What You Should Know about Alcohol and Depression
Alcohol is one of the oldest abused substances, and it’s used for its ability to make people relax and forger their worries. Many people who drink do so moderately, but some people may be more vulnerable than others to become dependent on alcohol as a way to cope with everyday struggles.
Depression is a mental health condition that causes long periods of sadness and emptiness. For some people, depression can become life-threatening.
Alcohol and depression become paired together in two ways; when you drink to alleviate the depression and when you become depressed because you drink. The two go together like oil and water when it comes to your mental health and well being, but, too often they become inseparable and the problems usually get worse as the drinking exacerbates the depression and vice versa.
The following is what you should know about alcohol and depression that might save you or someone you care about a lot of heartache in the long run and possibly even a life.
We can help you find treatment for alcohol abuse and addiction. Call 800-481-6965 (Who Answers?) toll free anytime to find help.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that slows down brain activities and functioning to produce a tranquilizing effect reducing inhibitions, impairing cognition and judgment, and decreasing motor functioning skills. Drinking alcohol can cause you to become unpredictable in your thoughts or actions and exhibit a broad range of emotions including depression. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways, and can affect the way the brain looks and works. These disruptions can change mood and behavior, and make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.”
Over time, repeated use of alcohol changes the brain’s chemistry and the way it functions limiting its natural abilities to regulate emotions, thoughts, or behaviors. The more alcohol that is consumed the more nerve cells that are affected and possibly damaged, increasing the risks of dependency on alcohol and the mental health disorders that go with it.
Warning Signs of Alcohol Dependence
According to co-morbidity studies of the NIAAA, “Alcohol– dependent respondents were 3.9 times more likely to have had major depressive disorder (27.9 percent) during the previous year than those who were not alcohol dependent.” The warning signs of alcohol dependence may include:
- Your alcohol use negatively affects your relationships with others.
- You develop a tolerance and need to drink more to get the desired effects.
- You drink to avoid unpleasant feelings of withdrawals.
- You deny or secretly use alcohol, hiding the amounts you drink from others.
- You lose interest in once enjoyable activities unless you are able to drink.
- Regular use of alcohol to cope with anger, frustration, anxiety or depression.
- Regular use of alcohol to feel confident.
- You feel angry, disgusted, or suicidal because of your drinking.
- You regularly get hangovers after using alcohol.
- People tell you that your drinking makes you become gloomy, aggressive, or embittered.
- You spend a lot of time and money on your drinking.
- You feel anxious and shaky, becoming preoccupied with drinking early in the morning.
You do not have to struggle alone. Call 800-481-6965 (Who Answers?) toll free anytime for help finding treatment.
Connecting Alcohol and Depression
Because alcohol affects the chemistry of the brain, it increases the risk of depression. Add to the hangovers, feeling ill, anxious, guilty, ashamed, and out of control, life itself can get more depressing and cause you to drink more. You may find yourself estranged from people who are troubled by your drinking or be ashamed of the mistakes and harm your drinking has caused to you or others and isolate yourself as a defense mechanism to avoid those feelings. Being alone only gives you more time to dwell on your problems and reinforces the relationship between alcohol and depression.
Alcohol and depression is never something you should take lightly. Confrontations, financial distress, incarcerations, and job loss can have a major impact on your quality of life and are influential contributors to the suicide attempts of many. According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Every year in the United States, more than 36,000 individuals die by suicide, hundreds of thousands attempt suicide, and millions of friends and loved ones are affected.”
Warning Signs of Depression
Occasional feelings of sadness often accompany events in your life such as physical health problems, the loss of a loved one, or the loss of something else valuable to you. This isn’t to say that you have a depression disorder unless these feelings continue and the important thing to know is that the issues cannot be resolved by drinking. The warning signs of depression to look out for include:
- Persistent feelings of sadness, dysphoria, or depressive moods
- Loss of pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed
- Weight loss or gain from changes in appetite
- Insomnia and other sleep difficulties such as sleeping too much or frequent wakenings
- Loss of energy and motivations
- Increased weakness or fatigue
- Increased restlessness
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or self-pity
- Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
- Decreased performance at work or school
- Neglect of hygiene, health, or obligations
- Harmful or suicidal ideations or attempts
Call 800-481-6965 (Who Answers?) toll free anytime for help finding alcohol rehab.
Overcoming Alcohol and Depression
As you can see, many of the signs of depression coincide with signs of alcohol dependence and it’s very hard to distinguish which is primary and which is secondary as long as the drinking continues. Stopping alcohol use can lead to withdrawals and increase the intensity of the depression, but help is available.
Getting into a safe detox and rehab where your symptoms and depression can be monitored and appropriately treated is a key to recovery. You need the support of people who know the risks and can help you change those areas that are working against you.