Alcohol Use and Depression

Are you or someone that you care about suffering from depression and drinking to excess? You are not alone. Alcoholism is commonly found in individuals with depression. These two conditions will exacerbate each other in many cases.


What Is the Impact of Alcohol on the Body?

For many Americans, the occasional drink is an enjoyable experience with little to negative impact. While science has recently shifted to saying that any amount of alcohol has some sort of negative impact on the body, many Americans drink occasionally with no noticeable effects. For others though, drinking can become problematic. Drinking to excess can cause many issues in the body.


Here are some of the ramifications of drinking to excess:

  • Brain: Alcohol disrupts normal brain function, which can affect mood, behavior, cognitive ability, and physical coordination
  • Heart: Over time, drinking to excess can lead to cardiomyopathy, arrhythmias, stroke, and high blood pressure.
  • Liver: Drinking to excess can cause liver inflammation and various conditions from hepatitis to cirrhosis in severe alcoholics


There are also effects on the immune system. Chronic drinkers are more likely to become sick with diseases like pneumonia.


What About Depression?

Major depressive disorder is a mood disorder that affects an individual’s emotional state, thoughts, and behavior. It is characterized by feeling down or sad, low energy and motivation levels, and even reduced cognitive function.


Depression is fairly common. Roughly 300,000,000 individuals worldwide will experience depression each year.


Risk factors that can play a role in clinical depression include:

  • Genetics: Family history of mental health issues, particularly in the father or mother
  • Biological factors and illness: Individuals suffering from chronic illnesses are at increased risk of depression
  • Stress and trauma: Unsustainably high-stress levels and traumatic events greatly increase the likelihood of depression.
  • Addiction issues: Alcohol and drugs can increase the possibility of depression.


Types of Depression

There are different forms that clinical depression can take. These include:


  • Major depressive disorder: Must be present for a minimum of two weeks for a diagnosis.
  • Persistent depressive disorder: While the symptoms are less severe, they last longer.
  • Postpartum depression: This is a type of depression that occurs after giving birth.
  • Seasonal affective disorder: This is depression caused by changing seasons. It usually occurs in winter when there is less sunlight.
  • Psychotic depression: This includes hallucinations and delusions.
  • Bipolar disorder: During one phase of this disorder, the person experiences irritability and low moods that would qualify as a major depressive disorder, and during the other a nearly euphoric state with high energy levels and high impulsivity.
  • Medication or substance-induced depression: Medications and other substances such as alcohol or drugs can cause depression.


Symptoms Indicating Depression

Typically, a diagnosis is not made unless a person shows symptoms for at least two weeks. Even though there are several types of depression, they tend to show the same types of symptoms:

  • Constant low mood, feelings of sadness
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Feeling guilty, worthless, or helpless
  • Losing interest in activities
  • Fatigue
  • Sleep issues including oversleeping or insomnia
  • Having thoughts of suicide


The Connection Between Alcohol and Depression

Research has shown that alcoholism and depression can coexist or have a causal relationship. It is possible to have both depression and alcoholism but it is likely that depression led to alcoholism or alcoholism has led to depression. It is more likely that excess drinking results in depression than the other way around. 


While those with alcohol use disorder may find temporary relief when consuming alcohol, over time drinking to excess will only increase depressive symptoms. This leads to an increased desire for the immediate relief alcohol provides. This creates a cycle that eventually leads to alcoholism in many cases.


Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. Research tells us that alcohol directly affects several neurotransmitters. One of those transmitters includes gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which has a negative impact on the hippocampus. Alcohol also has an indirect effect on the limbic and opioid systems. All of this contributes to alcohol’s depressant effects.

Here at Harbor Wellness and Recovery Center, we offer various levels of care to treat alcoholism, alcohol use disorder, substance use disorder, addiction, and co-occurring conditions such as depression. For more information about our services please call us directly at 732-847-4555. We are available 24/7 to help. All calls are no obligation and are strictly confidential.