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A significant number of those who experience alcoholism will also suffer from depression. We feel it fair to say that there is a strong causal link between alcoholism and depression. However, it may be difficult to determine which condition arose first.

In some cases, you may drink alcohol to self-medicate the symptoms of depression, whilst in others, it’s possible that your depression might have arisen due to your drinking. Alcohol is a depressant after all.

No matter which condition arose first, it’s important to correctly diagnose these co-occurring conditions before alcoholism treatment is embarked upon. This ensures you are treated for both conditions simultaneously for maximum effectiveness.

The link between depression & alcoholism

The causal link between alcohol and depression is well established. It’s possible that you drink alcohol merely to stop feeling depressed, whilst others may develop depression as a direct result of their drinking. Studies indicate that those who suffer from depression are twice more likely to also experience alcoholism.

Before your alcoholism treatment begins, the assessing doctor will help to determine which condition arose first. A robust treatment plan will then be designed to ensure both conditions are treated at the same time.

Understanding depression

Depression is described as ‘a low mood that lasts for a long time, affecting your everyday activities’. This definition of depression was offered by the mental health charity MIND. Whilst it is perfectly normal to experience bouts of unhappiness, it’s not normal to feel like this for more than a few days. If you feel immensely unhappy for more than a few days, you could be suffering from clinical depression.

Depression has the potential to have a significantly detrimental impact on your everyday life. It’s thus not difficult to understand why so many people who suffer from depression ultimately begin to self-medicate with alcohol or other substances. Doing so often provides these people with a means of escaping their current reality that’s tearing them apart from the inside.

The signs and symptoms of depression

Depression may bring a combination of both mental and physical symptoms. The severity of these symptoms is influenced by the type of depression you are experiencing. We shall discuss types of depression below.

Psychological symptoms caused by depression include:

  • Low self-esteem
  • An inability to experience joy and happiness
  • Feel hopeless
  • Loss of interest in hobbies or activities
  • Feeling guilty
  • Feeling worried or anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation

Physical symptoms caused by depression include:

  • Constipation
  • Low energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Aches and pains
  • Menstrual problems
  • Sleeping problems

The main types of depression

There are many forms of depression and we shall outline the most common forms of depression below:

  • Chronic depression: this is when you feel depressed for two or more years. Chronic depression is typically mild in nature. However, because of the long-term nature of chronic depression, it typically has a negative impact on your life. Another name for chronic depression is persistent depression disorder
  • Major depression disorder (MDD): this is the most common form of depression. MDD is characterised by feelings of unhappiness and sadness. For MDD to be diagnosed, you must continue to feel unhappy for more than two weeks. Your GP may recommend you take a short-term prescription of anti-depressants
  • Bipolar disorder: this disorder is characterised by severe mood swings
  • Post-natal depression: this occurs following the birth of a child. Giving birth is overwhelming and this overwhelm may cause some women to feel depressed. It’s believed that around 20% of all women will experience some form of mental health issue following childbirth

Common myths about depression

Unfortunately, depression is still largely stigmatised and much misinformation surrounds this often-serious mental health condition.

Below, we list some of the misguided beliefs that empower the stigma surrounding depression:

  • You must be weak if you suffer from depression: in reality, depression is an illness that has the potential to affect anyone no matter how tough or weak they perceive themselves to be. The occurrence of depression does not correlate with character
  • You must have reasons to be depressed: if you have ever experience from depression, close friends or family members may say ‘you have absolutely no reason to be depressed.’ They may even cite examples of people who are worse off than you. This line of reasoning is misguided because you do not need any reason for feeling depressed. Listening to this poor advice will only serve to make you feel even more depressed and perhaps guilty too. Whilst it’s true that you could have an obvious reason for feeling depressed, such as the loss of a loved one, it’s equally true that you may feel depressed without being able to pin down a specific reason for being so
  • You must have suffered a traumatic experience to be depressed: people often equate depression with those who have experienced a traumatic event such as a vehicle collision, child abuse or the loss of a loved one. Whilst these traumatic events are known to cause depression, it’s equally true that you could experience depression without experiencing any sort of traumatic event.

The role of antidepressants

Antidepressants definitely play a major role in treating depression, but you must not use medications as a crutch. If you suffer from alcoholism, it’s important to understand that alcoholism is itself a depressant. It, therefore, does not make logical sense for you to consume an antidepressant if you also consume a depressant simultaneously. A much better idea is to treat the alcoholism before you look to tackle the underlying depression.

Whilst antidepressants may be effective for treating depression for many, not everybody will benefit from their use. If your antidepressants are not working, your GP may be able to increase your dose.

It may take up to two months before the symptoms of depression begin to improve whilst taking antidepressants. Further, it’s always a good idea to analyse your life and look at ways of promoting your happiness in natural ways such as taking up a hobby or some form of physical activity.

Can alcohol aggravate the symptoms of depression?

Many people suffering from alcoholism began to drink as a means of self-medicating the symptoms of depression. Whilst alcohol may temporarily relieve the symptoms of depression, these symptoms will rebound as the effects of alcohol wear off. Thus, you must continuously drink alcohol in order to alter your reality in this way.

This psychological addiction to alcohol will eventually develop into a physical dependency. This is because alcohol is itself a physically addictive substance if abused on a daily basis. In the end, the pain caused by alcohol will certainly outstrip any benefits you could possibly derive from its consumption.

Treating alcoholism and depression

When depression and alcoholism arise together, you are said to suffer from a dual diagnosis disorder. To overcome a dual diagnosis disorder, it is vitally important for you to undergo specialist treatment. When you contact Rehab 4 Addiction on 0800 140 4690, we are able to advise on rehab clinics in your area that is able to help you overcome both depression and alcoholism simultaneously.

We endeavour to refer you to an alcohol rehab clinic that offers a bespoke treatment plan for dual diagnosis disorders. This plan will be tailored to your needs. You will begin your treatment by undergoing a medically assisted detox. You will then benefit from psychotherapeutic therapies, meditation and complementary therapies.