The Link Between Alcohol Abuse and Depression

Since alcohol affects the neurotransmitters that regulate mood, it’s no wonder why people often fall into depression. Many people struggle with drinking to cope with difficult feelings, such as sadness and anger. People get drunk to feel better, to “calm their nerves.” While alcohol initially delivers a calming effect, too much of it can severely alter your emotional state.

It’s often a lifelong commitment, but one that can improve your life, health, and well-being in the long term. Alcohol use disorder and depression are two conditions that often occur together. What’s more, one can make the other worse in a cycle that’s pervasive and problematic if not addressed and treated. Sandra Lamb is a freelance science and health care journalist and author of books including How to Write Itand Writing Well for Business Success. Fehling recommends that family and friends of heavy drinkers “build a cohesive message” and unite. Depending on your situation, it may be wise to locate and be in touch with a treatment center in case one is needed immediately.

What are the immediate clinical implications of coexisting depressive and anxiety states among alcoholics?

Side effects may be worse if you also take another medication. Many medications can cause problems when taken with alcohol — including anti-anxiety medications, sleep medications and prescription pain medications. Side effects may worsen if you drink alcohol and take one of these drugs along with an antidepressant. Even though it may seem like depression and alcohol have formed a downward spiral from which there is no escape, that’s just not true. Contact a treatment provider to discuss treatment options today. Depression is a very serious medical condition that causes feelings of sadness, listlessness, and unhappiness.

alcohol and depression

However, depression after drinking alcohol is a common phenomenon for those who drink regularly. This is because of the effect that alcohol has on the brain, which can contribute to or worsen feelings of anxiety and sadness. While some can experience this after only one drink, for many it’s a sign of heavy alcohol use.

Understanding the Mental Health and Drinking Connection

Kitley ultimately decided to detail her experiences with drinking and depression in her autobiography, "MY self." Cognitive disorders – we utilize a search engine that is linked to Wikipedia and Wiktionary, allowing people with cognitive disorders to decipher meanings of phrases, initials, slang, and others. Raising awareness around eating disorders is essential for breaking the stigma and allowing people to seek treatment. Dopamine receptors within the brain are triggered by alcohol. When active, these “reward circuits” give us the feeling of euphoria, which then leaves us wanting more of that which triggered them in the first place.

  • Both alcoholism and depression are considered psychiatric illnesses that cause emotional and physical distress and impair a person’s ability to function in multiple ways.
  • In many cases, treating alcoholism will relieve depression.
  • The co-occurrence of a major depressive disorder and an alcohol use disorder is surprisingly common.
  • Medically Reviewed By Nanci Stockwell, LCSW, MBAA licensed behavioral health or medical professional on The Recovery Village Editorial Team has analyzed and confirmed every statistic, study and medical claim on this page.
  • If you’re battling depression, alcohol isn’t going to make you feel better.

A type of psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy helps people learn how to replace negative thoughts with positive and uplifting feelings. CBT helps teach people how to identify potential triggers, find ways to cope with urges to drink and set realistic goals. Cognitive behavioral therapy generally starts in a rehab setting and can be continued after treatment with the help of an alcohol counselor. This occurs when depression symptoms, such as feelings of sadness and worthlessness, interfere with a person’s daily life. Roughly 20 to 25 percent of U.S. adults will experience a major depressive episode at some point during their lives. However, treating most alcoholics’ depressive symptoms might not require the use of antidepressant medications.


In this case, it is uncertain whether the longer term treatment of alcoholism requires additional aggressive therapies aimed at treating underlying depressive or anxiety disorders. Fortunately, several important ongoing studies will help answer some remaining questions regarding the treatment of coexisting depressive or anxiety disorders in the context of alcoholism. The COGA investigation will gather more data regarding potential alcoholic subtypes and will continue to explore possible genetic linkages between alcohol dependence and major depressive and major anxiety disorders. Certain ongoing treatment studies also are further evaluating the potential usefulness of buspirone, some specific anti-depressants, and other medications that affect brain chemicals as potential components for treating alcoholism.

  • Studies have shown that, among people abusing alcohol, somewhere between 30 percent and 50 percent suffer depressive symptoms at any given time.
  • In fact, some research suggests people who have a history of alcohol dependence are 3.7 times more likely to experience major depression.
  • The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

He drank daily in his early 20s — around the time when he started experiencing suicidal thoughts. He says his drinking — and depression — "skyrocketed" at age 24 after his grandmother died. Tietz began feeling intense self-loathing and having thoughts that her husband might be better off without her. She quit drinking for 90 days as a result of these suicidal thoughts and noticed they quickly went away. Mayfield says his depression initially worsened when he didn't have alcohol to cope — but working with a therapist who specialized in addiction, participating in AA, and using meditation and exercise helped him stay sober.

Alcohol Addiction & Depression

Drinking can counteract the benefits of your antidepressant medication, making your symptoms more difficult to treat. Alcohol may seem to improve your mood in the short term, but its overall effect increases symptoms of depression and anxiety. Luckily, there are dozens of treatment options alcohol and depression available to you or a loved one who is suffering from depression. For many individuals, depression will abate with time and treatment. For others, the condition may be a lifelong struggle; treatment can dramatically improve the quality of and extend the length of life, however.

What percent of alcoholics are depressed?

At least 30%-40% of alcoholics also experience a depressive disorder. People are often seduced by the sedating effects of alcohol and use it as a kind of medication to help distract them from persistent feelings of sadness.