Depression and alcohol abuse are two things that often go hand in hand with one another and serve to make the other worse. Depression can very well lead people to alcohol as a coping mechanism and in turn create a self-perpetuating cycle that leads to yet greater consumption of alcohol.
Let’s first define both depression and alcohol abuse, or alcohol use disorder (AUD), though.
Depression – Beyond just the standard blues or feeling sad, depression is a serious mood disorder and medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, think and act and affects everything from your sleep to your work. You can think of it as feeling down, low and hopeless for weeks at a time.
In 2017, 17.3 million American adults had at least one major depressive episode.
Alcohol Use Disorder – Not just simply problem drinking, AUD is a chronic relapsing brain disorder characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.
Roughly 15 million people in the United States have alcohol use disorder.
Can Depression and Alcohol Abuse Be Connected?
Broadly speaking, serious mental illness (SMI) and substance abuse disorder (SUD) co-occur with a disconcertingly high frequency with roughly 1 in 4 people with SMI also having a SUD.
Concerning depression and alcohol specifically, they very much can be connected, a recent study noted that “depressive disorders are the most common psychiatric disorders among people with AUD. The co-occurrence of these disorders is associated with greater severity and worse prognosis than either disorder alone, including a heightened risk for suicidal behavior”.
Adding to that were findings from previous research showed that the “prevalence of depression among alcohol-dependent persons is high (63.8%) with a significant association between depression and the mean AUDIT score (alcohol use disorders identification test). At posttest, depressed participants had a statistically significant craving for alcohol…Alcohol dependence is associated with major depression.”
People are using alcohol to quite literally drown their sorrows as the famous saying goes. To escape those feelings of sadness, if only temporarily, with the sedative effects of alcohol. The irony, as we’ve already covered, is that avoiding dealing with depression by consuming alcohol only serves to make it worse.
Can I Receive Treatment for My Depression and Alcohol Abuse at the Same Time?
Not only can you receive treatment for depression and alcohol abuse simultaneously, but that’s also exactly what you should do. Having AUD and depression at the same time, or any addiction and mental illness/disorder for that matter, is known as a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis.
Dual diagnosis treatment is critically important because it’s designed to tackle the connection between mental illness and addiction rather than keeping them in totally separate and distinct silos. Look at it this way, if you were to focus on solely beating depression but left your alcoholism untouched, your drinking could be a conduit for the depression to come right back. And vice versa, working only on your alcohol abuse leaves the underlying depression, perhaps a big underlying reason for your drinking to begin with, unexamined.
Because both depression and alcohol abuse fall under the roof of mental illness, treating them both in an integrated fashion tends to produce more effective and lasting outcomes. The goal is not to just work on the addiction but rather you as a whole person and offering a much more holistic and complete treatment than would otherwise be possible.
Get Help With Depression and Alcohol Abuse at Principles Recovery Center
At Principles Recovery Center in South Florida, we well understand the interplay of alcohol abuse and depression, substance abuse and mental illness, and have years of experience honing our program to help people get back to sober and fulfilling lives.
If you or a loved one is dealing with alcoholism and depression or are simply unsure if you have co-occurring illnesses, get in touch with us today and let’s discuss it.