Is Depression Addicting?

Michael Stein writes: “Addicts frequently have multiple problems; it is rare to find an alcoholic or narcotic addict who doesn’t have anxiety, depression, an eating disorder, or another manner of self-harming behavior” (The Addict, William Morrow, 2009) When I look at my depression, I always see compulsive behavior or addiction associated with it.  When I was in a bout of depression, it seemed as if I was addicted to the depression., like a dog chasing its tail.  Depression is depression, but i can also be addicting, and perhaps a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I am not sure what triggered my depressions.  When I needed my friends and family most, I drove them away.  Some of my friends, family included, could or would not understand.  What was most hurtful were comments about why I couldn’t just get over it.  When I was depressed, I felt trapped; I couldn’t get out.  I felt every bit as miserable as an addict in treatment.  Addicts, however, have something to blame.  With depression, there is nobody and nothing to blame.  You are simply looked up and treated as weak.

In Prozac Nation, Elizabeth Wurzbach describes this “addiction to depression” pretty well.  Se describes the depression experience as being consistent with narcissitic thinking, considering only oneself, feeling complete despair, and yet not letting go for a quick solution.  Rather than accepting my reality and getting off my butt, I would fester.  I was tired, could not sleep, count not concentrate, and I ruminated about suicide.  In her book An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness, Kay Jamieson comments about love and madness. She writes: “No amount of love can cure madness or unblacken one’s moods….Madness, on the other hand, most certainly can, and often does kill love” (Vantage Books, 1995).

I look at my depression as an existential void, as having no purpose; my daily journey is about filling that void with something, but that something can be unproductive and rather self-destructive activity.  I have an inherent need for excitement, an urge to be outrageous and the center of attention, but this is not what living is about.  Living is about how fit with others, and I would like to figure that our better.  I think there are underlying issues with depression or anxiety that support the chemical or process addictions.  Addiction can worsen one’s depression.  Depression and addiction together feed a vicious cycle that is self-perpetuating.  An addict has a problem with a chemical or process, but he or she also has a problem with life.  You treat addiction and you still have the underlying issues.  If you do not deal with the underlying issues, you might as well not bother treating the addiction.

Depression was a familiar place for me.  Rather than reflecting or examining the process, it was easier for me to be passive and do nothing.  Being idle in this way, while completely self-defeating, is also addicting.  I always remember being angered when someone would tell me I was just sitting around feeling sorry for myself.  However, there is truth in that accusation.  It’s intended to get people moving.  The solution is to get out of the comfort zone that is associated with depression.

When I was depressed or being passive, it was very easy for me to allow others to take care of me. Consciously or unconsciously, I did not feel I had to be responsible.  I felt entitle to my feelings  What I did not ask myself was this:  I am entitled to feel any way I want, but does that mean I am entitled to impact other people is such a negative way?

12 comments

  1. The feelings described here are very familiar. I’m not an expert by any means, but my super non-experty point of view on the subject is that depression takes many shapes and forms. Everyone will / has suffered from depression at some point in their lives. Sometimes there is a reason or a root cause – be it chemical, environmental, or situational. I am chronically depressed, it takes a LOT of effort for me to “snap myself out of it” so to speak. I’ve never framed it as addiction but that actually does make some sense, though I generally think of it as “sticky”. It sticks to itself, it draws power through pessimism, and it absolutely is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Someone who leaves there house in the morning thinking “I am going to have a shitty day” is probably going to have a shitty day. Sometimes I can snap myself out of that mindset, but it takes a lot of rumination before I can get there. Depression spits out good feelings and devours negative ones. That’s the only way I can really describe it, at least in how I experience it personally.

    Talking about it, considering it, rolling it around in my mind – is really the only way I have found to cope with it on a long-term basis. Thanks for sharing your thoughts 🙂 I look forward to reading more.

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    • Thank you for the comments. They are validating because I am not alone. The thing about this is that depression has always been there. When we label something, we give it power. Sometimes, it was it is. When I stop idolizing the label, it started losing and I am winning. Sometimes, I get down but that is all right. We are all one and we are all in this together. God bless you.

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      • I think focusing on doing something positive for yourself or for others is a good way to get your mind off your depression. If for nothing other than having the satisfaction of helping someone and seeing their appreciation.

        Liked by 1 person

      • When depressed, it is very difficult to think about anything else or anybody else. It is like a bore going into the earth. Once you start boring, it is difficult to stop.

        Depression is usually about a lot of lies that are told to oneself. There is a cognitive part to this. Cognitive therapy helps some. That coupled by doing something for someone else can be helpful.

        I really think if people in accordance to doing things for the other that some of this could be reduced. I think that part of the problem is really about getting people moving in different direction. That is why is so similar to addiction. Breaking habits is tough stuff.

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    • The tricky thing about depression is that nothing makes you truly happy when it has it’s grip on you … But doing anything makes you less depressed, except doing something when you are depressed is damn near impossible. A vicious cycle, much like depression feeding the addiction and vice versa.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know Eckhart Tolle’s work, but for some reason his writing doesn’t really resonate with me. But funny you mention mindfulness, because I have been really trying to understand what it is in the last week. Especially in connection with dialectical behavior therapy (i was diagnozed BDP. For some reason I just don’t grasp the concept. And with English not being my native tongue, sometimes things still get lost in the translation … How would you define it?

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      • Mindfulness is about staying in the present. Some people will concentrate on breathing. Specifically, there is a calming effect by abdominally breathing. When stressed, we have a tendency to not breath properly. By not breathing properly, the sympathetic nervous system is active. We want to stay with parasympathetic nervous system by slowing it down.

        It takes a little practice. Some meditation styles use mantras, positive affirmations, or positive visualization. When you sit, you may want to have your palms outward. As you breath in, you breath in calm sea breezes or whatever you visualizing. Breath out the stress and worry.

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