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Alcohol and depression can be difficult to overcome without professional support. At Help4Addiction, we can source the most appropriate treatment for you, helping you overcome alcohol addiction and co-occurring mental disorders such as depression.

There are clear links between suicide, alcoholism, depression, and other mental health disorders. Some people believe that alcohol can be a cause of depression, and depression can be a cause of alcohol addiction.

What is Alcohol Addiction?

Alcohol addiction falls under the term ‘alcohol use disorder’ It can vary in severity, being categorised as either mild, moderate, or severe. It is a widely recognised physical and mental illness, characterised by the urge to drink alcohol despite the negative effects that occur from excessive drinking.

Often shortened to AUD, alcohol use disorder involves the lack of control over alcohol consumption – for example:

  • The amount of alcohol you drink
  • The frequency at which you drink alcohol
  • When you start and stop drinking alcohol

 

It is a chronic and relapsing brain disorder that can include addiction to alcohol, alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcoholism.

Symptoms of Alcohol Addiction

It isn’t always easy to spot the signs of alcohol addiction or alcohol dependence, whether it be in yourself or a loved one. Some people with AUD may hide their drinking, or be in denial about the extent of their problem.

For example, people may hide their drinking habits from others, and be secretive about their drinking. In some cases, people may become angry or frustrated if confronted about their heavy alcohol consumption – or deny it altogether.

Medical professionals and addiction specialists will diagnose alcohol use disorder by checking the DSM-5 criteria – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition. Doctors will assess drinking habits over 12 months to see if it has caused significant distress or impairment, as determined by the following diagnostic criteria.

Some of the DSM-5 criteria for an alcohol addiction diagnosis include:

  • The desire to stop drinking but being unsuccessful
  • The urge to drink alcohol or alcohol cravings
  • Tolerance to alcohol
  • Continuing to drink alcohol despite the social or personal issues it can cause
  • Missing obligations due to alcohol use
  • Regularly drinking alcohol in situations that can be dangerous

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Depression and Addiction

Depression is a mood disorder that can cause a low mood. Somebody with depressive disorders may experience:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Crying more than usual
  • Low mood
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Irritability
  • Trouble completing everyday tasks (e.g making the bed or cleaning)
  • Suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm

 

Persistent depression can also affect you physically. Some physical symptoms of depression can include:

  • Sleeping more than usual and/ or lethargy
  • Changes in appetite (e.g eating more than usual or not eating as much)
  • Trouble staying asleep or difficulty getting to sleep
  • Lack of or low sex drive

 

Evidence suggests that those in contact with mental health services who have a history of alcohol problems could be at a higher risk of suicide.

Between 2007 and 2017, there were close to 6,000 suicides in mental health patients with a history of alcohol misuse. This is the equivalent of around 10% of all deaths by suicide in England.

Due to the links between mental health, suicide, and alcohol use disorder, there are policies in place that aim at managing patients with comorbid alcohol and drug misuse. These policies have been shown to reduce suicide rates in patients by 25%.

Other mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder and anxiety are also linked to alcohol use disorder.

Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis is a term used to describe a mental health disorder and substance abuse problem that occurs simultaneously. A person with a dual diagnosis will experience a mental health problem (for example, depression), and substance use disorder (for example, alcohol addiction) at the same time, co-occurring.

A person with depression may be more likely to drink or abuse alcohol – as a form of self-medication. Alcohol may temporarily relieve symptoms of depression such as insomnia or irritability but can be damaging both in the long term and the short term.

A study that looked into alcohol use alongside treatment for depression compared alcohol habits in adults with a diagnosis of depression in primary care with the general population.

The study found that alcohol problems and hazardous drinking (for example, binge drinking) were much higher in patients receiving treatment for depression in primary care.

This study, conducted in Sweden, found that adults in the age groups of 28-50 and 51-71 years of age showed higher rates of alcohol issues than the younger age group of 17-27.

Is Alcohol a Cause of Depression?

According to the NHS, major depressive disorder can have a range of causes – but sometimes, there is no known cause. Certain things can trigger major depression – for example, life-changing events such as losing a job, having a baby, or a bereavement.

People with a family history of depression may also be at an increased risk of developing depression themselves.

According to HSE England, alcohol can not only make depression worse, but it could even cause it – alcohol affects your mental health.

Alcohol may temporarily relieve feelings of anxiety or sadness, but when the effects of alcohol wear off, you may feel worse than you did before. People who drink heavily are more likely to suffer from depression – and alcohol dependence is shown to be around three times more likely among those with depression.

Alcohol is a depressant – it affects your brain chemistry (for example, dopamine and serotonin). When you drink alcohol, you may feel a boost in these chemicals – but the next day, you’ll be deficient in them. This can leave you feeling down, depressed, and anxious.

Drinking alcohol can lead to the release of pent-up emotions. For example, alcohol can make feelings of sadness or anger more intense. This can affect your relationships, friendships, and of course, your health.

If you notice that your depression symptoms improve after stopping drinking alcohol, then there’s a chance that alcohol is the cause. However, if the depression symptoms persist after stopping drinking, then it’s important to speak with your GP. You don’t have to deal with depression alone, and there is help out there for you.

Help for Alcohol Addiction

Whether you’re looking for an NHS-operated rehab or a private rehab facility, we can help find the right place for you to undergo alcohol treatment.

One size does not fit all when it comes to rehab treatment. Some people prefer to attend rehab as an outpatient, travelling from their home to an outpatient facility. However, others prefer inpatient rehab at a residential rehab centre.

Treatment for alcohol addiction and depression typically includes an alcohol detox, therapy and aftercare. Detoxification addresses physical addiction. During this stage, you may experience withdrawal symptoms. Therapy can not only help you if you’re feeling depressed, but it can help you overcome addiction in the long term. It can address the potential root causes, and teach you effective coping strategies.

At Help4Addiction, we understand that taking the first steps towards alcohol addiction treatment can be difficult – and it can be difficult to even admit that you have a problem.

Our team will listen to your story with a sympathetic ear – taking into consideration your circumstances, requirements and preferences to find the right alcohol addiction treatment plan and rehab centre for you.

If you think that you or a loved one is an addict, it’s important to get help as soon as possible. Contact our friendly team of experts today to learn more about how we can help you, and to get the ball rolling on the admissions process.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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