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Alcoholism and Depression: What’s the Connection?

Like the chicken and the egg, it’s hard to know which came first: alcoholism or depression. Many people suffer from both, and the symptoms of both conditions are very similar. The two diseases can interact to cause serious problems for those afflicted. 

Treatment and recovery are challenging for those diagnosed with the dual issues of alcoholism and depression. When someone is in the throes of either condition,  they can wreak serious damage to their families, careers, health and lives.  

Understanding this dual demon is the first step towards getting help. Here are six facts about alcoholism and depression that help if you or a family member are facing these issues. 

1. Alcohol is a Depressant

A few drinks usually make people feel elated, talkative and loose. Drinking alcohol seems to have a stimulating effect. Actually, alcohol is clinically categorized as a depressant. Being inebriated slows your reaction time.

When you start drinking heavily for an extended period of time, you are likely to experience depression. Alcoholism has a cumulative effect on the nervous system.

Booze lowers neurotransmission levels and disrupts the balance in the brain. Excessive drinking actually lowers the amount of serotonin in the brain, preventing effective mood regulation. 

2. Depressive People Often Self Medicate with Alcohol

One-third of people with depression also drink too much. The initial happy rush that you get from a drink is a temporary respite from sadness and inertia. However, that faux happiness is usually short-lived.

Studies show that children who exhibit signs of depression early in life are more likely to become alcoholics. They are also more likely to experiment with drugs and have suicidal thoughts. 

Women are more than twice as likely to start drinking heavily if they have a history of depression.

3. Drinking Too Much Causes Problems which Make Depression Worse

When a person descends into alcoholism, they usually start to experience problems in their personal and professional lives. They may have trouble showing up for work or performing their job. They may get fired. They may have trouble paying bills.

Personal relationships suffer greatly when one of the partners is an alcoholic. The cycle of drunkness, drama and regret impacts spouses and children, causing tension and distress amongst the whole family.

Depression can increase when the support structure of life like family and home start to crumble. When that happens, the alcoholic wants to drink even more. Thus the cycle continues. 

4. Together Alcoholism and Depression Can Lead to Suicide 

Many people suffering from alcoholism actually have a dual diagnosis, meaning they have mental illness as well, like clinical depression or bipolar disorder. Left untreated, the dual diagnosis patient is vulnerable to self-harm and even suicide. 

Drinking makes depressive symptoms worse. It further erodes self-esteem, motivation and energy. The interplay of the two diseases causes them both to get progressively worse. Depressed drinkers’ consumption of alcohol escalates. They are more likely to consider suicide.

If a patient is on medication for depressive disorders, booze will negate the effects of the medicine. The effects of the drinking will increase and anti-depressant medication will not work. Mixing medications with booze can cause overdoses.

5. Stopping Drinking Can Increase Symptoms of Depression 

When a patient receives treatment for alcoholism, he should let his doctors know about a history of depression. Once he detoxes from the alcohol in his body, he may experience many physical and psychological consequences including depression.

Alcoholics have often experienced traumatic experiences or relationships in the past. The alcoholic may have used alcohol or years to forget abuse, neglect or other trauma.  Once their alcohol is taken away, they remember more clearly what they have been through

Early sobriety is a delicate time, and depressive periods may return with increased power. These episodes may be so strong that the alcoholic becomes tempted to drink again to make the pain go away. Relapse is extremely common for recovering alcoholics, and it is often triggered by depression.

Treatment centers and rehabs help the alcoholic learn to cope with life without alcohol. When patients examine difficult issues from their past, psychotherapy can help them move through the pain without drinking.

6. There is Help Available 

Often the most difficult step for an alcoholic with depression is to ask for help. Both diseases thrive on self-delusion and self-loathing. The patient often believes that no one cares or that there is no hope. 

Professional treatment centers help patients with both of these conditions.  It is safer and more effective for a patient to seek professional care than trying to quit on their own.

Detoxing from alcohol is a dangerous process which can lead to death if not monitored properly. Rehabilitative centers help a patient physically withdraw from alcohol or substances under medical supervision.

The professionals at rehab centers are trained to diagnose and treat mental illnesses. They can prescribe medications to help with withdrawal and with depressive symptoms.

They also provide group and individual therapies designed to teach recovering alcoholics how to live life sober. Patients learn to communicate with friends and family without being drunk. They learn coping skills to deal with the regular ups and downs of life without succumbing to despair. They are given a medication regimen to keep them stabilized.

Alcoholism and Depression: Treatment is Available

If you or someone you care about is struggling with the twin demons of alcoholism and depression, seek assistance. 

The dangers of these conditions are grave, Many people die from alcohol-related issues every day, In addition to taking their own lives, they are more prone to violent encounters, DUIs and fatal accidents. 

Treatment facilities help patients with alcoholism and depression get back on your feet. They can address the physical woes that give rise to these issues,  and prescribe necessary medications to stabilize you. They can offer therapies to help you mend your relationships as well.

Although it takes hard work and dedication, many have found fulfilling lives after battling alcoholism and depression. You can too. 

For more information on treatment for alcoholism, addiction, depression and other disorders, contact our team

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