Alcohol and Depression

Alcohol and depression are linked with each other. How? Depression and alcohol have a causal relationship, wherein one condition doubles the risk of the other. More here.

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ARTICLE SUMMARY: Depression and alcohol have a causal relationship, and one condition doubles the risk that you’ll develop the other. In this article, we review the connection and treatment options.


Depression is a mood disorder.

What Depression Is

Depression is a disorder of the brain that affects your mood. This mental issue causes distressing symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and how can you handle daily activities.

In the U.S. more than 20 million people can be diagnosed with depression.

Accorind to the American Psychiatric Association, depression affects 1 in 15 adults in any given year, while 1 in 6 people will experience depression at some time in their life.[1] Depression is more than feeling ‘blue’ or ‘under the weather’. Instead, it is a constant sadnessthat just doesn’t go away.

But, how can you get diagnosed?

To be diagnosed with depression…. symptoms must be present most of the day, nearly every day at least 2 weeks.There are some common forms of depression. These include:

1. Major depression: The symptoms of depression will last most of the day, almost every day for at least 2 weeks. These symptoms will affect your daily activities, and you will not able to enjoy life. This episode may occur once in a lifetime, but most of the people have several episodes.

2. Persistent Depressive Disorder:The symptoms of depression can last at least 2 years. A person with this diagnose may experience episodes of major depression along with less severe symptoms.

3. Other Forms of Depression: Still, there are other forms of depression that may develop under certain circumstances. These types of depression include:

Perinatal Depression or Postpartum Depression:Women with this type of depression experience full-blown major depression during pregnancy and/or after giving birth. The reasons for this depression is the overwhelming of hormonal and psychical changes, and the responsibility of caring for a baby. About 10% to 15% of women experience postpartum depression after delivery.

Psychotic Depression: The person with this diagnosis has severe depression and some form of psychosis such as delusions or hallucinations.

Seasonal Affective Disorder: This type of depression comes and goes with seasons. The onset of SAD occurs during winter months, when there is less sunlight. Usually, it starts in the late fall or early winter, and it diminishes during spring and summer. SAD is typically accompanied by increased sleep, weight gain, and social withdrawal.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: This type of depression is diagnosed in children and adolescents. Depression can also be one phase of bipolar disorder.

The Alcohol-Depression Cycle

There is a huge correlation between alcohol and depression. Drinking can cause depression, and depression can cause alcohol abuse. Moreover, you can get caught in a constant cycle of going back and forth. In these cases, professional help is a must to help you deal with this viscous circle of co-occurring disorders.

What does the Alcohol-Depression Cycle look like?

On one hand, people who suffer from depression may turn to drinking as a way of coping. About one-third of people with depression have drinking problems.They drink alcohol to ‘drown their sorrows’, and hope for better feelings. The effects of alcohol changes their sad mood into a happy one.

On the other hand, people diagnosed with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may develop depression. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) reports that depression is more likely to develop during alcoholism treatment. Some patients may even increase their drinking in order to deal with the mood swings. [2]

NOTE HERE: If depression occurs as a symptom of alcohol withdrawal, it’s likely that it will vanish after you stop drinking.

But, having undiagnosed depression in combination with alcohol consummationputs us at risk of developing a drinking problem. In fact, a study published in the medical journal BioMed Central estimated that more than 25% of people with major depression can develop a drinking problem. [3] Finally, a study called ‘Alcohol and Depression’ reports that the presence of a drinking problem doubles the risk of developing depression, and vice versa. One condition doubles the risk of the other condition. [4]

Alcohol abuse and depression have a causal relationship. One can cause the other.

Can Alcohol Make Depression Worse?


It is important to understand that drinking alcohol worsens any mental health disorder.

Alcohol is a nervous system depressant. It blocks stress hormones, and if you are dealing with depression you may become increasingly irritable when drunk. Moreover, alcohol lowers serotonin and norepinephrine, mood-regulating chemicals in the brain. So, when you’re under the influence, the body struggles to achieve balance, which results in depressed mood.

On top of it, if you are depressed, you may have sleep disorders. Drinking also interferes with sleep, so you may worsen your sleep disorders if you consume alcohol.Finally, drinking too much can increase your anxiety.

In sum, drinking makes depression much worse.

Symptoms of Depression

Depression affects people differently. Not everyone will experience every symptom: some may experience few, while others may experience different and more symptoms. Plus, symptoms will vary depending from the stage of the illness.

The most common signs of depression include:

  • Appetite changes
  • Anxiety
  • Decreased energy
  • Concentration problems
  • Fatigue
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feelings of guilt
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest for hobbies and activities
  • Problems with making decisions
  • Restlessness
  • Sadness
  • Sleep disorders
  • Suicidal thoughts

Moreover, depression is characterized with a set of physical symptoms that occur without a clear physical cause and/or they do not set up or ease even with treatment. These physical symptoms include:

  • Aches
  • Headaches
  • Cramps
  • Digestive problems

To be diagnosed with depression, in addition to ‘blue’ mood, several persistent symptoms should be present for at least two weeks for nearly every day.

Alcohol is NOT the answer for depression. Drinking makes things worse.

Does Alcohol Depression Go Away?

Many people wonder if depression will go away on its own.

The answer is: NO.

In this case, time won’t heal all wounds. In fact, waiting may worsen your depression. The longer you wait, the worse it may become. If you are drinking to ease your depression hoping that you will get better, you couldn’t be more wrong. Alcohol will only make your depression feel even more hopeless.

Proper treatment for alcohol use disorder and depression is the key to getting better. Treatment is effective. So stop thinking that drinking and depression will go away. Take your destiny in your hands, and make the call: reach out for help.

Call us to talk through depression and drinking. Our confidential hotline operators are waiting for your call.

Alcohol Dependence, Detox, and Depression

Alcohol dependence is a serious drinking condition that may cause serious harm to your health. The study Neurobiology of Alcohol Dependence published in the journal Alcohol Research: Current Reviews reported that,

Alcohol dependence…is progressive and has serious detrimental health outcomes.[5]

But, how can you know that you are alcohol dependent?

Dependence occurs when the brain adapts to alcohol. When you are alcohol dependent and stop quitting, you go through withdrawal. But it doesn’t have to be that bad to be a problem. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5) lists 11 criteria that an individual needs to have in order to be diagnosed with a drinking problem. [ 6]

If you are an alcohol dependent who has depression issues, the rehab process may be hard. But do not worry… every condition is treatable!Don’t risk it, just make the first step of treatment.

Go to a medical detox clinic when you are alcohol dependent.

Detox is a process of removing alcohol from the body under 24-hour medical supervision. Any good alcohol detoxification can help:

  • Ease withdrawal symptoms.
  • Manage any serious medical condition that may occur.
  • Prevent the development of more serious symptoms.
  • Provide the safest path for every patients to deal with their difficult period of discomfort.

Since alcohol withdrawal can be very unpredictable and uncomfortable, and even worse for people who deal with depression, the safest way to start treatment is in inpatient setting with constant medical care. Moreover, seizures occur in about 25% of all alcohol withdrawal cases [7], and if these symptoms are not treated on time, not only they can put your general health in danger, but they also can worsen your depression.

Don’t wait when you need to detox, reach out for help!

Alcohol and Depression Medication

Even though antidepressants are considered to be safe medications, it is never recommended that you drink alcohol while using them. The chances for worsening the symptoms of depression when mixing them with alcohol are enormous. Some of the negative effects when you mix these two substances include:

  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Higher chance of overdose
  • Increased depression
  • Impaired motor functioning
  • Liver damage
  • Memory complications
  • Slowed breathing
  • Strange conduct

Remember never to stop taking antidepressants just so you can have a drink. Sudden cessation of antidepressants may cause you to experience withdrawal symptoms. So, always consult with your doctor before stopping antidepressants.

Depression Treatment Options

Even the most severe depression can be treated. So, don’t lose hope! There is always a way to deal with it. The earlier you start with treatment, the better and more effective it is. Medications, psychotherapy or a combination of the two are the most effective therapies for depression.


Medications that are used to treat depression are called antidepressants. Antidepressants help improve the way your brain uses certain chemicals that control mood. It takes time about 2 to 4 weeks for the medication to start working. There are several types of antidepressants:

  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)
  • Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRI)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants (TCA)
  • Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI)

Moreover, there are other antidepressants such as Mirtazapine and Bupropion that don’t fall into these categories.

TREATMENT OPTION 2: Psychotherapy

Psychotherapy or ‘talk therapy’ helps a lot in treatment for depression. The most used psychotherapies include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT)
  • Problem-Solving Therapy (PST)

Moreover, there are many apps that can help you manage your situation once you completed treatment.However, if these treatments don’t help, you may consider brain stimulation therapies. Speak with a qualified medical professional to learn more. Or, call our hotline to speak with an operator about rehab.

Get Help Now

Drinking and depression can make you feel like you are stuck in a maze and you cannot find the way out. But, there is a way… the only thing you need to do is to reach out for help.

Call our helpline to learn about your rehab options.

Dual diagnosis treatment is effective! And a combination of medicine and talk therapy can get you on your way to a healthy, happy live. Learn more about how professionals treat alcohol addiction and depression together. You’ll need to address both at the same time.

Still have questions about alcohol use and depression? Don’t hesitate to post them below. We are eager to hear from our readers. And we try to answer all real-life questions personally and promptly.

Reference Sources: [1] APA: What Is Depression?
[2] NIAAA: Alcoholism and Co-occurring Disorders
[3] NCBI: The prevalence and significance of substance use disorders in bipolar type I and II disorder
[4] Research Gate: Alcohol and Depression
[5] NCBI: Neurobiology of Alcohol Dependence
[6] American Psychiatric Association: The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5)
[7] NIAAA: Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal
Addiction Blog: Alcohol Abuse
Addiction Blog: Alcohol Detoxification
NIH: Depression: What You Need To Know
About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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