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Living with an addict in denial: Coping with depression and anxiety

Addiction has a negative effect on all the people close to an addict. The loved ones of addicts endure lies, manipulation, emotional and sometimes physical abuse. The daily reality for co-addicts is centered on fear, sadness, pain, and worry. This way of life can eventually take its toll on family members. Serious mental health issues may surface as a result.

Here, we review the two main mental health disorders which can surface as you’re living with someone in active addiction: Depression and Anxiety. Then, we invite your questions, comments, or stories in the space at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all comments personally and promptly.

#1 Depression

Depression feels like you have a hole in your chest where your heart used to be. Feelings of hopelessness and displeasure become overwhelming. Prolonged depression can affect your health both mentally and physically. Persistent sadness may lead to clinical depression which can affect:

  • eating habits
  • hormones
  • mood
  • pleasure
  • sleeping habits
  • your thoughts

When you are depressed, there is no easy way to snap out of it. You lose the ability to get up and decide to be happy. This is where depression becomes a problem. Major or clinical depression can negatively affect how mechanisms work in your body and your brain. But there are ways to cope with depression and addiction in the family.

Situational vs. Major Depression

Depression can come and go due to the situation. You may experience depression due to a trauma, loss, divorce, or other factors which will eventually work themselves out over time. But how do you know when depression is short-term, or long-term? And how can you get help?

When loving an addict and living with an addict in denial, it is likely the situation has lasted a long time and will continue for an unidentified amount of time. Living with constant unknown and instability and watching someone you love decline can cause situational depression to evolve into major or clinical depression. Here are some major symptoms. Clinical depression may cause you to:

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  • withdraw from people
  • withdraw from situations
  • quit social activities
  • avoid things you used to do

Dealing with depression in daily life can be learned. However, some cases require professional help. Depression can be so severe it causes suicidal thoughts, complete hopelessness, and may need to be treated with behavioral therapies and medication. When negative circumstances do not go away, that is when unhappiness can make the transition from situational depression to long term mental health issues.

#2 Anxiety

Anxiety and depression usually go hand-in-hand. Long lasting anxiety can cause depression and long lasting depression can cause anxiety. To differentiate, anxiety keeps you feeling on edge. Negative thoughts persist until you start to feel anxious performing every day activities. Sometimes anxiety becomes the norm. Anxiety is constant feelings of unease, worry, stress, angst, fear, and can even escalate to panic disorder.

Both anxiety and panic disorder left untreated can have devastating effects on your psyche and your physical health. Anxiety affects your mood and stress level. Anxiety can lead to panic attacks, over or under eating, suppressed immune function, and exacerbate chronic illnesses. However, anxiety treatment can help you learn new ways to cope with known and unknown elements in your life. And, you won’t be struggling in the dark.

Living with and addict can cause PTSD

So, what can potentially happen when you internalize the depression and anxiety over time? I can tell you about this possibility by sharing something with you from my own personal life.

Living with an addict for twelve years, I lived with uncertainty for a long period of time. When the situation finally ended I felt free and learned to live my life and be happy. It was not until years later that I had an episode of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder that came out of nowhere.

It was a devastating period of my life where depression and panic disorder was so severe I could not function at all. I felt as if my life was over and could not cope with any situation, even things as simple as bathing my children. I could not speak without crying, focus, maintain a thought and my mind was racing with fear every moment of my waking and sleeping hours.

Long-term effects of life with an addict can be treated

What I uncovered with the help of a therapist, meditation and deep introspection was there were long-term effects due to living with an addict for twelve years. Jumping right back in to life feet first left underlying issues unresolved, residual stress, and new stress that I did not have the time or consciousness to deal with.

So, when I moved a thousand miles away from all of my loved ones it was just this very traumatic event or spark which ignited my PTSD. As happy as I was about my new life, husband, and my three beautiful children, the effects of my twelve years living with extreme anxiety and bouts of situational depression were suppressed issues that erupted due to a perfect storm.

What to do when you need help?

Addiction affects many. The mental health of an addict is only one source of emotional and psychological anguish that trickles down to others. But living a life with chronic depression and anxiety day after day is like not living at all. It is the antithesis of the word “life.”  So what can you do if you’re overwhelmed by anxiety or depression?

1. Be proactive. It would be ideal to deal with the stress and anxiety before it gets out of hand but this is not usually the case because a co-addict can become consumed with an addict’s addiction. If you’re living with an addict, talk about your feelings with a trusted friend, advisor, or professional. Getting these feelings out in the open is step 1.

2. Know that help is always there. When depression and anxiety render your life unbearable, finding help at that point may be more difficult. It is hard to reach out and change your life when you are deep into a depression. However, know that psychologists, family counselors, and licensed clinical social workers are certified to offer help. So if you see signs of these feelings, it is advantageous to ask for help ASAP.

3. Commit to self-development over the long term. Learn coping skills early on would be great. But, sometimes personal changes comes on the order of decades rather than months. Commit to personal growth as a lifelong process. And you’ll get both the help and the peace that you long for as you grow.

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6 Responses to “Living with an addict in denial: Coping with depression and anxiety
Carly
2:09 pm November 24th, 2015

Hi I just wanted to say what a fantastic page this is and give a little insight to what I went through and I’m nearly out the other side.

I was with my partner for 17 years three kids later both have great jobs car house dog cat perfect. For all rfge relationship he was a weed smoker daily. Still a great dad good man a little lazy but everything was ok. About 5 years ago coke came in to our lives. Alcohol followed. Hex changed he was distant, cold a dr more lazy then ever and complain about everything. I couldn’t do anything right. Two mths ago I left him it was the biggest release ever. We still need to talk because of the kid’s and would love to take him back but he us still on it still refusing to get help. It’s a shame as he is a functioning addict. Sodxmetimes onlyj wish he would hit his rocj bottom but he won’t his mum enables him to continue, his girlfriend is d oing the same. It’s hard

Amanda Andruzzi
4:49 pm November 24th, 2015

Carly,
I want to thank you for sharing. You are doing the right thing by letting go because it is best for you and your children. As for him, you do have to let him play this out and hit bottom, but with others enabling him it may not happen. But that doesn’t mean that you need to live like that anymore and you are free now. It is hard to let go of someone who you know can be so wonderful and who you once had a great life with but you cannot make him go back. In fact if he always smoked weed then there was an issue he was not dealing with all along that the drug was masking. You have to remember you have lost trust and possibly respect for his behavior towards you so it will never be the same and entertaining a relationship would require him to be in recovery for real. He has a lot of work to do and you can’t wait around for his recovery, you need to focus on your own. You and your children need to heal and find peace.
Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict
View the video book trailer: http://sbprabooks.com/amandaandruzzi/video/

Chris
3:24 am November 29th, 2015

I love reading about peoples journey of addiction and recovery. It has become a major passion of mine.

Marie
8:28 pm December 18th, 2015

Carly
I know exactly how you feel. I just left my husband a few months ago and we have been together for 24 years. Crack was his drug of choice and he has been doing it the entire time we have been together only I didnt know it in the beginning. He is a funtioning user which makes him think he doesnt have a problem. It became a real problem for me when he brought it into our home and started smoking in front of me. He stopped doing it in front of me but he still smoked in our home. He felt as long as he provided, I should not have a problem if he smokes “a little crack”. It drove me insane and I thought I was losing my mind. I kept telling him I would leave but he didnt believe me. I only wanted a separation in hopes he would get some help and we could go to counseling. Long story short, I filed for divorce and I have been depressed ever since. He is a good guy but can be very mean. He is going to hut his bottom and I will be blamed for it. All of our possessions plus business is in my name and I walked away from it all. I am being blamed because he cant work. He wont look for a job so its my fault he has no money. He cant get the business in his name for reasons I wont go into but instead of focusing on fixing our marriage he is telling everyone that I am trying to take him down and see him fall flat on his face. Its hard not being without him but I know its for the best. I hope and pray one day he will realize I didnt do it on purpose and realize how much I loved him and wanted it to work. Good Luck to you and you are not the only one going through something like this. Its hard walking away from someone you have been with for 24 years.

debi s
9:25 pm January 7th, 2016

Well I found this article to be somewhat helpful. Glad for the option to reply. I really want to seek help however I DO NOT wish to take any meds. Cognitive therapy is the direction I want to go. Ive been abused in everyway imaginable as a child and adult. I am in recovery almost 5 yrs. I believe I may b suffering from ptsd however haven’t been diagnosed. In addition to unresolved past issues, ive also been dealing w my sons active addiction for a year now. This has sparked a mental/physical nightmare within me. Any advice will greatly b appreciated. Thank you for your time,debi s

Amanda Andruzzi
10:24 pm January 10th, 2016

Debi s,

You don’t have to take medication but, you can try some natural therapies that can be helpful, eating a whole foods diet, exercise, cbt and EMDR are all things, that if you put them together will help you. You need to deal with the lifetime of trauma and can naturally raise your seratonin and good chemicals to help with the depression. Don’t give up, get help, get support.
Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict View the video book trailer: http://sbprabooks.com/amandaandruzzi/video/

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About Amanda Andruzzi

Amanda Andruzzi, MPH, AADP, CHES, is a Certified Health Coach, founder of Symptom-Free Wellness, and the author of Hope Street. Her first book, Hope Street memoir is an inspirational story of one woman's frightening journey of co-addiction that led her to uncover courage, unbelievable strength and overcome great adversity. She resides with her daughter, husband, and two sons in Florida.

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