alcohol and depression

What Is the Connection Between Alcohol and Depression?

What if you were sliding further into depression without even knowing it?

Many people use alcohol as a coping mechanism to deal with their depression. However, there are many scary links between alcohol and depression.

Wondering what the connection really is? Keep reading to find out!

Chicken and the Egg Problem

There is a simple reason that people are confused about the connections between depression and alcohol. First of all, it’s not always clear which causes which!

For example, many people with depression turn to alcohol as a way to seek relief. This works temporarily because of how alcohol affects the brain (more on this later).

However, alcohol dependence and alcoholism can cause a number of negative consequences in someone’s life. And such consequences put them at extreme risk of developing depression.

We’re going to do a deeper dive into all of the factors surrounding the issue. However, it’s important to understand how each of these things can effectively cause the development of each other.

Depressingly Common

Many people claim to have depression. And morbid jokes about depression have become the regular subject of memes. But just how common is depression?

On average, depression affects one out of every fifteen people every year. And there is a higher potential for depression among those who are in their teens and twenties.

This means that there are over 200,000 people suffering from depression in the United States alone. It’s almost certain that you know someone who is currently suffering.

Now that you know approximately how many people experience depression, it’s important to know how both depression and alcohol affect the chemicals in your brain.

Chemical Connection

As we mentioned before, many who suffer from depression turn towards alcohol as a form of treatment. And this is an approach that may work…right up until it stops working, that is.

Depression is persistent because it involves the chemistry of your brain. When your brain experiences a chemical imbalance, you may experience depression.

This is why most antidepressants seek to restore some of that chemical balance. Unfortunately, most antidepressants are expensive and require prescriptions, meaning that not everyone who needs them will be able to get them.

Because of this, many people turn towards alcohol as a cheaper and more accessible way of treating depression. And while it may provide temporary relief for some people, this relief is not lasting.

Basically, alcohol can temporarily help someone feel good by boosting certain neurotransmitters and blocking others. And it can help someone with activities ranging from socialization to sleep.

When a depressed person stops drinking, though, their depression may be worse. They may experience increased stress levels and feel like many of their symptoms are worse.

Different Kinds of Depression

Alcohol affects many people with depression in different ways. This is largely due to the fact that there are so many different kinds of depression.

Some people experience Seasonal Affective Disorder. As the name implies, SAD symptoms primarily last through the winter, resulting in what many simply identify as the holiday blues.

Psychotic depression is on the more extreme end of things. This can cause extreme paranoia, insomnia, emotional instability, and even hallucinations.

Persistent Depressive Disorder refers to symptoms of depression lasting for two years or more. Such symptoms may include poor self-esteem, difficulty making decisions, poor concentration, and social isolation.

Finally, there’s Major Depression. This is when depression symptoms begin to affect someone’s daily life. Symptoms may include low energy, irritability, frequent crying, and thoughts of suicide.

Alcohol may alternately hold off or exacerbate any and all of these symptoms. So while alcohol affects different depressions in different ways, it’s good for all depressed people to avoid it altogether.

One Thing Leads to Another

We have focused on how depression can lead to alcoholism as a form of coping with symptoms. But how does alcohol consumption itself lead to depression?

First, there is nothing inherently wrong with mild, occasional drinking. And many studies suggest there may even be health benefits to drinking the occasional glass of wine.

However, regular drinking may eventually turn into alcohol dependence or outright alcoholism. And this eventually starts having a negative impact on a person’s personal and professional life.

If someone begins losing friends or even a job due to their drinking, they will experience sadness and regret. And this may eventually blossom into full-blown depression.

It’s true that not every heavy drinker develops depression and not every depressed person is a drinker. But the risk factor for one thing leading to another is very clear.

Diagnosing Depression

You now know exactly how prevalent depression is. But do you know how to diagnose depression in yourself or those you love?

The best way to seek diagnosis is to seek out a medical professional who has experience with depression. However, there are some “warning signs” to be on the lookout for in your own life.

For instance, those whose mood often fluctuates or who experience insomnia may be at risk. Similarly, those who think about harming themselves or others are at risk of depression.

Persistent feelings of sadness are a major warning sign. And, as we have discussed, regular use of alcohol may be a factor.

The final warning sign is whether these feelings have begun to affect your personal or professional life. If the answer is “yes,” then you may well have depression.

Treating Depression

There are many kinds of therapy and forms of medication that can help treat depression. However, those with alcohol dependence and depression may need more specialized treatment.

Numerous treatment centers are able to treat alcohol dependence and depression at the same time. This can help to restore the body and mind simultaneously.

Keep in mind that alcoholism and depression have another big connection: the first step in getting better is admitting that you need help!

Alcohol and Depression: The Bottom Line

Now you know more about the link between alcohol and depression. But do you know who you can turn to for help?

At 1st Step Behavioral Health, we are ready to help you rediscover the real “you” again. To begin that journey, just contact us today!