The Relationship Between Drinking And Depression

By Gabrielle Seunagal |Updated April 4, 2022
CheckedMedically Reviewed By Dawn Brown, LPC

Drinking and depression share an interesting relationship. While one does not necessarily lead to the other, there are certain circumstances where the consumption of alcohol can impact depression. In virtually all cases, this impact is not positive. People drink for different reasons and there are various circumstances which lead individuals into a state of depression. In order to understand the relationship between drinking and depression, both of these entities must first be explored as individuals.

Alcohol and depression can often be more connected than most people realize. Sometimes, when a person is struggling with severe depression, mental illness, or other challenges, he or she may turn to alcohol abuse or substance abuse. Breaking the toxic relationship between drinking and depression in one’s individual life is not impossible; however, it often requires time and sometimes even special treatment facilities.

Know that battling alcohol and depression is nothing to be ashamed about, nor is seeking professional help.

What You Need To Know About Drinking

There are many reasons why people choose to consume alcohol. Sometimes it happens during social settings or as a way to unwind with friends. It's not particularly uncommon for people to talk about drinking for the sake of "taking off the edge." In other scenarios, people drink because they want to temporarily escape from a problem or distract themselves from something. Now, it's important to note that drinking in and of itself is not inherently problematic. The reasons and frequency associated with drinking, however, is what has a tendency to cause issues for people.

Becoming Addicted to Drinking

When a person regularly turns to drinking in order to distract themselves, avoid facing problems or otherwise escape, this is not good on many counts, according to Psychology Today. First and foremost comes the most obvious reason of all: drinking does not magically erase the issues that someone is facing or struggling with. Make no mistake. For some individuals, drinking can provide temporary escapism but when the alcohol wears off, the issue is still there…along with a nasty hangover.

Addiction has a nasty habit of sneaking up on people. In so many cases, people have believed they could handle themselves and control their alcohol consumption. Before they know it, an addiction to drinking has developed and caused all kinds of new problems in their life, problems which were not originally present. Drinking addictions can be broken, but it takes time, hard work, going through withdrawal and potential setbacks. If someone is dealing with a tough situation or going through a difficult time in life, then turning to the bottle is not the answer. There are so many other healthier ways to fix issues and get help.

What You Need To Know About Depression

First and foremost, depression is clinically defined as a "mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life." It's important to note that depression and sadness are not one and the same; sadness tends to be relatively fleeting and can usually be overcome in a relatively short time period. Depression, on the other hand, is reported as typically long-lasting and adversely impactful upon individuals' ability to successfully function in society.

Symptoms of Depression and Treatment Options

Due to the severity of depression, the symptoms associated with this mental health issue will eventually manifest in afflicted individuals. Many people who go through depression often experience anxiety, insomnia, a lack of interest in being around others, and even thoughts of suicide. Additional symptoms of depression include but are certainly not limited to concentration problems, extreme shifts in weight, and habitual crying.

It goes without saying that depression needs to be addressed, preferably before it gets to the point of impeding a person's ability to function in the world. The longer the depression lasts, the more insidious it gets and the more treatment will be needed. In many cases, therapy, counseling, and medication are the most commonly used methods to help individuals who are struggling with depression. Of course, it goes without saying that any administered diagnosis or treatment should be issued by a licensed physician. Under no circumstances should someone attempt to self-diagnose or self-treat, nor should they allow someone who is not a licensed physician to diagnose or treat them?

Exploring The Connections Between Drinking And Depression

Drinking and depression have a way of feeding into one another under the right circumstances, as documented by American Addiction Centers. To be clear, not every person who consumes alcohol is depressed. Likewise, not every depressed individual drinks. However, there are many times in which drinking, alcohol and depression can overlap. This crossover can also be very harmful to a person's mental, physical and emotional wellbeing.

Many studies have proven that depression increases a person's likelihood of drinking and developing alcohol addictions. It's not a guarantee, but because of the manner in which depression impacts the brain, the likelihood of the aforementioned development increases exponentially. Furthermore, in the case of depressed individual, drinking is often employed as a form of escapism from common symptoms associated with the mental health issue. Unfortunately, while a temporary escape may be achieved, at least in the beginning of this downward spiral, matters get a lot darker very quickly.

When someone who is dealing with depression drinks for the sake of alleviating symptoms, it affects the neurotransmitters within their brain. This means that the chemicals in the brain which control a person's emotional state and reward system will experience speedy fluctuations. This is not good for anyone, but it's especially toxic for someone who is already dealing with depression. Over time, frequent consumption of alcohol can actually worsen symptoms of depression rather than providing the escape that many individuals crave as they drink.

Lifestyle Problems

In many cases, alcohol and depression along with excessive drinking can boil down to problems which people are facing in their day to day lives. While depression typically happens when someone has reached their breaking point as a result of the aforementioned issues, excessive drinking typically happens for escapism purposes. Neither one of these things are good, healthy, or conducive to a person's success in the long run.

As unbelievable as it may seem, there is always a way to deal with lifestyle problems; to be precise, there is always a healthy coping mechanism which won't drive people to the bottle or into depression. However, fixing a lifestyle issue isn't always easy or comfortable…at least in the beginning. It may require getting a new job, ending a relationship, reconsidering your environment, and so much more. Having a support system which you can rely on is also helpful and can really make a difference during challenging times.

Hereditary Susceptibility

Yet another shared commonality between drinking and depression comes the form of hereditary susceptibility. For as unfortunate as it may be, if someone has relatives who previously or currently struggled with alcohol abuse or depression, then this can increase a person's likelihood of facing these issues themselves.

Of course, this does not mean that everyone who is related to someone who battled drinking or depression will share these battles, although the susceptibility does increase. Problematic lifestyle situations and exposure to other toxic elements can push people over the edge, especially when coupled with hereditary factors.

Knowing That You Can Rise Above

While drinking and depression can present very real challenges in people's lives, it's important to know that rising above is always possible. This can be difficult for everyone to remember, especially in situations where someone has struggled with frequent drinking or depression for quite some time. It can be easy to think that these situations have gotten the best of us or that there's no way out, but that simply isn't accurate. The reality is that you can always rise above, better yourself, and achieve healthy habits and coping mechanisms.

Surrounding Yourself with the Right People

When you find yourself in a situation where you are going through a tough time, one of the best things you can do is be around the right people. This goes unrealized by so many individuals, but the crowd you choose to associate yourself with is very impactful. If you are constantly in the company of people who aren't productive or who rely on unhealthy coping mechanisms, that's going to rub off on you. If you are constantly being peer pressured to engage in risky behaviors, that's going to leave it's mark. Surrounding yourself with the right people is so very significant, especially if you are struggling with something as serious as drinking and/or depression.

Distancing Yourself from the Wrong People

When working to overcome occurring disorders, alcohol and depression, distancing yourself from the wrong people is just as critical as surrounding yourself with the right people. During your recovery process, individuals who engage in heavy drinking may be worth avoiding.

The people in your inner circle should practice healthy lifestyle habits, not serve as potential triggers for relapse. Believe it or not, being around the wrong people when you struggle with feelings of sadness and/or substance abuse increases the risk of further issues.

Distancing yourself from people who are not good for you doesn’t make you a bad person; it simply makes you a person who is prioritizing your own self-improvement. If you find that many folks in your inner circle are worth distancing yourself from, this can be tough. This can also be lonely; however, support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous have changed the lives of many people who struggle with drinking and depression.

Don’t be afraid of change or making different decisions to better yourself; these can be very important milestones in your fight against alcohol and depression. 

In Closing

At the end of the day, we all face tough times. At one point or another, everyone in this world will face a challenge of some nature. Certain challenges are more apparent than others while other problems are much harder to see yet just as dangerous and insidious, if not more so.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are having issues with drinking or depression, it's important for you to know that there's nothing wrong with asking for help. There is no shame in admitting that you are struggling and could benefit from external support and guidance. You don't have to do it all on your own and, as previously stated, surrounding yourself with the right people makes all the difference in the world during tough times.

If you're interested in seeking out help, then you've just landed your lucky break. Here at BetterHelp, we employ counselors and therapists who would be more than thrilled to get to know you and serve as a guide and aide to you. We understand that things may seem tough right now…and while we can't guarantee that you'll never face any obstacles, what we can do is promise that you will never have to go through these things on your own.

You can take the first step towards getting help by reaching out to BetterHelp at any point or time.

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