Many who give up alcohol or drugs are dealing with undiagnosed depression. These people may experience depressive symptoms but not realise that it is due to a psychiatric illness – they may just assume it means that they are doing something wrong in their recovery. If this depression is left untreated, it can make life miserable in recovery, easily leading to relapse – or even suicide. It is therefore vital that individuals are able to detect the signs of depression. Things to look out for are listed below.
If you feel tired all the time then it could be because you are depressed. This lack of energy can make it difficult for you to do the things you need to do to stay sober. The situation can be made worse if you start to berate yourself for your lack of motivation. People who do not recognise you are dealing with depression can also assume that your problem is laziness or a failure to ‘get with the programme’. The reality is that this lack of energy is due to an illness that needs to be treated so you can get the most out of sobriety.
Post-acute withdrawal symptoms can lead to fuzzy thinking, but this can be a symptom of depression as well. If you have been having problems with your focus, or it feels as if your head is ‘full of cotton wool’, you should not just assume that it is due to post-acute withdrawals. It is best to speak to your doctor to see if this could be a sign that you are dealing with depression.
Insomnia is another symptom that is common in early recovery, but it can also be a sign of depression. The occasional sleepless night is usually not too much to worry about, but if you have persistent insomnia, you need to get it checked out.
If you have been having suicidal thoughts, you need to speak to somebody about this as soon as possible. This is a common symptom of depression, so you should not just dismiss these thoughts as silly or unimportant. If you are embarrassed about admitting to suicidal thoughts to somebody you know then you need to at least use one of the helplines available for these issues.
One of the other common symptoms of depression is a loss of interest in things you used to find enjoyable. This not only includes a failure to have fun with hobbies but also a loss of interest in sex and social events as well.
Eating too much or too little can also be a sign of depression. Some people turn to food for comfort when feeling emotional, while others just lose their appetite completely.
It is common for individuals with depression to suffer from a high degree of self-loathing. This involves a negative inner soundtrack that is overly critical, negative, and pessimistic. This inner voice can pull you deeper and deeper into depression because, the worse you feel, the worse it tries to make you feel.
If you have been engaging in behaviours that put your health and safety at risk, this could also be a sign of depression. This can include turning to new maladaptive behaviours such as gambling or internet addiction or reckless actions such as driving your car too fast. This behaviour is a sign that you do not really care about yourself and is a common symptom of depression.