Abusing alcohol and depression often go hand in hand, and it's not a good combination.
Alcohol, contrary to what many people believe, is a depressant. Many people believe it to have stimulant qualities because the first drink or two of alcohol will often make a person feel more upbeat or excited. You might feel that a few drinks makes feel more relaxed and less stressed. Biologically, however, this is untrue. Alcohol depresses the brain and nervous system, and lowers serotonin and norepinephrine levels.
While these side effects and symptoms can happen to people drinking alcohol even if they aren't depressed, depression or medications used for depression can really exacerbate these effects.
It has been shown that heredity can play an important role in both abuse of alcohol and depression. If you have a family history of either one, you are more likely to develop one or both of these conditions. Also if you have depression, alcoholism is going to make it much worse and if you drink alcohol, depression is going to make you more likely to become an alcoholic.
Of course, there's more than genetics that is involved. Your upbringing, your home, and your social environment can also play a big role in determining whether you experience depression or alcoholism or both. Abused children and children raised in poverty are more likely to experience depression or have a drinking problem. Children and teens who have had an episode of major depression are more likely to also start drinking alcohol. Women seem to have more of a tendency than men to start drinking after becoming depressed. These are only a few of the variables that can factor into whether a person develops a depression and alcohol problem.
It is controversial as to whether alcohol abuse causes depression or depression causes alcohol abuse. It appears that both can be true. If you suffer from depression, you are more likely to drink alcohol an an unhealthy manner, which can just make your depression worse. If you are abusing alcohol, it can trigger a genetic predisposition to depression, which in turn will often make your alcoholism and depression more severe.
If you suffer from both depression and alcoholism, treatment will be most successful if the treatment plan addresses both conditions. It is very important to seek treatment from someone or an institution that is experienced in treating both disorders simultaneously. Individuals who suffer from depression and alcoholism are at greater risk of having car accidents, attempting suicide, and engaging in other harmful or high risk activities. The two conditions together can make a person much more impulsive and certainly can impair judgment. In other words, the two combined can be deadly.
A lot of people might exhibit one or more of these signs, but that doesn't necessarily make them an alcoholic. It's important to see the bigger picture. A lot of us have a few drinks to unwind, or have had a little bit too much to drink and didn't feel so great the next morning. This doesn't make someone an alcoholic. When these things are persistent and really start to affect someone's life in a negative way and they still won't stop drinking, that's when it can become pretty worrisome.
When you put the two lists together and see that alcohol is being used in an attempt to self-treat symptoms of depression or a loved one's drinking habits increase and the signs of depression start to appear, then you should get help right away.
If you or a loved one has concern about alcohol or depression or both, immediately seek help. There are many different types of alcohol treatment programs. The treatment program can include individual counseling, detoxification, medication, and inpatient or outpatient intensive rehabilitation. Also, don’t forgot about the importance of a healthy diet, exercise, meditation, yoga, and other holistic treatments, which for many people can be very beneficial. It is beneficial to find some sort of treatment that will address both the alcohol issues as well as the depression.
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