Does Alcohol Increase Depression?

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does alcohol increase depression

Connection Between Alcohol and Depression

Does alcohol increase depression symptoms? In a word, yes. Read on to learn more about the impact of alcohol on depression.

It is very hard to suffer from the effects of depression. Your days are cloaked in a gray haze, and you have little energy or motivation to do anything at all. In fact, the symptoms of depression can be so hard to deal with that drinking alcohol helps to numb them.

But self-medicating the depression with alcohol only makes the depression worse. When alcohol consumption increases, the risk of becoming alcoholic also rises. Depression coupled with alcohol use disorder (AUD) can be a deadly combination, with suicide rates high in this cohort.

Learn how drinking alcohol can increase depression severity. If you struggle with the dual diagnosis of depression and AUD, a program that provides dual diagnosis treatment can help.

About Depression

The DSM-5 lists nine criteria to determine if someone has clinical depression. For this diagnosis, the person presents with at least five symptoms, and these persisted for more that two weeks. The symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness and despair most of the time.
  • Slowed motor and cognitive functions.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Sudden weight change.
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed.
  • Feelings of guilt or shame.
  • Fatigue
  • Trouble making decisions.
  • Thoughts of death or suicide.

Those with moderate to severe depression may look to alcohol to help them manage the difficult symptoms. When drinking becomes chronic, it can lead to a dual diagnosis.

Depression and Alcoholism

It is like being caught in a vicious cycle. You feel sad, hopeless, have trouble sleeping, and struggle with guilt, so you drink. You may use alcohol as a means to mask the mental pain, to numb your sadness. The problem is you begin to need it more and more as time goes on. This can lead to depression with co-occurring AUD.

Effects of alcoholism and depression dual diagnosis:

  • Divorce or relationship issues.
  • Loss of custody of children.
  • Loss of a job.
  • Failing school.
  • Financial problems due to job loss or legal fees.
  • Legal problems, such as getting a DUI.
  • Health problems, such as liver disease, pancreatitis, heart disease, cancer.
  • Accidents that result in injury to self or others, or damaged property.

According to data, of the 20 million adults who had a substance use disorder about 17% also had a major depressive episode. Of that group, the substance most often used was alcohol.  Of that segment, only 7.7% of those with a dual diagnosis of major depression and AUD received dual diagnosis treatment.

How Alcohol Increases Depression Symptoms

Alcohol is a sedative that slows down the central nervous system. This also causes slowing of the breathing rate and heart rate. When someone is already depressed, drinking only enhances the symptoms of depression. This is because alcohol lowers the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, causing low mood.

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Other ways that alcohol makes depression worse might include disrupted sleep, making you feel lousy the next day. The more you drink the less you want to get outside and exercise, or to bother eating healthy foods. Alcohol abuse also leads to more isolation.

The Risk of Suicide

People with both depression and an AUD have an increased risk of suicide. About 32% of all suicides involve people with blood alcohol limits at or above the legal limit. Also, SAMHSA found that 50% of those who took their own life had suffered from depression.

Alcoholism puts a person at a ten-fold higher risk for suicide, when compared to the general population. According to a study of alcoholics, the lifetime risk of suicide is 10%-15%. Findings also showed that depression and alcoholism were comorbid in 85% of 100 completed suicides.

What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?

Exploring the root issues that might have factored into the depression is key to recovery success. Many factors can cause depression, including genetics and biology—things outside one’s control. But there are other factors and life events that also may play a role. These include childhood trauma, the death of a close loved one, divorce, a job loss, or a serious health event.

A comprehensive program will address the mental illness and the AUD at the same time. Specialized rehab programs are focused on dual diagnosis treatment. They will have psychiatric services included in the program.

Dual diagnosis treatment will include:

  • Medical detox. Detox from alcohol is closely observed, as there are some risks involved.
  • Psychotherapy. One-on-one talk sessions allow the person to explore any behaviors and thought patterns that need changing.
  • Group therapy. Peer group sessions allow members to share their own experiences and to support each other.
  • Family therapy. Family members can learn how to best support their loved one in recovery.
  • Medication. Meds may be prescribed to help manage the mental health challenge.
  • Classes. Learning more about how an AUD develops, and how to prevent relapse.

This integrated approach can help the person battling Alcohol and depression. They will learn how to manage stress with new coping tools learned in therapy. Some of these are techniques that help them relax, like yoga and mindfulness.

Lifestyle changes are also taught during the rehab process. Being taught the importance of eating healthy foods and getting regular exercise can help them create new healthy habits. Learning how crucial it is to get good, quality sleep is another recovery tip that will improve wellbeing.

You may notice your, or a loved one’s, depression symptoms getting worse. If drinking is involved, you may wonder does alcohol increase depression. Know that there is help for treating both these disorders at a dual diagnosis rehab.

Rehabs Malibu Provides Treatment for Dual Diagnosis

Rehabs Malibu offers help for people who want to free themselves from depression and alcoholism. Our team of caring psychiatric and addiction experts are here to guide you to health and wellness. Reach out today to start down the pathway to recovery. Call us at (888) 429-7279.