Can alcohol improves a depressive mood?
Individuals with depression may abuse alcohol or drugs in a misguided effort to feel better. Alcohol can initially give the impression of improving one’s mood, but in actuality, alcohol is a depressant. Likewise, the use of drugs to get “high” is usually followed by a “crash” during which the mood becomes sad or despondent. Sometimes depression is caused by the alcohol or drug abuse itself and will remit when abstinence is achieved.
Oftentimes, depression precedes the alcohol or drug use, and people turn to these substances in an effort to feel better. Typically, however, feeling better really just means being “numb” or deadened to the depressed feelings. Treatment of the depression rarely may result in achievement of abstinence, which will depend on the stage of substance abuse. If the individual has become dependent (addicted) to the alcohol or drugs, then concordant substance abuse treatment will likely be necessary as well. As long as the person is addicted to alcohol or drugs, recovery from depression will be limited. In fact, substance abuse is a problem that needs to be considered if someone is refractory to treatments for depression. Seeing a person who specializes in treatment of addictions would also be helpful, as there are different forms of therapeutic interventions often needed in persons who have addiction. In addition, there are specialized treatment programs for persons with both depression and substance abuse.
How are alcoholism and depression connected?
A clear link exists between addiction and depression. The rates of depression are three times higher in male addicts and four times higher in female addicts than in the general population, and a third of all depressed patients suffer from an addiction. Men typically develop a substance abuse disorder first, whereas women typically develop a mood disorder first. The link between these conditions has biological, psychological, and social roots.
Biologically, many addictive substances are depressants, whereas many other addictive substances when withdrawn cause depression. Additionally, both addiction and depression run together in families, placing individuals at risk genetically. Psychologically, certain personalities are prone to addiction and depression. People who have difficulty with impulse control, who are quick to anger, and who are abrupt seem to be more prone to addiction, perhaps as an attempt to help modulate their feelings. Unfortunately, these addictions are only transiently beneficial and generally backfire.
Alternatively, people who are shy or reserved and who become very anxious in social settings are more prone to depression and addiction as well, again because they often use substances as a way of trying to feel more comfortable “in their own skin” as well as around others. Socially, people who struggle with depression and addiction find themselves socially isolated and unable to keep a job. Social isolation, job loss, and loss of access to healthcare and housing can lead people to further worsening of symptoms of depression and addiction.