Alcohol use disorder and depression often co-occur. People who are struggling with symptoms of depression may use alcohol to self-medicate. Then, chronic alcohol use can cause or exacerbate symptoms of depression.
Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, meaning it slows your system down and reduces stimulation. It interacts with—and throws off the balance of—various neurotransmitters. For instance, it suppresses glutamate, which normally increases brain activity and energy levels. These and other changes can lead to feeling depressed and down.
Additionally, chronic drinking tends to cause a lot of personal problems. Trying to cope with the consequences of drinking—while feeling demotivated due to alcohol use—can exacerbate symptoms of depression, especially if someone is prone to it.
According to a study in the journal ISRN Psychiatry, “There are two possible explanations for the association between alcohol use disorders and major depression; firstly it may be that both disorders have common underlying genetic and environmental factors that jointly increase the risk of both disorders. Secondly, the two disorders may have a causal effect with each disorder increasing the risk of developing the other.”
When receiving treatment for co-occurring disorders, it’s important to address both conditions. Without treating the depression, a person may continue to seek out alcohol to temporarily relieve symptoms. Meanwhile, treatment for depression cannot be effective when you’re using a substance that exacerbates symptoms; additionally, some medications for depression may negatively interact with alcohol.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—specialize in co-occurring disorders and will help you build a life in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.