Alcoholism and Depression: How Are They Connected?

Alcohol and depression treatment centers phase it as a key question-a question applies to the study of alcoholics: which came up first—the alcoholism or the depression disorder? While alcohol and depression are closely connected, researchers have worked hard to figure out how this connection comes to be.

Essentially, what researchers have found is whether the mood swings or depressive disorders lead to alcoholism or does alcohol or drinking cause depression. Yet there is no clear answer on the link between alcoholism and mental disorders.

Is depression one cause of alcohol abuse?

Not every patient with mental depression drinks at all, much less is an alcoholic. However, those who suffer from depression not in active treatment are more likely than other people to be alcoholics, which tells us that depression and alcoholism are connected. By treating depression, it would become much easier for the patient to avoid falling into the trap of alcoholism.

Does Alcoholism Cause Depression?

Both heavy and long-term alcohol use alter the brain and the effect on neurotransmitters means depression is a result of alcohol use. Excessive drinking is generally defined as drinking 15+ a week or often having 5+ drinks at a time for men and having 8+ drinks a week or often having 4+ drinks at a time for women. As a result, anyone who is by definition an alcoholic is consuming alcohol to degree that will impact the brain as one of the side effects of alcohol.

Among the ways alcoholism can impact the brain are causing depressed moods, anxiety, and sleep disorders. As it ends up, these are also all symptoms of depressive mood disorders. Given this, it is clear that alcohol induced depression is real, meaning we can conclude that alcoholism causes depression.

What is less clear is if alcoholism causes long-term, chronic depression. Depression after drinking alcohol next day is one thing, but it is not known if an alcoholic will develop a true depressive disorder strictly due to their alcohol consumption. In some cases, the changes in mood will last longer than just a few days, such as with alcohol withdrawal depression, but causation of depressive disorders is not yet proven. In other words, it is unknown if someone without prior mood disorder or a predisposition to depressive disorders will develop the disorder as a result of alcoholism or just suffer post alcohol depression. In some cases severe symptoms of delirium tremens can develop.

Treatment for Alcohol and Depression

Because these two disorders feed off of each other, they must be treated together. If depression is treated but not alcoholism, then alcohol depression will persist, negating the effects of treatment. If alcoholism is treated but not depression, the pull to self-medicate will likely be too strong to overcome.

Individuals looking to recover from both disorders must seek treatment from a rehabilitation facility which specializes in treating both the addiction and the mood disorder. The good news is that since depressive disorder plays a role in many types of addiction, most rehabilitation facilities will be able to offer treatment addressing both issues. Patients can choose between residential, outpatient, and combination treatment. In most cases, it is recommended that the patient start with residential treatment then transition to outpatient as detoxing from alcohol can be deadly.

In addition to considering the type of facility to begin therapy at, the patient must consider why types of therapy they wish to try. Common forms of treatment for co-occurring depressive disorder and alcoholism include:

Antidepressant medications: these alter the chemistry of the brain to right imbalances that contribute to depressive disorderCognitive behavioral therapy: a type of therapy which helps patients address the dysfunctional thoughts and actions that fuel their disordersMotivational interviewing: an active form of collaboration between a patient and therapist designed to use positive thinking and approaches to motivate recoveryTrauma therapy: therapy designed to help the patient reprocess traumatic memories that contribute to their disordersFamily systems therapy: therapy that helps to address dysfunction within a household, helping to create better habits that help the whole family remain healthy

Both depression and alcohol abuse candamage the individual suffering from the disorders as well as their loved ones. However, there are effective treatment options available that can help the patients to develop the skills needed to manage mood disorder and alcohol abuse through therapy and medication. While it can be difficult to admit that there is a problem, alcohol use disorder treatment makes it possible to live a better life. Recovery from alcoholism is achievable even for those suffering with depression.

-By Acolades
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