Author: Charles Frank

The Alcohol-Depression Connection: Symptoms, Treatment & More

alcohol and depression

You don’t have to battle the depression alone and relying on alcohol to make you feel better will only cause further pain. Reach out to a mental health professional to talk about treatment and strategies for dealing with depression. Alcohol and depression are connected in several ways, and the two often feed off of one another.

Taking some time for productive relaxation can also help ease feelings of depression. Spending time in nature can also have health benefits, including improving your mood. If the sun is out, that’s even better — sunshine can trigger the release of serotonin, which can help relieve depression. It’s more likely to worsen negative mood states, along with physical health. Dopamine produces positive emotions that make you feel good and help reinforce your desire to drink, but alcohol affects your central nervous system in other ways, too.

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Screening for above-guideline drinking has demonstrated efficacy in primary care settings and is a recommended practice (15, 16). Screening for alcohol and other substance use and misuse is particularly important in psychiatric practice given the potential for disordered substance use to worsen the course of psychiatric disorders or produce substance-induced mental disorders. Despite the availability of several evidence-based medications and behavioral therapy approaches for treating co-occurring AUD and depressive disorders, improvements in treatment for this population are clearly needed. Consideration of disorder heterogeneity and key subgroup differences may help develop more targeted and personalized treatments to improve outcomes for this population. More knowledge about optimal treatments for co-occurring AUD and depressive disorders is needed.

  1. Efforts to enhance treatment outcomes would benefit from investigation into the characteristics of people who do not respond to existing treatments.
  2. Whether you’re experiencing depression or not, it’s essential to evaluate your drinking habits and consider why you drink, when you drink, and how you feel when you drink.
  3. It also lowers inhibitions, so if you’ve been trying to keep some difficult emotions, like sadness or anger, under wraps, they may come flooding in when you drink.
  4. However, significant gaps remain in our understanding of these two disorders, and these gaps present important opportunities for future research.

Much like barbiturates (sedatives), alcohol is a drug that affects the central nervous system (CNS) and the brain’s functionality. It helps people understand events and thought processes that lead to depression and substance misuse. If not treated, alcohol use disorder can become a life-long struggle. Almost 30 percent of Americans will experience alcohol use disorder at some point in their lifetimes.

Alcohol and the Etiology of Depression

A statistical technique such as MSM is only as good as the data available to it, and Visontay et al. are circumspect in acknowledging the limitations, such as unmeasured confounders. Analysis of observational data produces associations from which causality is a conjecture but cannot be proven. For example, the analysis sought to correct for the “sick quitter” phenomenon by controlling for heavy drinking during adolescence, prior to measurements of drinking and depression in subsequent waves. More than half of the group that abstained during early and middle adulthood had an early history of above-guideline or risky drinking, and there could be other mental health vulnerabilities in the abstainer group that were not measured.

That’s why your doctor or psychologist will work with you to create a treatment approach that addresses both issues. During therapy, you can learn coping mechanisms that can help you return to life without drinking. Alcohol can significantly impact the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain, making depression worse. Antidepressants can help even levels of these chemicals and can help relieve symptoms of depression. Alcohol may be a form of self-medication for people with depression. The “burst” of energy from alcohol can be a welcome relief against some symptoms.

alcohol and depression

Persistent depressive disorder (PDD) has milder symptoms than MDD but lasts longer. It’s often called high-functioning depression and involves having a low mood for at least 2 years. Some people with underlying depression may start using alcohol to find relief from their symptoms. The two conditions often co-occur with anywhere between 33% and 63.8% of people with AUD also having depression. People who have both tend to have more severe symptoms than those who have only one disorder.

The more you drink, however, the more likely your emotional state will begin plummeting back down. Sometimes, alcohol can make you feel even worse than you did before. It’s not uncommon to use alcohol to cope with difficult feelings and experiences.

Factors Contributing to Alcohol Use and Depression

The subgroup reporting risky drinking also had modestly increased depression. Alcohol may be a socially acceptable drug, but it’s still a drug. Alcohol abuse and dependence are both considered an alcohol use disorder, with studies finding that alcohol dependence is more closely tied to the persistence of depressive disorders. Many studies have found that alcohol dependence is closely linked to depression.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) can occur alongside depression and vice versa. It can also be hard to tell which disorder is worsening the other. Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health.

For example, alcohol may temporarily reduce anxiety and lower inhibitions. Individuals with alcohol use disorder may drink too much alcohol, too often. People with AUD are 1.7 times more likely to have had PDD in the previous year. Those with alcohol dependence are 2.8 times more likely to have had PDD in the previous year. Sometimes it’s difficult to determine the cause-and-effect dynamic between alcohol and depression. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, moderate drinking means one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

While alcohol use can directly trigger feelings of depression, it can also contribute to symptoms in more indirect ways. Understanding the link between alcohol and depression can help you better manage depression after drinking, or better yet, prevent it from happening in the first place. Whether you’re experiencing depression or not, it’s essential to evaluate your drinking habits and consider why you drink, when you drink, and how you feel when you drink. “In our society alcohol is readily available and socially acceptable,” says Jill Bolte Taylor, PhD, author of Whole Brain Living, explains. “Depression and alcohol misuse are often tied because we take a depressant to counter a chemical depression which only makes it worse.”

Alcohol use disorders may be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the combination of symptoms you’re experiencing, but drinking problems can exist regardless of a clinical diagnosis. No matter your drink of choice, alcohol can easily be abused and often is, especially when it’s used to self-medicate. Pouring yourself a glass of wine or cracking a beer at the end of a long day may temporarily relieve feelings of depression, because alcohol acts as a sedative, but it will exacerbate those feelings and actually intensify them. Major depression and alcohol use disorder are also co-dependent in women, research suggests.

However, significant gaps remain in our understanding of these two disorders, and these gaps present important opportunities for future research. Alcohol misuse and depression are both serious problems that you shouldn’t ignore. If you think you have a problem with either, talk to your doctor or therapist. There are lots of choices when it comes to medication that treats depression, and there are drugs that lower alcohol cravings and counter the desire to drink heavily.