Depression and Addiction: Know the Warning Signs

The recent passing of legendary actor and comedian Robin Williams sheds light on the complex issues of addiction and depression, according to experts from the Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center at South Miami Hospital.

Depression is a mood disorder that goes beyond a person’s normal feelings of sadness or “blues”. It can become a serious medical condition that needs to be treated.

The following are the most common symptoms of major depression. Keep in mind, each person may exhibit different behaviors. Symptoms may include:

  • Persistent feelings of sadness or feeling “blue.”
  • Losing interest in activities once previously enjoyed.
  • Excessive crying.
  • Increased feelings of restlessness or irritability.
  • Difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
  • General decrease in energy levels.
  • Thinking about death or suicide (or attempts to commit suicide).
  • Feelings of guilt or helplessness.
  • Changes in dietary habits-weight gain or loss.
  • Changes in sleep patterns.
  • General societal withdrawal.
  • Other physical symptoms like headaches or chronic pain.
  • Substance abuse can be driven by depression when an individual uses alcohol or drugs to self-medicate, says John Eustace, M.D., medical director of the Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center at South Miami Hospital. Addiction, substance abuse and depression are often long-term battles, and federal data reflects how widespread the problem is.

    “Excessive alcohol consumption is a leading cause of premature mortality in the United States,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports in the June 26 issue of Preventing Chronic Diseases.  And alcohol abuse is “the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in the United States,” according to agency researchers. What’s more, excessive drinking is linked to other health and social problems.

    “Substance abuse does not discriminate. More than 90 percent of the people who come to us with an alcohol problem are employed. Wealth, employment status and fame do not provide protection from depression, addiction or alcohol abuse,” says David Vittoria, assistant vice president of the Addiction Treatment & Recovery Center at South Miami Hospital.

    What are the red flags of substance abuse?
    Here are warning signs that heavy or binge drinking has become a problem, Mr. Vittoria says.

  • Excessive tardiness.
  • Frequent workplace injuries.
  • Missing work.
  • Frequently sick or under the weather.
  • DUI arrests or auto accidents.
  • If you’re confused or concerned about the impact of clinical depression or substance abuse in your life or the life of a family member, reach out to an expert, Mr. Vittoria says.


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