Alcohol Abuse and Depression Explored
Twin Rivers Rehab has developed a very positive reputation for successfully working with clients suffering with an addiction and a mental health disorder (Dual Diagnosis) over the years. Unfortunately, Alcoholism and Depression is increasing globally, an epidemic enlarged by the COVID-19 pandemic!
The Link Between Alcohol Abuse and Depression
Alcohol has been present in society for centuries and we’ve always considered it more like a prize rather than a poisonous drug. Thinking of it, alcohol is everywhere. Whether we celebrate something or grieve – we drink. “Any reason is good to drink alcohol” – some people can say.
And we unconsciously teach our children the same thing by drinking in front of them and giving them non-alcoholic alternatives at an early age, for example, champagnes on their birthdays. They begin to treat alcohol as a necessity in adult life in order to have fun as everyone else drinks it! Children are unaware of negative consequences that alcohol consumption can bring and that it very often contributes to serious mental health disorders.
What Does Alcohol do to Your Brain?
While occasional drinking is something that some people do and there is nothing to be worried about, heavy drinking can significantly influence the functioning of the brain. Once ingested, alcohol affects your body very quickly – it provides a false sense of confidence and contributes to recklessness, bad decision making, and even memory impairment.
Many people with alcohol dependency have experienced several side effects on their bodies. Drinking for an extended period has a huge impact on body devastation and causes diminished grey matter in the brain, memory loss, and inability to think abstractly.
Alcohol profoundly impacts the complex structures of the human brain by blocking the signals between the brain cells and reducing effective brain communication with the body. In turn, this leads to the most common drinking symptoms, such as slurred speech and slowed reactions.
Additionally, alcohol can hugely affect other organs in the body, potentially leading to alcoholic liver disease and raised blood pressure, which increases the risk of having a heart attack.
Depression and Drinking – Why Do They Occur Together and What are the Symptoms?
Most people who drink heavily for a long time, along with alcohol dependency may also develop other emotional and mental disorders. Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it slows down brain functioning, and leads to changes in the central nervous system. These impairments in the chemistry of the brain may contribute to mood changes and develop post alcohol depression.
Alcohol can also be used as a form of self-medication by some people struggling with depression. While it can temporarily improve mood, it only worsens the symptoms of the person struggling with depression. Alcohol drinking can also make problems seem worse than they are and make the person feel even more depressed with daily life.
Some of the symptoms of alcohol abuse and depression:
- Drinking despite symptoms of depression, mood changes or other physiological disorders
- Alcoholic suicidal thoughts
- Inability to limit amount of ingesting alcohol
- Failing to fulfill work or school obligations
- Avoiding any sort of activities in order to continue drinking
- Feeling of worthlessness, low self-esteem
- Problems with concentrations
- Sadness, hopelessness, chronic fatigue, and feeling of guilty
- Loss of interests in hobbies
- No energy for conducting daily tasks
- Change in appetite and sleep pattern
If you have any of these signs, you are advised to seek professional help from a specialist that knows how to deal with co-occurrent diseases.
How to Safely Help With Drinking and Depression
Both alcohol abuse and depression are profoundly serious conditions that if not treated can create severe life problems, such as loss of enjoyment of life, job losses or damaging relationships. It is essential to resort to a specialist to learn the best course of action to deal with the issue. The fact is that treating both disorders at the same time can ease the symptoms of both gradually.
There are a couple of treatments that are used for alcoholism and depression together. They include taking medications, rehabilitation, psycho-education, counselling, lectures, workshops and attending support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. It is crucial to reach out to a registered and recognised treatment centre where the specialists combine the treatment programme and treat both disorders simultaneously as it is the most effective approach. Treating just the depression or just the alcoholism will most likely result in regular relapse!
While alcohol abuse disorder or depression can be extremely hard to live with daily, having both can make normal activities impossible to conduct. Treatment is not an easy and quick process, but definitely worth taking as it can massively improve one’s quality of life.
David is the Clinical and Development Director of Twin Rivers Rehab in South Africa and a UK Accredited Addictions Therapist with the Federation of Drug and Alcohol Professionals UK. Articles/Blogs are written with the assistance of researchers and other specialists in the field of addiction and the recovery process