By Patrick Bailey
A persistent sense of despair and hopelessness often associated with Alcohol and Depression may be a sign that you have clinical depression. t’s unfortunate that clinical depression is often shortened to plain depression. It gives one the inaccurate belief that depression is just about having a feeling of great sadness.
Depression does connote a feeling of deep unhappiness, but it is much more than that and it cannot be addressed without professional help. The best treatment can only come with comprehensive and professional therapy for depression.
Causes of Depression
Depression is a potentially debilitating mental condition that may be brought about, intensified
and extended by the coming together of several circumstances, including:
● Genes; it can run in families.
● Recent negative events, i.e. learning of a loved one’s serious illness or death.
● Business or employment problems.
● An imbalance in the levels of neurotransmitters (chemicals in the brain), particularly
serotonin, noradrenaline, and dopamine.
● Personality. Some personality types show a much greater tendency toward developing
depression: people who hunger for the approval of others, have low self-esteem or
perfectionist tendencies, are too self-critical or highly sensitive to criticism from others.
● Alcohol abuse and drug addiction. The relationship between alcohol or drugs and
how they can cause or worsen depression is a tragic and vicious circle.
When you’re depressed, you are more likely to turn to drink as a way to chase away the blues and sadness. It’s ironic that we place the grave responsibility of keeping depression at bay on alcohol, yet it may cause us to act irresponsibly. In fact, some 40 percent of heavy drinkers show symptoms similar to people with depression .Downing a drink or two might seem an effective coping mechanism. It can make you pleasantly drowsy and put you to sleep. However, this sleep is of poor quality and will have the opposite of slumber’s normal restorative effects. For example, too much alcohol can disrupt and reduce the amount of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, robbing one of dreams, causing daytime
drowsiness and making it hard to concentrate.
Masking a Deeper Problem with Alcohol
Although someone with depression may drink to feel better, that’s an illusion. Alcohol is a depressant, so alcohol intake can make your depression that much worse because of its effect on the chemicals of the brain. That relaxed feeling is actually superficial; your anxiety remains. In fact, you are at risk for more anxiety. Hangovers can lead to mornings where you wake up feeling anxious, jittery, guilty, and just generally unwell and depressed. This leads to more tension in the home with your family or in the workplace with your co-workers and employer. You may actually drink more alcohol and do so more often in the belief that the only reason you’re still feeling blue is that you must not be drinking enough. Even if you don’t think that, as your tolerance for alcohol increases, you will need larger amounts to attain the same level of relaxation. In this way, the depression gets worse and the drinking gets worse, and so the cycle continues. Depression is problematic because it leads to serious medical conditions , primarily but not limited to:
● Obesity (which in turn can lead to diabetes and heart disease)
● Relationship difficulties (at home, school, workplace)
● Panic disorder (unexplained feelings of danger or that you are going to die)
● Social phobia and isolation
● Self-mutilation (such as cutting)
● Suicide attempts
Alcohol abuse can likewise cause serious damage . The liver, which bears the brunt of the alcohol toxins, can develop cirrhosis, hepatitis, or fatal failure of the liver. Alcohol abuse also can lead to:
● Stomach ulcers
● High blood pressure
● Stroke or heart failure
● Weakened immune system
● Increased cancer risk
● Miscarriage or birth defects because of alcohol use while pregnant.
Alcohol use also may compromise judgment, endanger relationships, jobs, and property, and can even lead to legal problems for driving under the influence, being drunk and disorderly, or even violent. Even occasional drinkers can experience alcohol-compromised judgment.
For those who regularly abuse alcohol, the risk of losing inhibitions, self-control, and making impulsive decisions is greater. Add clinical depression and those impulses have the potential to include suicide and become genuinely tragic. To prevent such a tragedy it is important that you have a strong support group of family and friends and to find the best, most effective treatment
as soon as possible. For any substance abuse joined with mental illness, that means dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis, also called co-occurring or co-morbid disorders, is when a person simultaneously is suffering from an addiction (drugs, alcohol, sex, gambling or any combination of addictions) plus a mental illness (not only depression, but also bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, eating disorders, panic disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, or schizophrenia). Both the substance abuse and mental health disorder need to be addressed.
To prevent such a tragedy it is important that you have a strong support group of family and friends and accept your dual diagnosis so that you can find the best, most effective treatment as soon as possible.
Treatment for Alcohol and Depression
The facility that you choose should have a staff specifically trained for dual diagnosis treatment.
Not all mental health facilities, rehab centers, psychiatrists and addiction specialists routinely
check for dual diagnosis or are prepared to treat it.
Even when both problems were detected, for years the conventional wisdom was to treat them
one at a time. Dual diagnosis specialists now generally agree that both problems must be
treated at the same time or neither will be alleviated.
One reason is that often it cannot be known whether the mental illness caused the substance
abuse (an attempt at self-medication) or the substance abuse sparked the mental illness. What
is clear from studies is that alcohol and drugs make the mental illnesses much worse, and vice
versa. Many rehab centers for alcohol and depression offer their own unique take on various therapies,
but these are generally variations on the same theme, including:
● Detox. Most start with detoxification, either a careful withdrawal from the addictive
substance or the use of medication to aggressively flush out the toxins from your
system. This creates a healthier brain for when you receive treatment for your mental
condition. The choice of medication and how much is used are calculated carefully for
your particular case.
● Therapy. Psychological therapies to treat addiction may be one-on-one, group, or both.
Types of therapy include behavioral therapy, medication-assisted therapy, or a
combination. The specific type of therapy and how long it should last depends on the
types of substance you have abused and what mental illness you have.
● Support groups. After recovery, and even before, it can help to meet with other people
who are going through the same experience as you. Such peer support groups complement all the other treatments and therapies. Your family and friends represent another type of support group, provided they receive adequate preparation and orientation (don’t dwell on the past) and weren’t part of the problem (people who aided or instigated the substance abuse and have no interest in stopping). For therapy and rehab to work, you must be consistent and persevere so that they have time to take effect and to ensure that your recovery is stable. Accept that it likely will not be a short stint or an easy one. What should inspire you to go on—despite the strain on your time and financial resources—is that you will be a better version of yourself at the end of this journey.