Did you know that depression can be hidden behind an addiction?

Did you know that a person can hide depression behind an addiction?  These addictions are a means of coping with the depression…and the person with the addiction may not even know it!  The list of some “bad treatments” for depression are as follows:

  • Alcohol
  • Illegal drugs
  • Painkillers
  • Comfort food
  • Shopping
  • Promiscuity
  • Self-mutilation
  • Suicidal thoughts – planning their death

I want to start with the last one first, suicidal thoughts and planning your death.  Thinking I’d rather be dead than alive with my depression is something that comes to my mind at times.  Whether it’s driving the car off the road or taking too many sleeping pills.  They are thoughts, but they are not more than that.  And I am able to say to myself, “that is irrational thinking.  I don’t really want to end my life”.

However, if your child is planning out their death, this is taking it one step further than just having thoughts about suicide.  This is taking thoughts to the level just before action takes place.  At this point you need to get professional medical attention immediately.  You can call 911, bring your child to a hospital or call one of the crisis counseling numbers below:

  • North America – National Suicide Prevention Line 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • North America – United Way Helpline which can assist you in finding a therapist at 1-800-233-4357
  • Australia – Counseling 24/7 at 13 11 14
  • New Zealand – Counseling 24/7 at 0800 543 354
  • UK – Counseling 0300 123 3393 (M-F 9am to 6pm)
  • Other countries see http://togetherweare-strong.tumblr.com

But this is where you need to take action and you cannot wait for your child to work through their depression on their own.  It is best if you can either talk or have a counselor talk to your child and take them to the hospital yourself.  If you call 911 as an emergency, in North America they normally dispatch the police to take your child to the hospital, because the emergency line is unaware if your child will go willingly or not.  This could create further embarrassment and shame to your child, on top of the depression.  But as a last resort, it is still an option to ensure your child gets the help they need.

You need to pay attention to some possible signals.  Are they giving things away to family or friends?  Are they saying good bye in a tone that has finality to it?  These are just two of the many possible signs.  You can check out the following link for additional info http://www.yourlifecounts.org

I have experienced my own depression and anxiety in silence for decades, but I am not a professional in the field of mental health.  In an effort to help others know what a depressed person is feeling or going through, I write these articles to inform and educate.  They should not be used in isolation, but with the help of medical practitioners in the field of mental health.

Drinks

Comfort Food and Addiction

Depression can be hidden from parents.  Your child may take on one of these other addictions to help soothe the painful feelings of depression.  I know in my own personal experience I have used shopping and comfort food as a means to stave off depression.  I was much healthier as a teenager with high functioning depression.  I was working out three to five times a week and was watching what I was eating.  But once I hit my 20’s, I stopped caring about my health and sought out carbs, sugar and chips as a way of soothing the pain of depression and a failing marriage.

During this time, I was married to my ex-wife who had developed an eating disorder about three years into our 10 year marriage.  I didn’t have a relationship with her that I could talk about my feelings, as she was working through her own issues.  And her eating disorder along with my own depression left me isolated and alone.  So I sought out food to comfort me.  I gained 90 pounds (approx. 41KG’s) during the next seven years of marriage.  And I have yet to get that weight off nearly fifteen years later.

The emotions or feelings of my depression started to kick in.  And to feel good about myself, I eat comfort food.  Which does satisfy…but only for a while.  Then I feel worse about myself for having given in to that impulse.  I feel like a loser.  I feel like a failure, more alone and more isolated from people.  So I eat more…feel better for a while…then feel more down about myself…so then I eat more.  I’m sure you can imagine the downward spiral an addiction can take if you just keep repeating this cycle.

But even then, if you were to look at me, you would say I had an eating problem rather than an issue with depression.  And that is how the depression can hide behind an addiction.

Shopping

During the last seven years when my depression has been full blown, I’ve gone on a spending spree in order to feel good as comfort food was not enough.  During this time, my current wife and I bought a truck, fifth wheel trailer, motorcycle trailer, generators, solar panels, tools, a tire changer, three motorcycles, motorcycle gear and motorcycle accessories to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars.  When we were in the situation, we thought they were wise choices, but in hindsight they were an addiction for me to soothe the pain of my depression.

Similar to the comfort food, shopping for things felt great…for a while.  Then as the depression would start to settle in again, I needed a new fix…a new high…a new purchase to stave off the depression.  So more things were purchased, and more…and more.  Meanwhile, I’m not dealing with the depression, our finances are taking a hit, our savings start to dry up and I start to feel even worse about myself.  I feel useless and foolish for giving into these impulses to buy things to make myself feel better.

What can you do about it?

During this past year, I have been getting better at shopping and eating for comfort.  But they both still poke their heads up every now and again.  I have asked my wife to keep me accountable, so I don’t just run out and buy something to feel good.  Now I need to validate to myself there is a need for the purchase.  Then I run it by my wife and ask for her input, so I don’t get trapped in my own way of thinking.  Saying you need something out loud helps one to validate if it is truly needed or not.  You can tell by what you are feeling when you say it out loud.  And to have someone hold you accountable is even better.

All I can suggest is to look at your child’s life.  They may seem to have an addiction to one of the above, but may really be dealing with an underlying depression.  I would suggest locking up your painkillers and alcohol so your child cannot get access to them while you are out of the house.  Be genuine, be open, be honest with them.  This next generation has a keen sense of when you are upfront and honest with them.  Show them genuine compassion, support and love.  With this mindset you can ask them questions about school, their friends and possibly if they are struggling with their emotions.  But be specific.  General questions about “how is school” is too broad and can put them back into a depressive and isolated state of mind.

Try specific questions, such as “what is your favourite class?” or “what is your least favourite class and why?”  Specific questions will give you specific answers and you can more easily find out if it is school that is troubling your child or someone within the school, such as a bully.  Also, when asking questions about emotions, be specific again and don’t say “how are you doing?”  But ask specific questions, such as “what do you feel like when you go into your least favourite class?”  Or, “how do you feel when you are with your friends…do you enjoy their company or do you find it difficult to be around them and why?”

Take the time to invest in your questions as you will more than likely get more specific answers and if not, then you will be able to tell where there is a problem area in your child’s life.  And if you are dealing with an addiction, you will want to try and have your child see a counselor or therapist so they can work through issues and get healing from the addiction.  As a cough is to a cold, so an addiction can be to depression.  The addiction may be an underlying issue, but the core issue could be depression.

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