• Depressed and Addicted: 4 Steps to Seeing Life in Color Again
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    Depressed and Addicted: 4 Steps to Seeing Life in Color Again

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    Suffering from addiction can be difficult as it is, but what if you’re faced with a dual diagnosis? When a person struggles with both substance addiction and an underlying mental health issue, it adds a second layer of considerations to help bring a patient to full recovery.

    For someone with addiction and depression, Dr. Sheila Shilati of Seasons in Malibu (an addiction treatment center that specializes in dual diagnosis) says the two disorders are physiologically intertwined. “Depression is typically a result of an imbalance of serotonin, dopamine or norepinephrine,” she says. “Substances, such as alcohol, provide a temporary flood of some of those neurotransmitters tricking an individual into believing that they feel ‘okay.’ The problem with such is that once you remove the substance, then the void of the neurotransmitter becomes even greater, thus requiring higher quantities of drugs or alcohol to sustain some sense of balance.”

    Although recovery may require a little extra work, anyone suffering from such co-occurring disorders can find a sober life outside the confines of depression. Dr. Shilati brings her 15 years of experience in addiction treatment and shares the five most important steps to help those in the dark finally see life in color again.

    1. Be completely honest with yourself and your doctor.

    One of the problems with a dual diagnosis case is that it is difficult to detect at the first go. “The biggest hurdle is the impact of the substance,” Dr. Shilati says. “When someone is under the influence, it makes it much more challenging to observe the authentic behavior and symptoms of a mood disorder.”

    If you suspect that you or your loved one is suffering from underlying depression, tell your doctor if you notice any of the following tell-tale signs:

    • Increased personal and work life issues
    • Difficulty maintaining close relationships
    • Increased isolation
    • General loss of interest
    • Overall lack of motivation
    • Low energy
    • Chronic issues with too much or too little sleep
    • Heightened focus on not feeling “good enough”
    • General feeling of “hopelessness”

    It’s very possible that you or your loved one may have fallen into addiction to self-medicate what could be clinical depression. However, be advised that only a medical professional can accurately provide such a diagnosis, at which point a special program can be designed to address the substance use and mood disorder together.

    2. Ensure you get treatment from a quality rehab center.

    Treating depression along with addiction can be a bit tricky. That’s why Dr. Shilati suggests that as you scout for the right team to help you or your loved one, you should look at two important factors: a staff with proper credentials, experience and expertise, and the specific ways in which their program can meet the client’s unique needs.

    “Will a client be participating largely in a group setting and get lost within the crowd, or will they have the opportunity to really dive into their individual issues with one-on-one time with practitioners? Not all symptoms are the same, therefore, not all clients can be treated the same way.”

    So, list the non-negotiable factors you’d like to see in a treatment facility, then strive to meet as many of these as possible. For example, Seasons in Malibu has all master’s degree level clinicians and boasts a 95 percent satisfaction rating for overall care. If these are things you require of your team, then this will help ensure you or your loved one will be as comfortable as possible during this time of change.

    3. Get nurtured in nature.

    Humans generally crave a connection with nature. In fact, studies have found that the natural environment is essential to our general well-being and peace of mind. Dr. Shilati further corroborates this and admits that nature can play an instrumental role to addiction recovery. “A client’s ability to utilize the ocean, the mountains and fresh beach air, offers them an ability to self-soothe and recuperate,” she says.

    On another front, a quick stroll or some exercise outdoors can also help the body produce the endorphins that it’s been yearning for and help fight off depression. “[At Seasons in Malibu,] clients are heavily encouraged to participate in various daily outside activities that promote their overall wellness and ability to utilize their surroundings to promote healing.”

    4. Continue to seek healing after rehab.

    As you walk out the doors of your treatment facility, know that the recovery process is not over. “The bubble of rehab requires a nurturing step-down that can continue to meet the psychological, behavioral and emotional needs of the client,” Dr. Shilati says. “At Seasons in Malibu, they thrive on aftercare and ensure that clients have an empowered plan on maintaining a necessary continuity of care.”

    It is during this post-treatment transition stage when the really hard work begins. Aftercare programs are meant to help clients avoid falling into old behavior patterns once they leave the protected environment of the treatment center. “Ensuring that one has connected with their aftercare providers, identified strong community resources and engaged the family system for support is critical for long-term success,” she says.

    As a recovering addict or loved one, this is the time to be diligent. To better help secure continued success, ensure the person in recovery has answered the following questions:

    • Will my living environment be safe?
    • Who are the friends and family whom I can count on?
    • Have I identified my support system/s?
    • Have I mapped out my emergency plan in case I feel depressed or tempted to use?
    • Will I have a job or do I have a realistic plan towards obtaining employment?
    • What are the exact details of my aftercare treatment program and what arrangements can I make now to ensure I don’t fall through?

    Remember, life after a dual diagnosis of addiction and depression can be manageable and healthy. “By properly utilizing the tools given in rehab, a fruitful and meaningful life can be achieved,” Dr. Shilati says. “One does not ever have to suffer in the same way again.”

    If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, you may contact Seasons in Malibu for a free insurance check to see if this facility is the right one for you or your loved one.  


    Dr. Sheila Shilati

    Sheila Shilati, Psy.D., is the “COO” of Seasons in Malibu, a CARF-accredited, dual diagnosis addiction treatment center that specializes in treating trauma, addiction, and mental health. As the COO of Seasons in Malibu, she has introduced new and advanced intervention models with compassionate care and an incredible staff. For more information about Dr. Shilati and the Seasons in Malibu team, click here.


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