Does Alcohol Abuse Make Depression Even Worse?

Depression is a mental health condition that involves continually experiencing feelings of sadness and hopelessness. This can affect many aspects of life, including professional responsibilities, personal goals and relationships with family members and friends. In some cases, you may receive a dual diagnosis of a major depressive disorder (MDD) and an alcohol use disorder (AUD). This co-occurring disorder isn’t uncommon, but it can be difficult to treat.

Alcohol use disorder and depression are two conditions that often occur together. What’s more, one can make the other worse in a cycle that’s pervasive and problematic if not addressed and treated. If you’re at low risk of addiction to alcohol, it may be OK to have an occasional drink, depending on your particular situation, but talk with your doctor. Don’t stop taking an antidepressant or other medication just so that you can drink. Most antidepressants require taking a consistent, daily dose to maintain a constant level in your system and work as intended.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Brain?

This is because the body becomes dependent on the chemicals released by alcohol to achieve feelings of happiness. As a result, a person will begin to crave alcohol in order to achieve a feeling of satisfaction. If, despite these efforts, you still periodically wake up after drinking with feelings of anxiety, practice mindfulness. Pay attention to how you feel while you’re drinking and afterward. And when anxious feelings surface, turn to healthy alternatives like meditation, deep breathing or exercise. Studies show that nearly a third of people with depression also have problems with alcohol.

does alcohol make depression worse

Depending on the program you choose, sessions are usually held one to two times each week. Group therapy provides an outlet for people to openly discuss the highs and lows of their addiction, as well as offer advice to others going through challenging times. Many aftercare programs offer various types of group therapy so that patients can continue working on their recovery. A type of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy helps people learn how to replace negative thoughts with positive and uplifting feelings. CBT helps teach people how to identify potential triggers, find ways to cope with urges to drink and set realistic goals. Cognitive behavioral therapy generally starts in a rehab setting and can be continued after treatment with the help of an alcohol counselor.

Alcohol & The Brain: Why Drinking Doesn’t Help Depression

Without treatment, however, both the alcoholism and depression or anxiety will continue to get worse. Going to rehab may seem daunting, but it’s worth it to get a fresh, sober start in life. By the same token, alcoholics who get depressed or feel anxious due to the problems their drinking causes—and who slip back into drinking again after trying to quit just to feel some relief—aren’t going to easily escape the loop. It also likely requires getting professional help, since once you start feeling miserable again, reaching for a drink may well be impossible to control.

However, research does not unanimously support the prior existence of severe depressive or anxiety disorders as a usual cause of alcoholism. Psychological symptoms may carry a worse prognosis for alcohol-related problems, and these symptoms must be addressed early in alcoholism treatment. Schuckit and colleagues have studied the rates of psychiatric disorders in COA’s from a variety of perspectives. In this followup study, although the sons of alcoholics were three times more likely to develop alcohol abuse or dependence, they showed no higher rates of major depressive disorders or major anxiety disorders during the followup period. For many of us, drinking alcohol socially can lighten our mood, reduce the stress we feel, and can even help us feel closer to others—at least for a while.

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If an individual tends to rely on alcohol to ease their anxiety in social situations, they might not ever find or be able to address the underlying causes of their discomfort. Alcohol affects both “excitatory” and “inhibitory” neurotransmitters, which explains why the substance acts like a stimulant and a depressant at the same time. At first, alcohol boosts the levels of “excitatory” neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. This is what makes individuals feel happy, excited, courageous, and energetic when they first start drinking. If you have any of these symptoms, rest assured depression is very common and can affect anyone.

  • To avoid feeling depressed after drinking, minimize drinking occasions and alcohol intake.
  • Without treatment, however, both the alcoholism and depression or anxiety will continue to get worse.
  • In some cases, you may receive a dual diagnosis of a major depressive disorder (MDD) and an alcohol use disorder (AUD).
  • None of this fully explains why so many folks dealing with depression reach for alcohol, though.

Similarly, if you have AUD, develop depression and drink alcohol to cope with symptoms, you need help to end the alcohol cycle. To avoid these symptoms, a person with anxiety is likely to pick up a drink the next day, even when they first wake up. The more a person drinks, the worse their symptoms will be when they try to stop. The longer they continue in this alcohol cycle, the harder it is to stop drinking. Professional intervention is necessary to help the situation and prevent the addiction from spiraling downward to where the person is completely out of control.

However, over time, this pattern can develop into a full-scale alcohol use disorder. If you’re already depressed, irritated, or anxious, alcohol can worsen these feelings. In fact, anxiety and depression days after binge drinking are not unusual. In these cases, an attempt to unwind results in a meltdown of negative emotions which compounds the depression after drinking alcohol effect.

A separate survey published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that nearly half of people who reported increased drinking during the pandemic said stress was to blame. Other reasons for the uptick included boredom and availability does alcohol make depression worse of alcohol. The full impact of drinking too much hits about 72 hours after the alcohol has left the bloodstream. This is when withdrawal symptoms of increased anxiety, irritability, restlessness, agitation and disturbed sleep, among others, are at their peak.

Drug and Alcohol Detox and Residential Program for Women

Pay attention to family members and loved ones who say they notice an increase in your drinking habits and stay within the recommended limits of alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women; two drinks per day for men). A Yale University study compared rates of AUD in people with and without depression, and found higher current and lifetime rates of AUD in the depressed population. Interestingly, women are more likely to have depression first, then an alcohol use disorder, while the opposite is true for men—they are more likely to experience AUD first and depression subsequently. There are no easy answers to these complicated questions, but the high rate of co-occurrence for these problems is prompting experts to advocate for better screening and treatment options for patients who present with both. If one is on antidepressants, there is also fair evidence that a night of drinking will temporarily reduce their effectiveness, the experts I’ve spoken to agree. Alcohol can also interact with some antidepressants, like monoamine oxidase inhibitors, to cause negative side effects like elevated blood pressure, which could add to one’s overall sense of hangover day stress and anxiety.

The connection between alcohol and depression and the two conditions may feed off one another. However, alleviating depression does not resolve the alcohol use disorder. Individuals with alcohol use disorder often develop a physical dependency on alcohol. Alcohol can significantly impact the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain, making depression worse. Antidepressants can help even levels of these chemicals and can help relieve symptoms of depression. If not treated, alcohol use disorder can become a life-long struggle.