A new study from the University of Michigan illustrates the role relationships play in worsening depression and addiction for women. The article summarizing the findings from the study reports several interesting results. These results have a significant impact on families considering treatment. It finds that unlike other disorders, including anti-social personality disorder, depression in addiction-prone women does not improve over time, it actually worsens. This is particularly important for families considering treatment because it helps answer the question "will she just grow out of it?" When it comes to addiction and depression the answer according to this study, is no. Among the other results and the influencing factors the study finds:
1. The women’s partners’ struggles with addiction and antisocial behavior, such as run-ins with the law, worsened the women’s own symptoms and behaviors.
2. Children’s behavior also had a negative impact on their mothers. When children exhibited behaviors that included acting out and getting into trouble, their mothers’ alcohol problems and antisocial behavior tended to worsen. Meanwhile, when children were sad, withdrawn or isolated, their mothers’ depression increased.
These two findings draw direct links to the role relationships play in the mental health of women, and are consistent with the anecdotal information we, at Spring Ridge Academy, have found with our students and families. We have seen many young women make great gains in their maturity and the regulation of moods and addictive behavior, only to see those same students relapse in relationships. These young women with "good intention" (albeit misguided) frequently choose boyfriends that need to be "rescued." Predictably, rescuing fails, and relapse for the young woman ensues, bringing with it mood disregulation and the return of depressive symptoms.
The second finding regarding the impact of children's mood and behaviors on mothers provides further support and incentive for a holistic approach which includes family therapy in any treatment process. Both factors illustrate the importance that relationships play in lives of women. Young women not only treatment that addresses compulsive behavior and depression, they also need a model of healthy relationships. Equally as important is the opportunity to begin to practice forming and maintaining healthy relationships in a safe and progressively challenging environment. The author of the study Anne Buu Ph.D. echoes this point in her assertion that based on these findings treatment interventions “might have the most impact if they improve social supports, educational opportunities, access to family counseling and neighborhoods environments,” Buu says.