The prevalence of chronic depression does not make it any less serious, especially when it comes to addiction. People with depression often seek to self-medicate through substance abuse. Major depressive episodes can be debilitating, and drugs/alcohol temporarily mask those awful symptoms. Unfortunately, this quick fix approach almost always makes depression worse over time.

Sadness Versus Depression

While all of us feel sad sometimes, chronic depression is another matter entirely. It’s caused by chemical imbalances in the brain that are independent of life events. Although certain events can trigger a depressive episode, the neurological component is the main driver of chronic depression. According to the National Institute on Mental Health, depression (major depressive disorder or clinical depression) is a common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working. The severity of the depression is much worse than typical sadness; depending on the case, it can overwhelm a person to the point of being debilitating for months at a time.

Symptoms of Depression

If you or a loved one is suffering from chronic depression, it is important most of all to remember that only a licensed psychiatrist can make an official diagnosis. Since New Start firmly believes in getting dual diagnosis addicts the help they need, we partner with a local psychiatric group to offer clients professional psychological evaluations. Getting addiction treatment and appropriate psych meds simultaneously could be the 180 degree turn you or your loved one needs to start their recovery.

Behavioral Symptoms

Social Isolation

Excessive Crying

Unusual Irritability

General Avoidance


Mood Symptoms


Loss of Interest





Cognitive Symptoms

Slowed Thinking

Lack of Concentration

Suicidal Thoughts (800-273-TALK)

Excessively Repeated Thoughts

Dissociation During Activity

Feeling Foggy

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of American adults have depression

The median age of onset is


Depression is the leading cause of disability in the US

Case Studies

We’ve asked some of our past clients to write about their experience with depression, how it affected their addiction, and how they manage to maintain their recovery in spite of having a dual diagnosis.

Female, Age 27

Drug of Choice: Alcohol

 I call it my “black cloud.” It’s mostly gone now that I’m on Wellbutrin, but my black cloud used to totally take over my life for months at a time. What really frustrates me is that most people just don’t understand what chronic depression actually looks like. It’s not just feeling sad. It’s this enveloping emptiness that sucks the life out of you.

Alcohol used to make that go away. When I was in a depressive episode, I would keep at least three handles of vodka in my closet at all times. That was two years ago. Rehab and antidepressants totally changed my life for the better. I’ve since graduated college and work full time at a job I love. Now instead of looking forward to a weekend of binge drinking myself into blackouts, I make plans that actually require brain function.

Male, Age 29

Drug of Choice: Heroin

My depression has really isolated me as I’ve gotten older. I always had a lot of friends growing up, but it never really made anything better. People suck. H was always there to make s*** feel okay

But it wasn’t sustainable. Too many parts of my life fell apart because I was using. Getting arrested was a blessing in disguise. Drug court ordered me to get clean and sober, and my rehab program made me see a psych. I didn’t even know I needed meds, but they’ve made a huge difference. I don’t isolate as much as I used to.

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