that you have major depressive disorder or another form of mood condition, you should speak with a licensed psychologist who can provide you with a diagnosis and treatment plan.

How Long Does Depression Last After Getting Sober?

How long depression will last depends on a variety of factors. Are you taking care of your depression? Have you been seeing a doctor or practicing self-care?

If you ignore your depression in hopes that it will go away on its own, there is no telling how long it could last. However, if you care for yourself and consult with a mental health provider, your depression could be resolved in no time.

Additionally, it is important to note that if you are dealing with post-acute withdrawal syndrome there is a timeline for how long you will experience symptoms. When left untreated, the symptoms of PAWS can last for up to 2 years. However, many people experience quick symptom relief by following their doctor’s suggestions, using medications, and partaking in self-care.

How Can I Cope With Depression After Getting Sober?

There are many ways to cope with depression after getting sober. If you believe that you are suffering from a mental health condition or post-acute withdrawal syndrome, you may want to consider using medications to help lessen your symptoms. However, there are holistic ways to overcome the feelings and emotions associated with depression.

If you are trying to cope with depression after quitting alcohol or drugs, consider trying the following:

  • Eating healthy and exercising
  • Join self-help support groups
  • See a therapist regularly
  • Spend time outside
  • Start writing in a journal
  • Try new and fun things like zip lining or kayaking
  • Attend fun, sober events with your alumni program
  • Limit your stress levels by avoiding negative things in your life
  • Avoid situations that trigger sadness or depression
  • Try yoga or mindfulness meditation
  • Keep a gratitude journal

When To Seek Help for Depression in Addiction Recovery

According to the National Institutes of Health, 7% of U.S. adults will experience major depressive disorder in any given year.[2] The symptoms of this condition can be severe, often becoming a trigger for relapse if you are in early sobriety.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 5th Edition (DSM-V) explains that you should seek help if you face the following symptoms for 2 weeks or more:[3]

  • Hopelessness
  • An inability to concentrate
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Apathy related to things you used to enjoy
  • Substance abuse
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite and eating
  • Irritability, agitation, and moodiness
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Thoughts of death, suicide, or self-harm

It is important to note that you should seek help for depression when you feel like it is interrupting your daily life. You do not have to wait until your depression becomes severe to get the help you need, as doing so could lead to a relapse.

Finding Help for Co-Occurring Addiction and Depression

If you or a loved one suffer from substance abuse and comorbid depression, it’s time to seek help. Depression and addiction often co-occur, making it more difficult for people to recover without professional intervention. Thankfully, dual diagnosis treatment programs like Carolina Center for Recovery are here to help.

Although there is no cure for addiction or mental illness, there are numerous evidence-based therapies that we use at our dual diagnosis treatment program in North Carolina. These therapies are effective in treating those who are living with co-occurring disorders by helping them improve their lifestyle choices and habits.

The key to recovery is personalized care that is comprehensive and intensive to ensure that individuals receive full therapeutic support and intervention. At Carolina Center to Recovery, we’re dedicated to empowering everyone who suffers from co-occurring disorders so that they can make increasing progress on their road to recovery. If your or your loved one is in need of treatment for mental health and addiction, give us a call today.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2851027/
  2. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/major-depression.shtml
  3. https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org/doi/book/10.1176/appi.books.9780890425596

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