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Depression after addiction - Am I depressed because I was addicted?

Choosing the path of addiction recovery is the best thing an addicted person can do for themselves. However, many recovering addicts experience depression after addiction which may bring some extra challenges to the journey of recovery.

Depression can bring feelings of hopelessness and can have an impact on a person’s motivation to achieve sobriety.

This state of mind can be as a result of circumstances which took place before or after substance and alcohol abuse and is determined by various factors.

It’s extremely important for anyone who wishes to recover from their addiction to remember that with the right support it is not impossible to overcome addiction, regardless of the obstacles they may face along the way.

Addiction and depression - rehab South Africa

Effects of depression

Depression can be a debilitating state of mind that can hinder your daily activities. Although every person may experience sadness which may last a day or two, clinical depression is far more severe and lasting.

Symptoms of depression


  • - Emptiness or numbness
  • - Overwhelming lack of accomplishment
  • - Lack of motivation
  • - Little or no joy in life’s experiences
  • - Feelings of heaviness
  • - Inability to concentrate
  • - Guilt, worthlessness
  • - Changes in appetite
  • - Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • - Insomnia
  • - Anxiety


Depression is one of the many mental-illnesses that coincide with addiction. In fact, many people who are depressed are likely to begin self-medicating which ultimately leads to substance abuse.

However, people who are recovering from addiction may in turn become depressed. This is due to several factors, one of which is the long-term effects harmful substances have on the brain’s chemicals.

Furthermore, withdrawal symptoms can be extremely intense and can result in the person experiencing symptoms of depression.


  • - Stimulant withdrawal – withdrawal from stimulants such as methamphetamine and cocaine cause a depressed mood and lack of pleasure. This may last for several weeks. Strong cravings for these stimulants cause exhaustion, fatigue and lack of motivation.
  • - Opioid withdrawal – prescription painkillers and heroin are all classified as opioids. This class of substance has a severe profile of side effects such as physical pain, extreme agitation, sleep disturbances, anxiety, depression and intense cravings which can last for several weeks.
  • - Alcohol withdrawal – people who withdraw from alcohol experience insomnia, mood swings, anxiety, agitation, fatigue, aggressiveness, anger, hostility and lack of sex drive.


The journey towards sobriety

Many people who are on the path of recovery will experience a dual-diagnosis of some sort. Recovering from a dual-diagnosis means that you are facing more than one challenge at the same time.

A sudden change of life can bring on immense feelings of sadness and when there is a lack of treatment for or even mistreatment of their depression, a person who is recovering may be more likely to relapse.

Sobriety requires a complete 180 degree change of direction and this often leads to both clinical as well as situational depression.

Situational depression allows a person in recovery to experience momentary feeling of sadness but overcome these feelings with relative ease.

However, with clinical depression, this is much harder to achieve. With clinical depression, these intense feelings of sadness arise from no apparent source, making them harder to overcome and more challenging to treat.

Depression after addiction

People who choose to recover from their addiction often have expectations of a happy, carefree life. Then, when faced with the ups and downs of recovery, they tend to question whether sobriety is worth it.

There is often a misconception that going sober will almost instantly resolve all problems. However, the truth is that because there is no longer a substance to numb the pain, any problems or issues become amplified.

What causes depression?

There are several risk factors for depression. These factors can include:


  • - A series of highly stressful and drastic changes or life events
  • - Severe childhood trauma
  • - Serious chronic medical conditions
  • - Sexual assault or abuse
  • - Ongoing physical or emotional abuse
  • - The loss of a loved one
  • - Family history of depression


Treating depression after addiction

The most important part of treating depression after addiction is to ensure that the correct assessment has been done in order to provide an accurate diagnosis.

Depression after addiction is indicative of a dual-diagnosis and should be treated as such. There are many approaches that can be used to ensure treatment is personalised as well as holistic.

Furthermore, having a support system which is easily accessed, makes addiction recovery that much easier.

Step Away Rehab South Africa

Depression after addiction is a reality for many people who are in recovery. If treated correctly, the recovery process can be easier than expected.

We understand the importance of accurate diagnosis and the dual-treatment of mental illness and addiction.

For more information about our holistic recovery programs, contact us.

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