How Many Alcoholics Also Suffer from Depression?
Can Drinking Cause Depression?
In recovery, there is a well-known link between alcohol abuse and mental health disorders. A good treatment facility for alcohol and drug abuse tends to treat the disorder alongside any mental health issues, such as depression, simultaneously. For some, depression may have led them to alcohol abuse, while for others their depression was caused by chronic alcohol use disorder. Simultaneous treatment for alcohol abuse and persistent depressive disorder at a recovery center can help you or your loved one gain long-term sobriety as well as physical and mental well-being.
JAMA Psychiatry published a study in 2009 that points out the direct cause and effect associated between alcohol abuse and depression. Not only can alcohol lead to depressive symptoms, but it can also make pre-existing depression disorders and other mental health conditions worse. Symptoms may stop after significantly reducing or stopping alcohol use, however, the research also showed that substance-induced depression may turn into independent depression if the symptoms persist after stopping alcohol use.
There seems to be a direct relationship between alcohol use disorder and depressive disorders. Both disorders can occur simultaneously, both increasing the risk for the other, as well as each making the other worse. Both issues are the most common psychiatric disorders, regardless of which came first.
The development of co-occurring alcohol use disorder (AUD) and a depressive disorder can happen for several reasons. For some, they are genetically susceptible to both. Others may develop AUD due to symptoms associated with depression. These individuals may try to self-medicate with alcohol to ease their depression symptoms, but over time it develops into a full-blown alcohol use disorder.
Someone with AUD can develop a persistent depressive disorder or make a preexisting condition worse. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it can make you more likely to get the blues. Long-term, excessive drinking can alter the brain physically and lead to depression as well. With alcohol use disorder, the brain does not adequately produce the chemicals necessary to regulate moods and when the brain goes without alcohol, it does not know how to function, which leads to symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Signs Someone Is Struggling with Depression
A person is typically diagnosed with a depressive disorder after exhibiting symptoms every day for at least two weeks. Symptoms are severe enough to impact social, occupational, and other areas of their lives. Specific types of depressive disorder look different from one another, but their general shared symptoms include:
- Hopelessness or pessimism
- Restlessness, frustration, and irritability
- Loss of interest in activities and hobbies once enjoyed
- Fatigue or lack of energy
- Persistent low mood, anxiousness, emptiness, and/or sadness
- Moving or talking more slowly than usual
- Excessive or inappropriate feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
- Changes in sleep, which can either be trouble falling or staying asleep or sleeping more than usual
- Changes in appetite that causes significant weight loss or gain, which is a change of more than 5% body weight
- Physical aches, pains, cramps, or digestive problems are not easily explainable
- Self-harm, death, or suicidal thoughts, or making suicidal attempts
Risks of Using Alcohol to Cope with Depression
Those with mental health disorders and mood disorders such as anxiety and depression may find it easier to self-medicate and cover up their symptoms by using alcohol. Alcohol and other drugs can temporarily help relieve the symptoms associated with depression, but over time if the person relies on alcohol to deal with their depression, they are never actually treating the root of the issue and may develop an alcohol use disorder.
Prolonged alcohol use can also worsen depression, including seasonal affective disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder. Not only is alcohol a major depressant, but it can also cause people to lose their inhabitation and behave impulsively, leading to people acting in ways they otherwise would not have, including self-harm and suicide. Drinking while on antidepressants can also be dangerous and make many of the symptoms worse.
Prolonged, excessive alcohol use, even just binge drinking, can significantly impact the brain physically, causing the person to become dependent on alcohol. Their body and brain no longer know how to function without alcohol in their system, so when they significantly cut back or stop entirely, they may experience withdrawal symptoms. This can make it harder for someone to quit drinking and get their depression under control. The good news is that with professional help, anyone, even those with severe depression, is capable of getting their alcohol use disorder and depression under control.
Treatment for Co-Occurring Depression and Alcoholism
When searching for help to treat alcohol use disorder and depression, it is important to find a treatment center that specializes in co-occurring disorders. Simultaneously treating both give the person the best chance to successfully complete a program and gain long-term sobriety. If a person gets help for only their alcohol dependence, they are not dealing with the core issue which may be depression, or leave the facility with lingering depressive symptoms that may cause a relapse. Treatments for co-occurring depression and AUD may include detox, antidepressants and medications, and behavioral therapies. Types of therapy used will depend on the individual and their unique treatment plan.
Once a person decides to get professional help for their alcohol use disorder and chooses the right place, the first step through a recovery program will be alcohol detox. This is the time period that the body gets rid of any alcohol left in the body and becomes accustomed to working without alcohol. During this time, the person may experience withdrawal symptoms which can range from feeling uncomfortable to be life-threatening.
Withdrawal symptoms can include anxiety, sweating, insomnia, headaches, nausea, or more severe symptoms such as seizures, tremors, disorientation, hallucinations, and in rare cases delirium tremens. Symptoms will subside after 1 to 2 weeks, and severity and length of withdrawal depend on how long and the amount of alcohol was being consumed. A medical professional should monitor alcohol detox, especially for those with a history of lung and heart disease or other medical conditions. Physicians and nurses can help monitor your symptoms and give medications when necessary. Even if symptoms are not severe, medical detox can make the process much more comfortable and increase a person’s chances of completing the process. Medical detox can also include medications to reduce alcohol cravings.
Behavioral Therapies for Alcohol and Depression
After detox, the person should enter an alcohol abuse program to help treat the root of the issue as well as learn coping mechanisms to avoid a relapse and anything that may worsen depression. Whether the person chooses to enter an inpatient or outpatient program, most of their treatment will focus on behavior therapies. Some of these can include:
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
A therapist will help the person learn positive coping mechanisms that will replace behavioral patterns and thoughts that were contributing to AUD and depression.
This behavioral therapy helps to develop an understanding of how negative life experiences and behaviors influence your mood and emotions, then encourages you to actively increase your positive life experiences. This is beneficial for both AUD and depression.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
The main goal of this type of therapy is to help reduce suicidal and self-harm behavior.
Mutual Support Groups
These include 12-step groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and non-12-step groups like SMART Recovery. Groups like these are effective as treatment and as aftercare for both AUD and depression. Support groups can help lessen feelings of isolation and help feel connected because you will have the support of people who know what you are going through is like.
Dual Diagnosis Treatment at Muse
At Muse Los Angeles, each client will receive a medical and psychiatric assessment upon admission. The assessment will help design a tailor-made treatment with any necessary alcohol detox and take into account any co-occurring disorders, such as depression, which may need medical management. We believe that mental health and wellness are critical to the addiction recovery process. Whether you choose inpatient rehab or outpatient rehab, our substance abuse program can help with your dual diagnosis.
We identify and treat any and all aspects of mental health disorders, which are common in those seeking recovery. We use a series of treatment methods for dual diagnosis, with the first step usually being detox. Our detox program is done under medical supervision to help ensure our patients’ safety and comfort and acts as the foundation for alcohol abuse treatment. You may also be assigned multiple forms of therapy including art therapy, cognitive therapy, and counseling.
At Muse Treatment, we emphasize community as one of the best forms of treatment. This comes in all forms and sizes including group sessions, family therapy, and family and friend weekends to help you feel the support of your loved ones. Your recovery program can also include medication, not only during the detox portion but also using antidepressants to help in the long run of your symptoms. We also believe that a person has a better fighting chance against their addiction with proper diet, exercise, routine, and sleep.
The road to recovery, especially with dual diagnosis, is long and hard, but here at Muse we will walk it with you and help support you along the way. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression and alcohol use disorder, please give us a call today to talk about your treatment option. One of our specialists will be happy to help you, answer any questions about the treatment you may have, or get you started with one of your alcohol addiction programs. We can help with alcohol addiction and symptoms of depression.
— Muse Treatment (@MuseTreatmentLA) March 24, 2022