Depression and Addiction after the Death of a Spouse

Emotionally intense events such as the death of a loved one can be as damaging as exposure to violence, explosions or even head injuries. The same part of the brain that controls emotional functions is the same part that trauma affects. The resulting chemical changes can lead to severe depression and posttraumatic stress disorder, both of which increase the risk of drug abuse. Many people who lose their spouse become depressed and then addicted to drugs or alcohol, but we can help you grieve in a healthy way.

How Depression and Addiction Affect Each Other

The same part of the brain that controls emotions also manages the following psychological responses:

  • Impulse control
  • Anxiety management
  • Memory
  • Behavior reinforcement

Many people mistakenly believe that emotions are just about being happy or sad, but emotions drive behavior as much as rational thought, and they are managed through an intricate system of chemical signals and responses.

How Depression Works

Slight imbalances in natural brain chemicals can result in a wide range of psychological dysfunctions, including the following problems:

  • Mania
  • Depression
  • Paranoia
  • Sleeplessness
  • Anger management deficiency
  • Physical abuse of self or others
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Irrational fear or anxiety

Drugs and alcohol provide short-lived relief for any of these psychological symptoms. The brain will crave this relief and will drive any behavior necessary to reinforce it.

Symptoms of Depression

Many people avoid treating their depression diagnosed because they feel that they should be able to manage their feelings without help. Many do not recognize that the following symptoms may indicate depression:

  • Emotional numbness
  • Persistent sadness
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Nightmares
  • Appetite changes
  • Inability to concentrate

Treatment for Depression and Addiction

Dual Diagnosis treatment identifies any co-occurring disorders and then develops a specialized plan to address them in an integrated way. The most successful programs use many of the following techniques to bring emotional and physical healing:

  • Medically supervised detox helps patient by relieving many of the harshest withdrawal symptoms and avoid relapse
  • Various types of individual and group counseling help patients identify problems in their thinking and behavior
  • 12-step programs provide excellent methods for changing thought and behavioral patterns
  • Innovative and even experimental coping techniques including massage, acupuncture, yoga, meditation and other treatments that help patients manage cravings
  • Education about the causes and functioning of addiction empowers patients to overcome their self-destructive urges through self-awareness and mindfulness

Help for Depression and Addiction

If you or someone you love has experienced a recent loss and is concerned about depression or addiction, please call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline now. Our counselors are ready to help you find the help you need. The call is confidential and free, so you have nothing to lose.