Signs & Symptoms of Depression

About Depression

Learn More About Depression

Depression is a general term that encompasses a number of specific depressive disorders that involve profound sadness, hopelessness, emptiness, and similar feelings. Unlike the occasional periods of sadness or melancholy that most people will experience from time to time, the symptoms of depression are sometimes so severe that they interfere with a person’s ability to live a healthy and productive life.

Though depression is a highly treatable condition, the majority of depressed people do not seek professional care. Making matters potentially much worse, many depressed people abuse alcohol or other drugs in a misguided attempt to alleviate their symptoms, a decision that can exacerbate the depression and lead to a host of other negative outcomes.

The combination of depression and a substance use disorder is a complex problem that, if left untreated, can have a devastating impact on a person’s physical, mental, emotional, and social wellbeing. Each of these issues poses significant challenges; when experienced simultaneously, they can produce a downward spiral of increasingly problematic behaviors and worsening symptoms.

The good news is that with appropriate professional intervention, individuals who are dealing with substance use disorders and co-occurring depression can develop the skills and strategies that will allow them to achieve long-term recovery and pursue much healthier and more productive lives.


Depression Statistics

Mental health experts estimate that more than 120 million people around the world are currently struggling with some form of depression. In the United States, between 16 and 18 million people will experience depressive episodes every year, yet as many as 80% of these people will neither seek nor receive professional treatment for depression. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that about one of every four people who develop a substance use disorder will also have co-occurring depression. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), major depressive disorder is the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals ages 15 to 45.

Causes & Risks

Causes and Risk Factors for Depression

There is no single cause for depression. Mental health professionals have identified several genetic and environmental factors that may influence the development and severity of a depressive disorder. In most cases, a person’s risk for developing depression will depend upon a combination of several factors. Consider the following:

Genetic: As is also the case with many other mental health disorders, depression is an inheritable condition. Researchers have determined that the child of a depressed parent is three times more likely to also experience depression than is a child whose parents did not have this disorder. If a parent develops a depressive disorder before he or she reaches age 20, the risk to his or her offspring is five times greater than is the risk to children of non-depressed parents.

Environmental: Not everyone who is genetically predisposed to depression actually develops the disorder. In many cases, the presence or absence of certain environmental factors can influence the onset and/or severity of depression symptoms. For example, a person who is victimized via abuse, neglect, assault or a similar occurrence may develop symptoms of depression as a result of this trauma. Also, people who are exposed to significant stresses and pressures at home, in school, and/or at work may be at an increased risk for depression. The same is also true for those who experience dramatic changes in life, such as divorce or the death of a loved one.

Risk Factors:

  • Gender (women are twice as likely as men to develop depression)
  • Family history of depression or another mental health disorder
  • Family history of substance abuse and/or addiction
  • Personal history of substance abuse and addiction
  • Poverty
  • Exposure to extreme stress
  • History of being abused, neglected, and/or assaulted
  • Abrupt life changes

Signs & Symptoms

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

No single symptom or set of symptoms is present in every case of depression. Also, the severity and duration of symptoms can vary widely from case to case. That said, the following are among the more common signs and symptoms that may indicate that a person is suffering from a depressive disorder:

Behavioral symptoms:

  • Unprovoked emotional outbursts
  • Uncharacteristic anger or aggression
  • Cutting, burning, and other forms of self-harm
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Decreased participation in activities that were once sources of great joy
  • Pattern of unexplained absences from work or school

Physical symptoms:

  • Headaches and stomachaches
  • Generalized muscle and joint pain
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Disrupted sleep patterns (including both insomnia and hypersomnia)
  • Fatigue, exhaustion, and lethargy

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Inability to focus and/or concentrate
  • Memory problems
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Problems making decisions
  • Impaired ability to think clearly

Psychosocial symptoms:

  • Heightened irritability
  • Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness
  • Self-loathing
  • Extreme sadness
  • Feeling ashamed or guilty


Effects of Depression

If a person does not receive effective treatment for depression, he or she is at an increased risk for experiencing a number of negative outcomes. Depending upon the nature of the person’s depression, these effects can also vary widely in terms of duration and severity. The following are among the more common consequences that can result from untreated depression:

  • Poor academic performance, possibly leading to failure
  • Substandard work performance, possibly leading to job loss
  • Withdrawal and isolation
  • Dangerous, reckless, and other risky behaviors
  • Strained or ruined interpersonal relationships
  • Development of a co-occurring mental health condition
  • Development of a substance use disorder
  • Weight-related and other physical health problems
  • Sleep disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts and attempts

Co-Occurring Disorders

Depression & Co-Occurring Disorders

It is not uncommon for an individual who is battling depression to also be dealing with a co-occurring substance use disorder. In many cases, people who are struggling with a depressive disorder will turn to alcohol or other drugs in a misguided attempt to self-medicate or numb themselves to the psychological pain that they are experiencing. Unfortunately, this decision often has the unintended consequence of exacerbating the depression symptoms, which can, in turn, push the individual into an ever-deepening cycle of substance abuse and eventual chemical dependence. When this occurs, it is essential that the individual receives professional treatment that addresses both the depressive disorder and any co-occurring substance use disorders. In addition to substance use disorders, the following are among the more common conditions that can occur alongside depression:

  • Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Anorexia nervosa
  • Bulimia nervosa
  • Binge-eating disorder
  • Borderline personality disorder
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
Experiential Therapies

The Camp Recovery Center offers a variety of outdoor-focused experiential therapies.

Refreshing Location

Nestled on 25 acres in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains, The Camp’s grounds provide a serene location for clients to recalibrate and refresh as they focus on recovery.

Dedication to Success

For nearly 30 years, The Camp has provided cutting-edge rehabilitation. Our clinical team creates individualized treatment plans to give our clients the tools they need for a successful recovery.

My clinical depression was sucking the energy out of my life. The Camp helped me get my disorder under control and find ways to appreciate how good life can be again.

– Bryan K.
Marks of Quality Care
  • American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM)
  • Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF)
  • Department of Health Care Services

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