In this gude we are going to answer the question “can you be addicted to depression?” by looking at why some people feel addicted to feelings of sadness and what they can do to tackle chronic sadness or “addition” to depression
Can you be addicted to depression?
No, depression is not addictive. Technically, people who consider themselves “addicted to depression” aren’t addicted to it- it is more along the lines of familiarity-
Sadness or emotional distress is what they have experienced for a long time and it is what they know best.
This particular phenomenon of seemingly being “addicted” to depression or sadness is often reported amongst people who struggle with mental health problems related to depression and have a poor sense of life satisfaction.
Many people are uncomfortable to move out of their comfort zones because of their fear of what they do not know or the uncertainty that comes with unfamiliarity.
Because of this fear, many people may find comfort in their sadness because it is the only way they know how to function- even when they are happy, they can unconsciously seek out sadness and misery. This pattern of thought or behaviour can make it seem like they are addicted to depression or sadness or suffering.
Let’s take a moment to understand what the life of a person who follows this pattern may look like.
Are you addicted to sadness?
A person who may seemingly look like they are addicted to depression or sadness may behave in ways that may seem counterproductive to others. They often tend to show the following patterns of behaviour:
- They actively seek out reasons to be miserable- pessimistic patterns of thinking about themselves and the world.
- They prefer to blame others rather than take personal responsibility for their choices.
- Compare their suffering with others
- Have difficulty achieving goals
- Find it difficult to celebrate personal victories
- Struggle to bounce back from losses and victories
- Stop taking care of their basic needs
- They feel like they have no control over their lives
- Lack life satisfaction
- Have unfulling relationships
When you look at these patterns of behaviour, they are often consistent across contexts and are very similar to what depression looks like in various people. These patterns of behavior do not arise out of the blue but it emerges gradually and persists over long periods of time. It can go so far as to impact their relationships, their careers, and even their own sense of self.
So what causes a person to develop these kinds of patterns and what makes them stick to it?
Reasons why you seem to be addicted to suffering
There are many factors that can cause a person to develop these forms of maladaptive patterns of relating to others, the world, and themselves.
Psychology theories such as the Cognitive behavioural theory that conceptualizes maladaptive patterns as a cause for mental disorders highlights the impact of early experiences on patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviours.
These early experiences can include:
- Unhealthy parenting styles where the parent was either extremely controlling, permissive, or negligent of them when they were children. This can lead them to internalize their parents’ behaviours and patterns of behavior leading them to develop maladaptive core beliefs about themselves and the world.
For example, a person whose parents have been extremely demanding of perfection can begin to see themselves worthy of joy, love, and happiness if they only attain inhuman levels of perfection.
This mindset can make them intolerant towards small mistakes that they or other people make. Their core beliefs can cause their perspective of the world and themselves to be pessimistic and extremely critical which can hinder their ability to experience joy.
- Early experiences do not necessarily have to do with family life but also other experiences of defeat or incompetence which have not been resolved in a healthy and adaptive manner can make them feel like they are “not enough” and thus undeserving of happiness.
- Life events such as trauma and other negative experiences can also impact a person’s ability to have a resilient mindset especially when the trauma has not been processed in healthy and effective ways.
- Some people might even go so far as to punish themselves by rejecting happiness in response to guilt that they are feeling for something they might have done. While others because of earlier recurring experiences might be afraid to be happy because they see happiness as a set up for disappointment.
For example, a man who has had a traumatic experience in romantic relationships, may become overly critical of other people, may choose to be alone and push other people out for fear that if he allows himself to love, he will ultimately be hurt again.
This example also highlights two issues- he has internalized his previous negative experience and at the same time he is unsure of his own ability to handle future crises- he lacks resilience.
- For others, the prospect of happiness causes a lot of fear because their life experiences such as abuse have not allowed them to experience happiness at all. This fear comes from the fear of the unknown.
- JF Williams for Mental Help Net, also highlighted one reason why we might be attached to our sadness and depression. He writes that the diagnosis of depression and his own condition give him an answer to his experiences. It defined the boundaries of this life.
He highlighted that the certainty of what he has known for most of his life- that he is depressed and will be depressed for a long time gave him comfort in being able to recognize his condition.
While this particular revelation can be liberating when we live by these boundaries mindfully, it can also trap us into resigning ourselves to a life of simple survival instead of flourishing.
Can you choose to be happy?
David Sack M.D. Psychology Today highlights the complexity of this question by stating that happiness in itself is complicated because it is subjective.
Some can be happy in the face of tremendous hardship while others, in spite of their lives being perfect, can still experience unhappiness.
Choosing happiness is not easy- it requires a total shift in the way you see the world, yourself, and others. It requires cognitive restructuring of your beliefs. While it might be impossible for someone to simply choose happiness, you can make one important choice- choosing to get the help and support that you need.
While simply speaking to a professional might not solve your problem overnight, choosing to restructure our beliefs and build resilience can bring you closer to having an optimistic mindset and moving forward from a depressive pattern than you might be comfortable in.
Getting out of this addictive cycle
Resigning yourself to sadness and struggle can be a way for you to cope with the stressors of this life- it might even be an effective strategy- but there will come a time when thai strategy no longer works.
When your addiction towards the comfort of depression, self pity, anger towards the world, others, and yourself affects the way you do your job, the people you love, and your own well-being- you have yourself a possible mental disorder.
Let us take a look at what you can do to get out of this maladaptive comfortzone.
There is no shame in seeking out professional help to resolve this pattern of behaviour, thought, and emotional distress. In fact it takes courage to be able to go up to someone, tell them you need help, and plow through the process of change.
And if you have lived through years of misery, depression, sadness- the perseverance alone is indicative of your inner power and strength to be able to cope with change and the unfamiliar.
Getting help will also require you to get out of your comfort zone, talk to strangers who probe into your insecurities and challenge you and your beliefs. It can be uncomfortable, at first but allowing yourself to accept yourself and your reality without judgement can be the first steps to flourishing.
Getting professional help will be something similar to looking at yourself in the mirror through an objective lens. It can be uncomfortable and stressful, you might even feel more distress and hate your therapist at one point.
Persistence is what is going to break free of the patterns that you have held onto for so long. By persisting and exploring your beliefs, evaluating them, and acknowledging them can help you accept why you are the way you are.
Acceptance can open doors to new ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving. It can also open you up to trying new strategies of coping with your depression and sadness rather than choosing to simply survive through it.
Positive psychology has highlighted the five elements that can impact well-being. This school of psychology insists that by pursuing these five elements, you can move from a mode of survival to flourishing in a life that you actually enjoy.
PERMA which stands for
- Positive emotions- seek out and engage in activities that bring about positive emotions in you. This could include making a gratitude journal, connecting with loved ones who instill joy in you, or doing things that make you happy.
- Engagement- Engaging in activities that bring you joy, that allows you to learn and grow can be one way you can improve your quality of life.
- Relationships- allow yourself to reach out to people who support you and love you unconditionally, mend broken bridges if you must, with the intent to develop a supportive and meaningful relationship with them
Seek out meaning through reflection of your regular life, relationships, and activities. Seek meaning in your job, in your interactions with people, or even meaning in the daily walk you take everyday. You can even engage in building your spirituality or engage in prosocial behaviour that allows you to do something beyond yourself.
Attainting achievements can be based on small realistic goals that you set for yourself. It could also be related to meeting the four elements mentioned above. The intent here is to set realistic goals, and make plans to achieve them.
You can make daily, hourly, motherly, weekly plans to do things that make your life a little better and reward yourself when you achieve them.
In this guide we have discussed the question of whether we can get addicted to depression, we have also explored factors that influence the development of these patterns and what we can do to improve our quality of life.
Frequently asked questions related to “can you be addicted to depression?”
Why do people get addicted to depression?
A particular habit or pattern of behaviour often is a result of our natural instinct to cope with various experiences. A person who tends to rely on sadness and depression thoughts may simply be coping the only way they know how- they know what is sadness, they know pain, it is familiar and hence they can tolerate it,
This mindset can become a pattern which can seem like they are addicted to depression.
Does depression damage your brain permanently?
Healthline streamlined the effect depression has on the brain and highlighted that Depression can damage the brain permanently. It can cause the brain to shrink and affect parts of the brain that deal with emotions, motivation, judgement etc. It can also cause brian inflammation impacting growth and development.
It can also cause restricted oxygen flow to the brain and structural and connective changes that can impact memory and emotions.
Does depression make you more susceptible to addiction?
Depression serves as a gateway into substance abuse and alcohol abuse as people who suffer from depression often turn to alcohol or drugs to escape the negative effects of severe depression.
What comes first addiction or depression?
Oftentimes, people suffer with undiagnosed mild depression which serves as a gateway into depression.Substance abuse may initially make them feel better, but it will ultimately make them even more depressed than they were before.