The physical and psychological effects of drug and alcohol withdrawal are frequent topics of discussion. Less frequently addressed, however, is the emotional toll of withdrawal. Depression is a fairly common withdrawal side effect for heavy and long-term substance abusers. For some, it is a feeling of emptiness – a void left by their usual high. For others, it is a feeling of disappointment or hopelessness tied to a lack of control over their addiction. Learning how to cope with depression without resorting to drugs or alcohol is a vital part of the recovery process.
Why Does Withdrawal Cause Depression?
Similar to addiction itself, depression is not caused by a lack of willpower. It is much more complicated than simply feeling sad and has a number of biological, psychological, genetic, and external factors. Addiction physically alters the biological makeup of your brain and neurochemical activity. As such, drug-related depression is attributed to the biological changes that occur as your brain adjusts from functioning through intoxication.
10 Ways to Cope With Depression Without Using Drugs or Alcohol
1. Create a support network
Humans are social creatures by nature and is why group therapy can be such a powerful recovery tool. Whether your support network is made up of friends, family, or kind-strangers, having people invested in your recovery is a great source of motivation. Your support group can also help you process your feelings to better work through the depression.
2. Develop a routine
Structure is a core part of addiction recovery that can also help alleviate symptoms of depression. Having a routine (and the discipline to stick to it) can help distract recovering addicts from harmful depressive compulsions that would be likely to result in a relapse.
3. Set small daily goals
Don’t underestimate the satisfaction that comes from striking something off your to-do list. To get the most out of your daily accomplishments, write them down and keep them somewhere visible where you can see them throughout the day. When motivation and energy are at an all-time no, no goal is too small. Whether it’s doing a daily affirmation exercise, calling a loved one, or even brushing your teeth – having a sense of accomplishment helps to create positive momentum.
4. Write down how you feel
Journaling can help you process your negative thoughts and contribute to a better sense of overall self-awareness. For maximum effectiveness, it’s journal both the good and bad days of your recovery process. Because depression can be recurring, journaling allows you to read back and identify any patterns of thought or action. Being able to refer to your exact thoughts and feelings of the moment can make depressive episodes more manageable.
5. Get physical
Easily one of the most effective and widely recommended means of coping with depression is through exercise. While strenuous activity can help provide a temporary distraction, the true benefit of physical activity is a chain of positive biological effects. The most immediate effects are neurological. Exercise releases feel-good endorphins that can last for hours after the activity. It can also lead to better long-term mood regulation as exercise can help stimulate nerve cell growth in the hippocampus.
6. Tackle household chores
Studies have shown that cluttered, messy environments can negatively affect mood and mental well-being. A disorderly home can create a feeling of chaos and an overarching sense of a loss of control. Either of these feelings can increase the likelihood of a depressive episode or aggravate a current one. On the contrary, tidy homes facilitate a sense of structure and restore a sense of control in depressed individuals. Start small and focus on short-term fixes – you can even incorporate household chores into your daily goals.
7. Focus on nutrition and cooking exciting new meals
Many people don’t consider that nutrition can have a direct correlation to their mental health. Nutrient deficiencies can affect the severity and duration of depressive episodes. Amino acids in particular have been found to alleviate depression symptoms and ward off bouts of many other mental disorders. Some of the best sources of amino acids are quinoa, beans and legumes, eggs, and fish.
8. Get some sun
In addition to being an essential vitamin for cell growth, healthy immune systems, and strong bones, studies have shown that there is a correlation between depression and vitamin D. It is believed that the brain’s vitamin D receptors also affect mood and behavior which can influence whether depression occurs. While increasing levels of vitamin D may not cure depression outright, it can help lessen the effects of depression and help individuals cope without resorting to mind-altering substances.
9. Find new hobbies
Throwing yourself into a new hobby can be a great way to distract yourself from the pang of withdrawal and provide a sense of purpose and accomplishment. One study showed that depressed individuals who took up a new hobby had less severe symptoms of depression and significantly lower odds of developing depression again.
10. Seek professional help
If symptoms persist for more than two weeks, seek out professional help. Facilities like the Amethyst Recovery Center offer comprehensive care for withdrawal depression with their dual diagnosis addiction treatment. Mental health and substance abuse are closely intertwined which can make your regular psychiatric treatment ineffective. Amethyst understands how the intersectionality of these two illnesses and specializes in their treatment. Contact our specialists today to learn how to cope with depression and set yourself up for long-term success.