Alcohol addiction and depression are two conditions that can significantly impact a person’s mental and physical health. They are also often interconnected. Alcohol and depression have a “chicken or the egg” relationship, in the sense that one can lead to the other and vice versa. Additionally, they have a mutual pull on each other; when one condition is present, the other can easily follow.
This reciprocal relationship means alcohol and depression can exacerbate each other’s worst traits, leading to a downward spiral of self-loathing. An addict uses alcohol to escape from depression briefly and worsens the condition.
At GateHouse Treatment, we understand that recovery relies on holistic wellness and mental health improvement. This article will explore the link between alcohol and depression and their harmful interaction.
1. What is Alcohol Addiction?
Alcohol is a habit-forming drug that changes your basal ganglia, an area in the center of your brain responsible for back-and-forth communication, rewards, habits, and motivation. As the basil ganglia regulate these processes and emotions, it also plays a prominent role in addiction. Alcohol addiction, or alcohol use disorder (ASD), is a chronic disease characterized by compulsive alcohol consumption, loss of control over alcohol intake, and the development of tolerance and withdrawal symptoms. People with alcohol addiction may continue to drink despite its negative consequences on their health, relationships, and work.
2. What is Depression?
Depression is a mental health disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, characterized by persistent sadness, hopelessness, and a loss of joy for activities that were once enjoyable. Depression can also cause physical symptoms, such as changes in appetite, tiredness, and sleep disturbances.
There is much debate in the scientific community over what causes depression. Millions of chemical reactions in different brain areas could lead to or make one susceptible to the condition. There are also genetic and environmental factors, such as terrible life events, can make one depressed.
3. The Relationship Between Alcohol and Depression
Alcohol and depression are closely related, and the two conditions are frequently concurrent. Addiction to alcohol and depression also have common risk factors. For example, both conditions are more prevalent in people who have experienced trauma or have a family history of mental health issues. Chronic stress, social isolation, and financial difficulties also exacerbate the conditions. Around one-third of people suffering from alcohol abuse also suffer from depression. This diagnostic fact means that depression is one of the side effects of alcohol abuse. But why does this come about?
Let’s assume two scenarios involving alcohol and depression. The first is depression coming before alcohol addiction. We’ve all heard the phrase “drown your sorrows” because very often, that’s what people do when feeling profound sadness. Alcohol depresses the central nervous system (CNS), which means a few drinks can be soothing and help handle stress. However, for many, it turns from an occasional pleasure to a consistent crutch to help escape life’s burdens and worries. Drinking to forget, having dull emotions, self-medicating, or passing out are all precursors to a substance abuse problem.
Depression often precedes alcohol abuse. Teenagers who have had significant bouts of depression are more likely to drink. Women are more likely to engage in alcohol abuse if they are depressed. Alcohol and depression are not comfortable bedfellows; they do not mix.
Let’s move on to the second scenario involving alcohol and depression, where alcohol abuse comes first, and then depression follows. Continued alcohol abuse can create the conditions necessary to develop a depressive disorder. An alcohol addict no longer feels the original joy and rush of drinking. They are likelier to feel the negative emotions brought about by alcohol’s role in depressing the brain, including bitterness, sadness, or anger. In addition, hangovers can cause anxiety and depression; if the body develops a dependency, a drink is required to alleviate that somewhat.
Alcohol also creates social conditions for depression. Those suffering from substance abuse with lowered inhibitions are more likely to get into situations that hurt themselves and alienate others. They may lose friends, family members, and partners over their inconsiderate behavior or statements. Frequent downtime recovering from benders and loss of mental sharpness also affects job performance and can cost an addict their livelihood. Loss of relationships, disruption of sleep schedule, loss of social life, loss of income, and loss of purpose are all documented precursors to depression.
4. Alcohol and Depression’s Impact on Wellness
When alcohol and depression mix, they make the other harder to treat. Someone suffering from depression may take longer to seek professional help, instead turning to the bottle as a form of therapy. Drinking can also override the positive effects of commonly prescribed anti-depressants and worsen their side effects. Getting drunk on anti-depressants is easier, leading to potentially riskier behavior. Alcohol abuse can also make you forget to take anti-depressants, which require a regular regime to have an effect and potentially trigger anti-depressant withdrawal symptoms.
Depression can also sabotage someone’s recovery plan. Sustained alcohol abuse and its cancer risks, cirrhosis, and other serious effects require an enduring commitment to sobriety, meetings, therapy, and a lifestyle change. Depression is an impairment, making it difficult to get out of bed and maintain commitments.
Finally, alcohol and depression can lead to the worst thing of all, suicide. Depression is a condition that frequently leads to suicidal ideation, meaning thoughts of suicide. Those with depression are more likely to take their life. For people experiencing this challenge, alcohol can significantly increase the risk of suicide. People with severe alcohol problems had five times the risk of suicide than habitual social drinkers. The lowered inhibitions, depressed nervous system, and impaired decision-making can push someone to a rash action they would never complete while sober. In every scenario, alcohol and depression are an awful combination, mutually reinforcing and mutually destructive.
GateHouse Treatment Can Help
At GateHouse, we believe that mental health and recovery cannot be separated. To be sober and lead a better life, one must be happy. That’s why we do everything in our power to offer top-of-the-line, individualized care to make a meaningful impact in you or your loved one’s life. We offer outpatient, intensive outpatient, partial hospitalization, innovative therapies, and alumni programs to secure your wellness. We also recommend quality sober homes, so you have the best environment to recover.
Reach out by calling (855) 448-3588 or contact us through our website for a free consultation. We are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and are ready to help with whatever challenges you wish to overcome.
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