Guest blog from HIMS: Exploring the Link Between Alcoholism and DepressionMay 22, 2020
An estimated 17.3 million U.S. adults (about seven percent of the population) have experienced at least one major depressive episode during their lifetime.
Some people who experience persistent depression turn to drugs or alcohol as a means of coping, sometimes to the point of abuse.
On the other side of the coin, one study has shown that as many as 64 percent of alcoholics experience concurrent or worsening symptoms of depression.
While alcoholism and depression are two separate conditions, they tend to occur together, and one can feed the other.
Read on to explore the common symptoms and the cycle of self-medication.
How Are They Related?
Depression is a mood disorder characterized by persistent feelings of sadness and a general loss of interest that may impact the ability to complete daily activities, as well as deeply affect one’s quality of life.
Individuals suffering from depression may develop related problems or conditions like anxiety, weight gain, weight loss, erectile dysfunction and sleep disturbance.
Studies also indicate that individuals with mental health conditions like depression are more likely to use alcohol as a coping mechanism.
Depression can be a lifelong struggle, and drinking alcohol may temporarily provide welcome relief from anxiety, fatigue and other symptoms of depression.
Alcoholism, or alcohol dependence, develops when one can no longer control the use of alcohol and it starts to affect the ability to fulfill obligations.
Common as depression is, alcohol use disorder may be even more common, affecting nearly 30 percent of Americans at some point in their lifetimes.
The Cycle of Self-Medication
Low mood and feelings of worthlessness, characteristic symptoms of depression, can be exhausting when they persist for long periods of time.
Combined with the fact that about three quarters of depressed patients experience insomnia, it’s common for people with depression to self-medicate in an effort to ease their symptoms. For some, alcohol is the medication of choice.
The sedative effects of alcohol may temporarily relieve symptoms of depression or distract from persistent feelings of sadness, fatigue and guilt.
The trouble, however, is that one of alcohol’s effects is depressing the nervous system, so it may actually increase the duration and severity of a depressive episode.
The takeaway here is: if you consistently turn to alcohol to make yourself feel better, it may become a vicious cycle you have trouble breaking out of.
You’re Not Alone
Depression affects each person differently, with roughly five percent of U.S. adults experiencing seasonal depressive symptoms and about 1.5 percent experiencing persistent depressive periods lasting two years or more.
Self-medicating with alcohol can be dangerous and may worsen your depression over time.
According to the WHO, fewer than 50 percent of depressed adults receive treatment, which may increase the suicidality of the disorder.
If you’re struggling with depression, seek support or treatment to learn how to manage your symptoms and break the cycle of self-medication.