Depression – Addiction Like Problem and Addiction Like Solution


It is the purpose of this article to present information about the disease of Depression, how it is very much like an Addiction and how the solution to the problem of Depression is very similar to that of how one would solve the disease of Addiction. I will share some statistical information about Depression – its impact, its development, its course of development and then attempt to show how the solution of Depression is very similar to that of Addiction.



In any given year there are approximately 18.8 million American adults (those 18 years and older) who have depression, this is approximately 10% of the adult population of the United States. In addition there are estimates that 15-20% of the teen population – approximately 11-14 million more people, and approximately 1 million preschoolers, are depressed as well. That totals up to be about 33 million people a year who are depressed, or about 12 % of the population. That is a lot of people experiencing depression, whatever that may be. In the next section I will share some of what depression is by virtue of definition of symptoms.



Almost everyone experiences the various symptoms used to describe Depression. The primary difference regular situational Depression is that when the symptoms describing Depression last 2 weeks, or longer, they are termed “Clinical Depression”. The primary symptoms used to diagnose Depression include the following:

  1. Feelings of sadness, anxiety, or empty feelings.
  2. Decreased energy, fatigue, or just feeling slowed down.
  3. Loss of interest in things normally enjoyed.
  4. Significant change in ones sleep cycle – over sleeping or under sleeping.
  5. Loss of appetite or significant overeating.
  6. Feelings of hopelessness or helplessness.
  7. Increase in perceptions of pessimism.
  8. Increased perceptions of guilt or worthlessness.
  9. Thoughts of death, or suicide, increase as a possible solution to ones problems.
  10.  Difficulty concentrating, making decisions, or remembering normal information.
  11.  Restlessness, irritability, or excessive crying.
  12.  Chronic aches, pains, or the development of “ailments” which do not respond to medical care.
  13.  Ruminating – reviewing past issues, or events, over and over without being able to come to a reasonable conclusion and being able to move on with life – increases and becomes a central focus of the thinking of the one with Depression.


The majority of the above symptoms, considered to be “Clinical Depression” if lasting more than 2 weeks or more, are considered to be more extreme form of “Situational Depression” those feelings that happen to all of us when we lose something important to us. Those normal feelings happen when we experience a change of job, get fired from a job, lose a pet, experience a defeat, break up from a relationship, move to a different home, etc. When a person gets locked up into this set of feelings, and doesn’t seem to be able to move out of the feelings on their own and solve their issues then the perception of “Clinical Depression” becomes an issue that needs to be explored and resolved as rapidly as possible lest the person with Depression suffers the end products of this kind of Disease – physical illness, family dissension or breakup, and eventually suicide.


Impact of Depression:

Depression is usually revealed in loss of energy, loss of focus, poor sleep, and general lack of mobility – this is to say people who are depressed do not function as they did before the depression occurred. The symptoms listed above are the anti-thesis of what is needed at work and thus depression is one of the greatest causes of absenteeism and or loss of productivity. If the depressive symptoms continue to develop for longer than a two week period, the individual starts to experience a “mind-body” chemistry change and the body begins to attempt to “accommodate” the new experiential perceptions. The stress hormone Cortisol becomes elevated, sleep cycles are thrown off, dietary issues are radically altered, and if weight gain occurs all of the physiological issues of obesity can be experienced including those of Diabetes, Osteoporosis, back pain, elevated Cholesterol, Heart issues, and even Cancer can develop. Other experiences include lack of movement, loss of the positive impact of successful work, less social interaction, possible increase of smoking cigarettes for those who smoke, and increase of alcohol consumption. These so affect the emotional states-of-mind that depressed individuals experience perceptions of reality regarding failure, hopelessness, helplessness, which more from perceptions of reality in the individuals mind, begin to look real.


As the symptoms increase, and continue to be incorporated as reality, the body and mind continue to adapt and change in response to these perceptions. The individual continues to adapt their thinking downward into a negative, pessimistic perspective and begin to “see” the defects of others as personal attacks upon the depressed person and the person begins to develop defense mechanism that will protect them from the “assaults” of others. As this process continues the negativity given off by the individual begins to stress the family and various support systems that the individual has in place. The stressed responses from those around the depressed person are received, retranslated through the depressed perceptions and the depressed individual sinks deeper into the Depression as they see all of their fears fulfilled in those around them. Phobias, other addictive behaviors such as street drug usage, gambling, drinking, internet pornography can develop in a twisted perception of a way of self protection, relief, or vague feelings of joy. For some people the phobias get to the point that the depressed individual can not leave their home, or even their room. For some the addictive behaviors take over the person and the addiction becomes the primary focus of the home and life. As this decline continues for some, suicide seems to be the only way out for some and an estimated 10-15 percent of depressed people take their own lives.


Causes of Depression:

Since Depression is such a factor in the average American’s life it would be proper to take a few moments to discuss the “causes” of Depression and then we can discuss what can be done to treat Depression and its symptoms. In my research for this article I have found a number of causative theories for the formation of Depression several of the theories are listed below:

  1. Genetic Model Theory – It is estimated that about 50 percent of all people with Depression have one or both parents who have also experienced Depression. The basic concept in this theory is that genetic factors play a role in the development of Depression. What all of those roles are have not yet been discovered.
  2. The Learning Theory – This theory states that Depression could be a learned response to internal or external events. The theory speculates that children could learn by watching adults handle situations, or by getting certain responses by adults about certain “normal” events that happen to the child. These thoughts and responses get reinforced by the family, or the culture, over time and the individual learns how to perceive events including how to be depressed.
  3. Psychodynamic Theory – This theory predicts that people struggle with loss or denial in a manner similar to that which they handle other internal emotional issues. The individual could respond to an event and get “stuck”, or distort the event, by internal emotional dynamics that produces an altered or non-productive response pattern.
  4. Humanistic-Existential Theory – This theory states that people get depressed because they have little or no functional purpose in life.
  5. Dysfunctional Lifestyle Theory – This theory predicts that depression can occur if people have increased fiscal income and they begin to choose a lifestyle that slows down their active living manner, increases their eating of available foods, allows them more time for passive entertainment, less physical activity, and less personal productivity. In this lifestyle the individual could create a depressed experience because of the biological changes in their being and in their outlook on life and not handle crisis as well as they would if they were more physically fit and active.
  6. Neuro-Physiological Theory – Some research indicates that Depression is a brain structure reaction to the low levels of Norepinephrine, Dopamine, and Serotonin in reaction to increased amounts of stress hormones like Cortisol. If this interaction of neurotransmitters and hormones continues in a prolonged unbalanced state, the brain would structurally change to accommodate the prevailing brain chemistry and cause the depressed state to become the permanent way of life.
  7. The Spiritual Theory – In this theoretical model, all of the above factors would be potentially a part of the Depressive experience. In this theory Depression would be a reaction to guilt, grief, known truth and when the person maintains a denial of available information indicating a problem then all of the above factors would start to affect the persons thinking, and feeling states. As continued decisions are made, intentionally or unintentionally, to avoid responsibility, this takes the individual to the point of experiencing the inevitable change of coming out of harmony with their Higher Power and would start the slow, subtle, downward spiral into Depression.


Each person reacts to the experiences that happen to them each day. For whatever reason many people develop the experience of Depression. The assumption is if you can develop a problem, then you can also develop a solution to the problem. This is especially true if you can get to the solution before some of the major consequences of the problem happen to the individual. So if we have a multi-factorial problem, it seems reasonable that there will be a multi-factorial solution.


Similarities of Depression to Addiction:

One of the points of this article is to provide a comparison of Depression to Addiction. The reason for this comparison is to facilitate a solution to a complex problem. Most people are aware that Addiction, in all of its forms, is a multi-factorial issue, which has not responded well to standard medical models of treatment. For example, treatment with drugs without taking into account the multi-factorial nature of Addiction does not usually produce effective change. Addiction has a history of being very problematic and many people have suffered while trying to come up with an effective solution to overcome Addiction. Oddly enough, the “most effective solution” to Addiction has been the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous is to be applauded as it treats all facets of the disease of Addiction by requiring and assisting in the multi-level changes that recovery requires.


The primary factors of Addiction are the following:

  1. An increased use of a substance, a thought, or an action.
  2. A slow development of a lifestyle that accommodates the increased use of the substance, event, or process/action.
  3. A slow, subtle, change in thought processes, that tends to cause difficulties in the relationship dynamics of loved ones around the individual.
  4. An increased utilization of denial as a defense mechanism as feedback begins to bring information to the Addict.
  5. As negative behaviors increase, and feedback increases, the individual begins to withdraw from the support system, because they do not want to experience the “negativity” of others around them.
  6. As negativity increases the individual can see some of the issues and they try to make changes but they have some intuitive awareness that they may not be able to make the changes alone, and it is perceived as fearful, unmanly, unwomanly, to reach out for outside help, and still erroneously believe that they will have to change on their own.
  7. As perceived failures increase, and more negative feedback comes in from those around them, the Addict turns to the events that have given them some perceptions of unconditional support, and by partaking of more of the substance, thought, or action, they unwittingly increase the negativity and begin to develop clear physiological problems that add to the initial perceptions of negativity.
  8. As negativity increases in the individual, the support system around the individual begins to stress and strain. The individual, as well as the support system, begin to establish increasingly more rigid manners of communication and suspicion, while fear and negativity become the predominant perceptions of all.
  9. Unless something radical brings change into this process, the end product will bring major disease processes, legal or financial problems, or even death – through terminal diseases, suicide, or other like causes.


Alcoholics Anonymous(AA) provides a comprehensive manner of changing this Addictive Dynamic by introducing all of the methodologies to accomplish change. The following healing components that allow for change through AA are that it:

  1. Provides an informed support group.
  2. Is able to tolerate a lot of dysfunctional behavior while supporting change.
  3. Accepts that learning means allowing trial and error behavior.
  4. Recognizes that people need to evaluate their behaviors and are able to learn from others who have made it.
  5. Tolerates, and encourages, the development of spiritual lines of thinking and encourages people to take risks in getting to know God, as the individual defines God.
  6. Provides a clear step-by-step process that promotes change.
  7. Accepts that people need individuals to help as well as a larger family dynamic in the group process.
  8. Provides a way of analyzing and exploring spiritual/moral issues and encourages people to address these issues and allow change to occur so grief and guilt can be addressed supportively.
  9. Tolerates the experience of medication as a normal healing process for the individual.
  10. Accepts the fact that significant lifestyle changes are often necessary for the individual and AA will support one while they go about these changes.
  11. Accepts the fact that in most addicts Depression is at least a symptom of Addiction and must be addressed for the individual to recover.
  12. Accepts the fact that in order to get to solid change and growth, relapses are a normal part of the process.


I hope it is self-evident that many of the helping factors of AA are the same kinds of factors that would help somebody with Depression. Resolution to guilt, grief, and emotional/spiritual problems is a tremendous gift. People who experience Depression are not happy with the effects that Depression has on them or on their loved ones. They don’t know how to solve this problem on their own and need support from other people to get a positive focus that they can believe will be helpful.



Solutions to Depression:

Now that we have spent some time on the Depression/Addiction comparison let us now examine more fully the potential solutions available for the individual with Depression. One of the interesting things about Depression is that the majority of people who experience Depression minimize it and deny the available evidence that a problem exists. A secondary issue is that many people with Depression believe or “perceive”, that Depression symptoms are a sign of personal weakness; and thus, become secretive about their feelings and experience. They begin to isolate and minimize their feelings until major problems are developed. It is in this way that the behavior of many people with Depression mimics the Addicts behaviors as explored briefly above.


The solutions for Depression are almost self-evident when looked at from an informed perspective. Depression is not a manifestation of weakness, it is a disease. Once you have it, you must admit that it is becoming a problem, and especially if the data available to self and others reveals that it is a problem, and must be dealt with in a comprehensive manner. If the individual is isolating from their loved ones, then the obvious issue is to get around people that one trusts, and are trustworthy, and listen to them, and follow their recommendations. Doctors, counselors, support groups are all part of the healing package that is available to most everyone. Help usually is available in many packages and in many forms just like the disease process comes in many forms and in many ways.


The Depressed person needs to be around positive people and learn to be open to feedback without feeling put-down, criticized, or rejected. The Depressed person needs to feel as much unconditional love, receive support that is out there, and believe that their support group is trying to help them not criticize them. The Depressed person will need to be able to objectively evaluate themselves or to seriously consider the evaluation of others. They may have to change their recreational habits, drink more water, eat different foods, and learn how to process their feelings differently from what they had been. They may have to learn how to forgive or be forgiven, and to let bygones be bygones. These kinds of experiences are most easily learned in a support group similar to AA. Those who have Depression may have to accept medication as a part of their healing regimen for a short or long period of time. They will have to evaluate their experience with a trusted mentor/doctor/counselor/or group and then create a step-by-step plan and with help they will have to stick-to-it.


Most people get through Depression with varying degrees of difficulty. All people who get through Depression have to change something. That something is usually some kind of mental, emotional, spiritual acceptance about things that they can not change. When they allow this change to occur they are able to process the changes, accept them, make changes, and integrate them into their lives and get on with life. We have discussed a few of the changes that could be helpful to an individual. The best way is to be alert to your friends and family, share your observations openly with them, and be open, honest, and supportive for Depression may happen to them and it may happen to us. In any case the more rapidly and comprehensively the Depression can be dealt with, the better all involved will be.