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Depression, Addiction and Yoga

Teen girl struggling with depression sitting down

Everyone has bad days. Whether it’s because of problems at home, work or in our relationships, we all experience down periods. For most people, the down periods come and go but for those suffering from depression, the emotional low periods don’t easily go away. Unfortunately, substance abuse is common among people suffering from depression. Many depressed individuals reach for drugs or alcohol as a way to lift their spirits or numb their pain. As a result, depression and substance abuse feed into each other, and one condition often makes the other worse.

When an individual has both depression and an addiction, it’s called a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis can be made up of any combination of mental disorders (anxiety, depression etc..) and addiction (drugs, alcohol etc..). Dual diagnoses that include depressive disorders are among the most common forms of the problem.

Amy Weintraub, a former depression sufferer, offers a solution: Yoga. “When the mind is absorbed in a negative spiral of thoughts,” Weintraub, author of Yoga for Depression explains, “the mind needs something to focus on that takes it away from that negative spiral.” Yoga for depression, she explains, does just that.

Studies have illustrated yoga’s ability to combat depression through balancing brain chemistry and stress hormone levels. Researchers have shown that not only are levels of cortisol (a major stress hormone) lowered after the practice of yoga but levels of serotonin (the “feel good” hormone) are significantly increased. A regular yoga practice can help create mental clarity and calmness, increase body awareness, relieve chronic stress patterns, relax the mind, center attention and sharpen concentration. Practicing yoga can provide individuals suffering from a dual diagnosis of depression and addiction with useful tools to actively cope with their pain and help counter feelings of helplessness and depression.


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