Watching a loved one battle alcohol addiction can make you feel powerless to intercede. The reasons behind their addiction may vary from personal stressors to inherited genetic predispositions to environmental factors, but the pain of watching them struggle with their substance use disorder is all the same.
Trying to reach someone who is lost within addiction can be akin to screaming into the wind: They’ll never fully hear what you have to say. With their behavior and demeanor changing daily, and seemingly for the worst, you may wonder, “Can drinking cause depression?”
Taking the time to understand their alcohol addiction and the potential mental and physical detriments associated with the disease can help you formulate appropriate conversations to have with your loved one about the maladaptive nature of their alcohol use.
Read on to learn about the impact excessive alcohol use can have on depressive symptomatology and how continued alcohol addiction may instigate or exacerbate feelings of depression.
Alcohol and Depression: How Are They Connected?
Alcohol is one of the most widely consumed drugs around the world. For most people, drinking alcohol at some point throughout the day is as common as eating lunch or dinner.
Due to the socially acceptable status of consuming alcohol on a frequent basis, the habit of implementing alcohol use as a method of dealing with emotional stressors or feelings of depression continues to grow.
The problem with this approach to alcohol use is the fact that the substance is classified as a depressant, which means it directly inhibits the natural functions of the central nervous system (CNS). This chemical impact to the CNS can lead to a number of depressive-like symptoms due to alcohol’s ability to increase the neurotransmitter known as gamma-aminobutyric acid, or GABA, resulting in:
• Excessive drowsiness
• Lack of motivation
• Loss of interest in social interactions1
Because of the impact that alcohol has on an individual’s emotional well-being and personal outlook on life, it is no wonder that alcohol use and depressive symptomatology is so interconnected.
But which comes first, the depressive feelings or the alcohol use disorder?
This question has driven families to research their loved one’s substance use motivations and inspired their approach to aiding in their loved one’s recovery.
Does Alcohol Cause Depression?
As stated earlier, alcohol is a known depressant. In addition, implementing alcohol use as a means of coping with a preexisting depressive disorder is a common practice among a third of people diagnosed with major depression.
While statistically speaking, it has been shown that depressive symptoms typically precede an alcohol use disorder, it has also been revealed that excessive alcohol use can both trigger and exacerbate depressive symptoms.2
While alcohol addiction spurring a full-blown depressive disorder has not been definitively linked, the consequences associated with an alcohol use disorder have been shown to dramatically increase the likelihood of experiencing depressive symptoms.
Recent studies have indicated that people who are depressed and drink too much have more frequent and severe episodes of depression and are more likely to think about suicide.3
While alcohol abuse has been shown to ease one’s psychological stress due to its interactions with established mental functioning, it has also been directly linked to increased depressive feelings and suicide risk, leaving an individual in a worse state than when they initially began consuming the substance.
Important Facts to Remember About Alcohol and Depression
1. The depressive symptoms associated with excessive alcohol use are greatest when a person first stops drinking. For this reason, recovering alcoholics with a history of depression should be carefully monitored during the early stages of withdrawal.
2. Alcoholism increases the likelihood of relapse in patients with depression.
3. Family history of either depression or alcoholism puts a person at increased risk for developing either illness.
4. A person suffering from major depression and who abuses alcohol has a much higher risk of attempting and succeeding at taking his own life.
5. Because of the risk of suicide, it is critical that people suffering from major depression and alcoholism receive prompt medical attention.4
Whichever is impacting your loved one more – alcohol addiction or depressive symptoms – the important thing to remember is that neither issue should be ignored. Too often, people will turn a blind eye to their loved one’s maladaptive addictive behaviors in order to avoid offending that person or rocking the boat.
To think that lives have been lost because of silence seems difficult to comprehend and unnecessary to duplicate. Instead, pay attention to your loved ones concerning behaviors and heed their calls for help.
This attentiveness may provide valuable insight into their addictive patterns and enable you to provide them much needed assistance before their behaviors inflict irreparable damage.
Holistic Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery
Countless people live with addiction and depression every day. Your loved one is not alone, and they don’t have to fight without help and support.
At Ranch Creek Recovery, your loved one can face their co-occurring hurdles head-on with professional help and holistic, individualized support.
1 Royal College of Psychiatrists. Alcohol and Depression. Accessed September 14, 2018. https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/healthadvice/problemsanddisorders/alcoholdepression.aspx.
2 National Center for Biotechnology Information. Suicidal Behavior and Alcohol Abuse. Accessed September 14, 2018. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2872355/.
3 WebMD. Alcohol and Depression. Accessed September 14, 2018. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/alcohol-and-depresssion#1-3.
4 PsychCentral. Alcohol & Depression. Accessed September 14, 2018. https://psychcentral.com/lib/alcohol-and-depression/.