Depression and Alcohol Abuse

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Depression and alcohol abuse commonly occur together. Far too many people know how this dual diagnosis can affect various areas of life, including emotional and physical health, finances, relationships, and so much more. Sadly, many of the individuals who experience depression and alcohol abuse go without getting the help they need in order to overcome these problems. These individuals are often misunderstood and, sometimes, have difficulty understanding themselves.

Unfortunately, the general lack of understanding regarding the co-occurrence of alcoholism and depression has often been the cause of many long-term problems and struggles in the lives of those who suffer from this dual diagnosis. 

But if you are dealing with depression and alcohol use disorder (AUD), you should know that you are not alone. There are many more individuals who understand what you’re experiencing. And, thankfully, there is hope for healing and recovery in your life.

What is Depression: Definition and Symptoms

Depression is a mood disorder that affects about 6.7% of adults in the United States. There are several types of depression, including:

  • Major Depressive Disorder
  • Postpartum Depression
  • Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Persistent Depressive Disorder

Each type of depressive disorder has a unique set of symptoms and effects. But, generally speaking, people who have a depressive disorder experience symptoms such as: 

  • Fatigue
  • Apathy
  • Purposelessness
  • Intense sadness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Guilt or shame
  • Lack of energy
  • Lack of motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Thoughts of self-harm or suicide
  • Difficulty with focus or concentration
  • Sleeping problems (insomnia or excessive sleeping)
  • Changes in appetite (causing weight fluctuations)

Many times, people who suffer from depression struggle with feelings of guilt or shame due to the way they feel. Sometimes, the sadness people feel is inexplicable, making it seem inappropriate at times. For example, even if a person has a good job or a wonderful home life, he or she may feel extremely sad, alone, and hopeless as a result of depression. But, the individual may feel guilty because, in a sense, he or she has little reason to be sad.

However, it’s important for individuals who suffer from depression to understand that they are not wrong for feeling the way that they do. Depression affects people in unexplainable ways, causing them to experience low moods even when life is not necessarily bad. So, those who struggle with depression should not feel ashamed or guilty. Still, this mood disorder often causes individuals to feel overwhelmed by the negative effects depression has on them.

As a result of the major effects of depression, many individuals struggle to maintain normalcy in their lives. They may have difficulty connecting with others and communicating their feelings to those around them. Some people who suffer from a depressive disorder may struggle to excel in school or at work, as depression often causes problems with concentration and focus. This disorder also causes individuals to feel emotionally and physically fatigued, causing a lack of energy and motivation. 

Depression is serious and its effects can be life-altering. So, many individuals seek ways to cope with the negative impact of this disorder. Some turn to professional counselors to get the support they need. Unfortunately, many individuals seek comfort in substances like alcohol.

Depression and Alcohol Abuse: Which One Comes First?

The connection between depression and alcohol abuse is very complex. In some situations, depression leads to alcohol use and addiction. But, there are also times when the opposite is true; sometimes, depression is caused by excessive alcohol use.

In many cases, individuals who suffer from depression turn to alcohol use in order to cope with the impact of their mood disorder. When this happens, people may become dependent on the sedative effects of alcohol. Their bodies may get used to the way alcohol affects it, causing the individual to become physically dependent on the substance. People may also become emotionally or mentally dependent on alcohol, feeling as if they need the substance in order to function or feel “normal”.

After using alcohol as an escape for a while, many people begin to abuse it and become addicted to it. This happens quite often in cases where a person struggles with depression. And, as a result of using alcohol to deal with the effects of depression, many people experience the dangerous and harmful co-occurrence of depression and alcohol abuse.

For some people, alcohol abuse precedes depression. Most times, people who struggle with alcoholism struggle in various areas of their lives. They feel the effects of alcohol abuse in their relationships with family and friends. Alcoholism can also cause financial problems as individuals who struggle with alcohol abuse may lose their jobs due to poor performance or spend their income to support their drinking habit.

Alcoholism can also affect the way people think and behave. It can cause them to feel less and less like themselves. Often, people who struggle with alcohol abuse begin to feel lost and they may experience feelings of hopelessness. Sometimes, individuals may feel isolated and alone because of their struggle.

All of these factors can combine and, eventually, lead people to become depressed. In these cases, alcohol abuse actually leads to depression rather than the other way around.

But, regardless of which comes first, depression and alcohol abuse can create major challenges when they co-occur in an individual’s life.

Dual Diagnosis: Treatment for Addiction and Depression

When a person is dealing with both depression and alcohol abuse, the effects can be very difficult to address. In many cases, the two disorders negatively affect one another. In other words, depression can cause an individual’s substance use problem to worsen. Individuals who feel depressed may begin to drink even more in order to cope with the emotional and physical effects of depression. People who suffer from alcoholism may become even more depressed because of their substance use problems.

If you’ve been suffering from depression and alcoholism, know that there is hope for you. You can end this struggle and live a healthy and peaceful life. Just contact us here at Northbound Treatment Services to learn about our treatment programs and how they can help you. Call (855) 858-6803 today.

Additional Dual Diagnoses We Treat

Addiction and mental illness often go hand-in-hand. Treating one and not the other is ineffective. It’s paramount for an addiction treatment center to identify co-occurring disorders and to treat them in tandem with the addiction.





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