Exploring the Link Between Alcohol Use Disorder and Depression

Alcohol use disorder and depression often occur together. Alcohol can worsen the symptoms of depression and other mood disorders. Meanwhile, depression can cause individuals to consume excessive amounts of alcohol. Each condition can make the other worse, creating a cycle that can be pervasive if not treated. If you or a loved one is dealing with one of these conditions, you need to be aware of the link, and consider getting them into an alcohol treatment program.

What is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to problematic drinking. The term alcohol use disorder can cover a variety of alcohol issues. Symptoms include:

  • Spending a lot of time drinking
  • Craving alcohol continually
  • Drinking even though it is having a negative effect on relationships
  • Reducing other activities in favor of drinking
  • Frequently drinking too much or for too long
  • Drinking even though it leads to depression

What is Depression?

Depression is a form of mental illness and it can be very serious. It is characterized by persistent sadness regardless of circumstances. Depression can lead to other conditions and it can affect every area of an individual’s life. It often causes difficulties with family and friends and problems in the workplace. High-risk behavior, substance abuse, smoking, and eating disorders are more common in people who are depressed.

How Depression Can Lead to Alcohol Use Disorder

Some people who struggle with depression drink alcohol to cope with their feelings. Since alcohol is a sedative, it can distract them from their sadness. However, while drinking may relieve symptoms of depression temporarily, it can worsen the condition in the long term. Since alcohol abuse can negatively affect relationships, finances, and careers, depression often worsens. This leads to a cycle of drinking in an effort to self-medicate and suffering worsening depression because of alcohol abuse.

When an individual regularly abuses alcohol, they can develop physical dependence and addiction. Many people who suffer from major depression also have an alcohol use disorder.  Some people have genetic predispositions to both conditions and the onset of one triggers the other. Hangovers can cause feelings of depressions and ongoing alcohol abuse can make that depression last longer. Furthermore, people who abuse alcohol while they are on antidepressants will find these drugs are less effective. The depressing effects of alcohol will, therefore, worsen their depression.

How Alcohol Abuse Can Lead to Depression

As we discussed above, depression can make a person more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder. However, it is even more common for alcohol abuse to cause depression. In this case, the increased feelings of sadness can lead to more drinking in an effort to dull the pain. Once again, a cycle is perpetuated.

If a person experiences depression because of alcohol abuse, their symptoms could go away when they stop drinking. However, it is important to remember that alcohol withdrawal can lead to life-threatening withdrawal symptoms. If you or a loved one wants to stop drinking after developing physical dependence, medical supervision is essential. You shouldn’t attempt to quit cold turkey on your own.

Treating Depression and Alcohol Abuse

Treating depression usually involves antidepressant drugs. These medications modify the patient’s brain chemistry and help to stabilize their moods. Since antidepressants are not addictive and the risk of abuse is low, they are especially helpful for alcoholics. People with substance abuse disorders are more likely to try to abuse prescribed medications. Patients usually begin to feel the effects of antidepressants within a week or two. However, it can take months for them to get the full benefits.

While antidepressant medication can be helpful, it doesn’t cure depression. Drugs should be used along with therapy and lifestyle changes. Psychotherapy can help patients to address underlying issues and develop better habits. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has especially proven to be effective in treating both alcohol use disorder and depression. It teaches individuals how to anticipate problems and plan a response ahead of time. The skills learned can be used well after the individual leaves treatment.

Contact Asheville Recovery Center to Learn About Our Treatment Options

Alcoholism or depression can be very difficult for an individual to manage. When they co-exist, they can result in significantly worse outcomes. Given the likelihood that one will trigger the other, both disorders need to be treated professionally. If you’re willing to give comprehensive, personalized treatment a try, contact Asheville Recovery Center. We’ll help you to manage your addiction and begin the journey to an all-round healthier life.

REQUEST A CALL BACK

100% CONFIDENTIAL