Depression & Alcohol Don’t Mix

By Marcus Clarke @psysci

7 Reasons Drinking Will Only Make Things Worse

Depression & Alcohol Don't MixThere have been songs written about it.  Relationships have begun, and ended, under it’s influence. We have some when we are happy, and when we are sad. There have even been, in the case of Dionysus, religious figures worshiped because of their connection with it. What is it? Yes, you’ve guessed it: alcohol.

Though we tend to associated alcohol with having a good time, and science backs this up, with research showing that alcohol stimulates dopamine neurons on the reward pathway, and opioid cells that release endorphins, there is a limit. After a certain amount of alcohol, it is speculated that it is about 0.05% blood alcohol level, this is no longer the case.

Your mood will drop, and things will go downhill. Though it is common for people who are depressed to use alcohol to make them feel better, and even to rely on it to get through the day, the negative effects will only be exacerbated in those with depression. Why is this? Below are seven reasons why drinking will only make your depression worse.

1. People who drink are more likely to harm themselves

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, self-harm and suicide are much more common in those with a drinking problem. This is further supported by the National Institute of Health, who claim “Alcohol abuse may lead to suicidality through disinhibition, impulsiveness and impaired judgment, but it may also be used as a means to ease the distress associated with committing an act of suicide.” So it may reduce inhibitions and allow someone to cope with the pain they go through as they contemplate suicide. These facts are both pretty compelling reasons for giving up drinking.

2. Could drinking be the cause of your depression?

According to the APA, Drinking problems also have a very negative impact on mental health. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can worsen existing conditions such as depression or induce new problems such as serious memory loss, depression or anxiety.

Alcohol problems don’t just hurt the drinker. Spouses and children of heavy drinkers may face family violence; children may suffer physical and sexual abuse and neglect and develop psychological problems. Women who drink during pregnancy run a serious risk of damaging their fetuses. Relatives, friends and strangers can be injured or killed in alcohol-related accidents and assaults.

For example, Science Daily outlines a 30-year study of 400 men. Nearly 50% had a genetic predisposition towards alcoholism. Over a number of decades, almost half of the men with fathers who were alcoholics developed problems with alcohol, with one fifth suffering a bout of major depression.

3. Alcohol can exacerbate your symptoms

Though you may think a drink will make you feel better, and it may, transiently, it will actually make your symptoms worse in both the long and short term. Alcohol changes brain chemistry, which can make you more depressed. As well as this, hangovers increase feelings anxiety, worry and guilt. Also, alcohol consumption can affect your life in other ways: you may find yourself having arguments with family, quarreling about your drinking and you may make poor decisions under the influence. This will only make you feel more depressed.

4. Alcohol can increase Risky Behavior

In addition to exacerbating depression symptoms, alcohol increases impulsivity, decreases inhibitions and impairs judgment, so you’re essentially not thinking straight — or like yourself. You’re unable to make informed and rational decisions. This can put you in dangerous situations and lead you to do things that you later regret which only serves to deepen depression symptoms.

5. Alcohol affects your health in other ways, which will prevent you getting over your depression

As well as the effects on your mental health, alcohol can affect your physical health in many ways. The National Institute of Health lists a dizzying array of disorders, including cirrhosis, many cancers and heart problems that can be caused or made worse by drinking. Of course, if you are unhealthy, this will make you feel worse, and will make it harder for you to fight your depression. Also, there is a correlation between adequate nutrition, including getting the correct vitamins and minerals, and mood.

6. Alcohol can lead to other mental health problems in addition to your depression, such as anxiety and serious memory loss

According to the APA alcohol abuse and alcoholism can worsen existing conditions such as depression. Also, it can create new problems such as serious memory loss and anxiety. As you know, depression is hard enough to cope with, and you do not want to add another disorder to the things you have to cope with.

7. It’s a vicious circle

With depression and anxiety, it’s a chicken or egg situation. Even the scientific evidence is unclear on whether alcohol causes depression, or whether depression will cause you to drink more. In fact, the reality is almost certainly much more complex. However, one thing is clear: if you stop drinking, your symptoms will probably improve, and perhaps go away completely.

Given this, the evidence is sobering (ahem). There are many reasons why if you are depressed, you should give up the drink. Drinking will only worsen your mental health issues and, according to some studies, abstinence may actually eliminate your depression.

Marcus regularly blogs at psysci, a psychology, science blog that examines the latest research and explains how findings can impact and improve people’s lives.

Related Online Continuing Education (CE) Courses:

Depression is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE) course that provides an introduction to the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of depressive illness. Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness. Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression. Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger. This introductory course provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options. Closeout course #10-72 | 2014 | 14 pages | 10 posttest questions

Clergy Stress and Depression is a 4-hour online continuing education (CE) course that provides clinicians with an understanding of the complex factors that cause stress and depression in clergy, along with recommendations for prevention and treatment. According to the Schaeffer Institute, the ministry is perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession, more than medical, legal, or political careers. Most statistics say that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career. One study found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry. What are the elements that conspire to produce such dire statistics? In addition to the job stressors that will be discussed in this course, the essential rub may be found in the daunting challenges of trying to accommodate two entities – the human being and the minister – within a single skin. Clergy stress and its links to depression have been identified in numerous studies and dissertations. However, the authors believe little research has been done linking the internal, external, and spiritual factors that are involved in stress and depression in clergy. This course, which is an adaptation of a doctoral dissertation, proposes to examine the role of these three factors in clergy stress and depression from a Judeo-Christian foundation, which would include Jewish rabbis, Catholic priests, and Protestant pastors. It is likely that most mental health professionals will encounter clergy among the clients they treat in their practices. Course #40-32 | 2013 | 52 pages | 30 posttest questions

Nutrition and Addiction: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 2-hour online continuing education (CE) course that examines addiction from a nutritional perspective. Drug addiction is an alarming problem in America, and one that is not receiving the treatment it needs. Compounding the problem is that addiction often leads to nutritional deficiencies, which predisposes the addict to a host of related health complications. Treatment recovery programs that also offer nutritional education have been found to significantly improve three-month sobriety success rates. The first section of this course will take a look at the etiology of addiction, related neurochemical factors and physiological components. The second section will focus on the nutrient deficiencies associated with addiction, along with the resultant effects on mood, cognition and behavior. The last section – the clinician’s toolbox – will give you, the clinician, targeted nutritional interventions and exercises that you can use with your clients to not just improve their recovery rates, but their overall mental health and wellbeing. Course #21-14 | 2017 | 30 pages | 15 posttest questions

Nutrition and Mental Health: Advanced Clinical Concepts is a 1-hour online continuing education (CE/CEU) course that examines how what we eat influences how we feel, both physically and mentally. While the role of adequate nutrition in maintaining mental health has been established for some time, just how clinicians go about providing the right nutritional information to the patient at the right time – to not just ensure good mental health, but actually optimize mood – has not been so clear. With myriad diets, weight loss supplements and programs, clients often find themselves reaching for the next best nutritional solution, all the while, unsure how they will feel, or even what to eat to feel better. On the other side of the equation, clinicians so often face not just a client’s emotional, situational, and relational concerns, but concerns that are clearly mired in how the client feels physically, and what impact his/her nutritional health may have on these concerns. For example, research into the role of blood sugar levels has demonstrated a clear crossover with client impulse control. Additionally, the gut microbiome, and its role in serotonin production and regulation has consistently made clear that without good gut health, mitigating anxiety and depression becomes close to impossible. So if good mental health begins with good nutritional health, where should clinicians start? What advice should they give to a depressed client? An anxious client? A client with impulse control problems? This course will answer these questions and more. Comprised of three sections, the course will begin with an overview of macronutrient intake and mental health, examining recent popular movements such as intermittent fasting, carb cycling and ketogenic diets, and their impact on mental health. In section two, we will look specifically at the role of blood sugar on mental health, and research that implicates blood sugar as both an emotional and behavioral regulator. Gut health, and specifically the gut microbiome, and its influence on mood and behavior will then be explored. Lastly, specific diagnoses and the way they are impacted by specific vitamins and minerals will be considered. Section three will deliver specific tools, you, the clinician, can use with your clients to assess, improve and maximize nutrition to optimize mental health. Course #11-06 | 2017 | 21 pages | 10 posttest questions

Professional Development Resources is a nonprofit educational corporation 501(c)(3) organized in 1992. We are approved to sponsor continuing education by the American Psychological Association (APA); the National Board of Certified Counselors (NBCC); the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB); the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA); the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA); the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR); the Alabama State Board of Occupational Therapy; the Florida Boards of Social Work, Mental Health Counseling and Marriage and Family Therapy, Psychology & School Psychology, Dietetics & Nutrition, Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology, and Occupational Therapy Practice; the Ohio Counselor, Social Worker & MFT Board and Board of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology; the South Carolina Board of Professional Counselors & MFTs; the Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage & Family Therapists and State Board of Social Worker Examiners; and are CE Broker compliant (all courses are reported within one week of completion).