Depression In Early Recovery
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Experiencing Depression in Early Recovery

As you begin your journey in recovery, you may find yourself feeling down from time to time. Everyone is bound to have the occasional rough day, week, or even a season of life. Sudden life changes can cause major mental and emotional stress, and recovery certainly fits that description. Medical research tells us that many who struggle with Substance Use or Alcohol Use Disorder have been drawn into active use by depression-related conditions. Knowing this, it comes as no surprise that depression early in the recovery journey is very common. In this article, you will learn:

  • What is depression, and how is it different from having a rough day?
  • What should you do if you feel like you are living with depression?
  • How do you keep depression from hampering your road to recovery?

What is Depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), depression is common among the general population. However, it comes in many different forms, and can be caused by a variety of factors. External factors, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder, can cause some forms of depression. Others are caused by life challenges, such as childhood trauma or Postpartum Depression. Still others such as Persistent Depressive Disorder can last for a number of years prior to diagnosis. The actual number of diagnosable conditions that fall under the depression umbrella is constantly being updated by mental health professionals.

Am I Living with Depression or Just Feeling Down?

Depression comes in many forms. Unless you have a background in mental health, it can be hard to know whether you should seek help. It is important to ask yourself “How am I feeling, and how long have I been feeling this way?” As we have discovered, many forms of depression are caused by a significant life event. Has there been a trauma experience in your life, particularly at a young age? Have you recently had a major change happen in your life, such as a new baby, job loss, or some other big event? These can cause anyone to feel down at times. If those feelings seem to linger, though, they could be a sign of something more serious.

In recovery, you will learn how Substance Use Disorder often occurs in those who live with depression or other mental health conditions. In fact, it is estimated that over 9.5 million adults in the US experience a mental condition along with Substance Abuse Disorder. Put another way, chances are good that you may be diagnosed with a form of depression as a part of the recovery journey.

Since these conditions often travel in pairs, make sure your treatment provider is prepared to address these issues as a part of your recovery care. You should also tell your provider if you have other risk factors that may apply to you.

These can include family history, other medical conditions, and any medications you may be taking.

Warning Signs

Common warning signs of depression can include feelings of apathy, decreased energy, trouble remembering things, or loss of interest in hobbies or activities you once enjoyed. More serious symptoms may include thoughts of hopelessness or despair, physical aches or pains, or thoughts of self-harm. Contact your provider immediately if you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

Treatment Options


If you have been diagnosed with depression, there are many treatment options available. The most common depression treatment is psychotherapy, or “talk therapy.” There are many different types of psychotherapy. All involve meeting with a therapist to discover the root of the issues you are facing and discover ways to better cope. Your therapist will work with you to determine the best form of therapy to address your specific needs, and can involve either individual or family sessions. Some common forms of therapy include Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), family therapy, and problem-solving therapy.

Support Groups

Many treatment plans will include support groups to help patients support one another through treatment. These groups can be for the patients themselves, for families and loved ones, or both. There is comfort in knowing you are not alone in the journey. Your experience may even help someone else who could benefit from your participation in a group setting.


Your provider may recommend medication as part of your treatment plan. These medications are commonly called antidepressants. There are numerous antidepressants on the market. Your provider will take into consideration your unique condition and medical history in order to meet your treatment goals. Most antidepressants take at least 2-4 weeks to begin taking effect, and can take up to 12 weeks to show full effect. In some cases, your provider may need to try more than one antidepressant to find what works best for you. Be sure to tell your provider about any side effects, or if your condition worsens in any way.

Other Coping Strategies

There are other coping strategies you should explore in addition to treatment. Try to maintain an active lifestyle and exercise regularly. Besides helping you stay physically healthy, exercise helps the body produce endorphins, which are the “feel good” chemicals in your body. If you are experiencing trouble sleeping, regular exercise will also help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep during the night.

If you do not already have a sponsor, invest the time to find one. Simply put, a sponsor in recovery is simply someone who has actively worked the program and been free of substance use for at least a year. Many times, your sponsor may have dealt with similar issues and may have valuable advice they can share.

We Can Help

The recovery journey is a major life adjustment, and depression is a common issue that comes up along the way. If you are experiencing symptoms of depression, don’t try to deal with it alone. We are happy to help. Contact our office today to speak with a provider and set up a treatment plan that works for you.