man sitting at his computer with a glass of liquor suffering from depression

Alcoholism and depression often go hand in hand. Not only can alcohol negatively impact your physical health, but it can also affect your mental health.

Understanding Depression

Depression, also referred to as major depressive disorder or clinical depression, is a common mood disorder and mental health diagnosis. People who suffer from depression experience feelings of sadness and hopelessness. They can also lose interest in activities they once enjoyed.

Besides the emotional issues caused by depression, someone can also show physical symptoms such as chronic pain or digestive problems. To be clinically diagnosed, the symptoms must last for at least two weeks.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression is as individual as any other mental health diagnosis. The signs and symptoms change from person to person, but some are universal.

  • Sadness, irritability, or unexplained exhaustion that lasts for more than 2 weeks
  • Loss of interest in things once enjoyed
  • Feelings of worthlessness or like nobody cares
  • Hard time concentrating and keeping up with daily responsibilities
  • Thoughts of harming oneself

There are many causes of depression, including but not limited to: family history, physical or health issues, illness, or even drug or alcohol misuse.

Understanding Alcoholism

The term “alcoholism” is thrown around a lot in everyday speech. But what does it mean to suffer from Alcoholism? In the medical world, it’s often referred to as Alcohol Use Disorder. 

AUD is an umbrella term that covers binge drinking and different levels of alcohol abuse. Alcoholism can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the number of symptoms someone experiences.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcoholism

Alcoholism can be difficult to spot because drinking is such a normal part of society. There are a few symptoms that are clear signs of Alcoholism, though.

  • Changes in work quality or attendance
  • Avoiding friends/family obligations
  • Using alcohol in situations where it’s not safe or appropriate
  • Developing a tolerance so it takes more to feel the effects
  • Being unable to limit the intake of alcohol
  • Feeling withdrawal symptoms if they go too long without a drink

Someone suffering from an Alcohol Use Disorder can also show signs of depression. This is partly due to the effects alcohol has on the brain/body. There are many other reasons someone could be suffering from depression, as well. But if they are suffering from both AUD and depression, it is known as a dual diagnosis.

The Connection Between AUD and Depression

It’s often asked: “Does drinking alcohol cause depression, or does depression lead to abusing alcohol?” The answer is yes to both.

Because alcohol is a depressant, it affects the brain’s natural balance of happy chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. At first, the levels of joy-causing chemicals spike. The effects can feel euphoric and happy, and even socializing easier.

Once the alcohol and its effects wear off, happy chemicals rapidly decrease. When they plummet, so do the effects. Feelings of sadness, irritability, anxiousness, and reclusion are common.

This can easily become a cycle with no end in sight. Drinking relieves the symptoms of depression, then being depressed because drinking has exhausting consequences. Co-occurring disorders such as these can feel hopeless, but there are many ways to get help for both AUD and depression.

Is There Treatment for Co-Occurring Depression and AUD?

Absolute Awakenings Drug & Alcohol Treatment Center in New Jersey offers dual-diagnosis treatment for depression & AUD. Often, people with a substance use disorder also suffer from co-occurring mental health or behavioral disorder.

Treatment for AUD & Depression as co-occurring disorders looks similar to other treatment plans. The plan for each person will vary depending on their needs, but this is a basic map of what the person can expect.

  • The process starts with detox. Medical staff will monitor the patient 24 hours a day for up to 7 days to ensure the healthiest detox possible.
  • Inpatient Rehab comes next. Inpatient rehab benefits dual-diagnosed people because they can access medical staff 24 hours a day. There are therapies, medications, support, and health services as well.
  • Supportive Housing often follows inpatient rehab. Housing like group homes or sober living facilities after inpatient rehab helps newly sober people to be around peers to help avoid relapse.
  • Psychotherapy accompanies many different phases of recovery. Specifically, Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help people with dual diagnosis learn how to cope and change their problematic thinking patterns, which increases the risk of substance use.
  • Medications can be effective, depending on the person’s individual needs.
  • Support Groups & Self-Help can go hand in hand with every stage of recovery as well. People with a dual diagnosis may feel troubled and isolated at times. Some support groups allow members to share feelings, celebrate triumphs, find community resources, and share recovery tips.

How to Find the Best Treatment Plan

The first step to finding the best treatment plan is to admit there are unhealthy habits and concerns about a mental health disorder. Once someone can see themselves clearly, it’s time to take a leap and contact Absolute Awakenings admissions.

Our team is always available to answer questions and find more information on addiction treatment coverage, mental health treatment options, and financial coverage. Absolute Awakenings make it so easy to begin the journey to lasting recovery.

References

  1. Tolentino JC, Schmidt SL. DSM-5 Criteria and Depression Severity: Implications for Clinical Practice. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:450. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00450
  2. Nehring SM, Freeman AM. Alcohol Use Disorder. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing; 2022. Accessed January 4, 2023. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436003/
  3. Kuria MW, Ndetei DM, Obot IS, et al. The Association between Alcohol Dependence and Depression before and after Treatment for Alcohol Dependence. ISRN Psychiatry. 2012;2012:482802. doi:10.5402/2012/482802

Last medically reviewed January 4, 2023