Relationship Between Drinking Alcohol and Depression
When people are feeling depressed they can view alcohol as a comforting friend. In the beginning it may even feel like this substance is making life easier, but this conceals a terrible truth. Alcohol can only ever make the symptoms of depression worse. This is because alcohol is a type of drug known as a depressant – this means that it depresses arousal levels and reduces excitability. Not only can alcohol abuse significantly worsen the symptoms of depression, but it can also cause them to occur in the first place. Alcohol induced depression is quite common among people who binge drinking.
Types of Depression
There are a number of different types of depression including:
* Minor depression that lasts a few days.
* Major depression lasts longer than two weeks, and the symptoms can be highly disruptive in the individual’s life. This can be referred to more technically as Dysthymic disorder.
* Alcohol induced depression.
* Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that people experience due to the change of season. This condition is most common in those countries where there is a long dark winter.
* Some women experience postpartum depression after they have a baby. The cause of this will be hormonal changes in the body.
* A psychotic depression is where people also experience distorted thinking that has a psychotic nature. This is the most serious type of depression because the individual may be a danger to themselves or other people.
* Those individuals who are dealing with bipolar disorder will have periods where they suffer from the symptoms of depression – this may then be followed by period of mania.
Symptoms of Depression
The symptoms of depression can include:
* They feel drained of energy
* Inability to sleep at night.
* Turning to food for comfort. Alternatively the individual may completely lose their interest in food.
* Problems with forgetfulness.
* The individual may find it a real struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
* The activities they once enjoyed no longer feel satisfying.
* Pessimism about the future.
* They may feel guilty about things that happened in the past.
* Body aches and pains that seem to have no obvious cause.
* Difficulties with concentration.
* Alcohol and drug abuse. This includes dangerous patterns of consumption such as binge drinking.
* The individual feels irritable much of the time.
* The feeling that life lacks any real meaning or purpose.
* Low self esteem – the person may believe that they deserve to feel the way they do.
* Thoughts of committing suicide.
* Feeling disassociated from the world.
* The individual may feel like there is a barrier between them and other people.
* They do not feel like socializing. The individual may begin to isolate and avoid other people.
* A sad nostalgia for the past.
Binge Drinking Defined
Binge drinking refers to a particularly dangerous pattern of alcohol consumption. It is a style of drinking where the individual deliberately becomes intoxicated by consuming an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time. This tends to be a pattern of drinking that most people will limit to the weekends, but it is still a form for alcohol abuse – in fact it is the most common form of such abuse. It means that the individual is deliberately producing the symptoms of drunkenness, and this can get them in all types of trouble. It is not necessary for people to drink every day in order for them to suffer the consequences of alcohol abuse. The dangers of this pattern of drinking include:
* It can lead to symptoms of depression. It can also exacerbate existent depressive symptoms.
* Alcohol is damaging to every organ in the body. It is not necessary to be a daily drinker before entering the early stages of alcoholic liver disease.
* The individual will be more likely to commit crimes or become a victim of crimes when they are intoxicated.
* It can easily lead on to alcoholism. The vast majority of alcoholics will have started off as binge drinkers.
* It can lead to alcohol poisoning. Some people have died because their blood alcohol content reached levels that were excessively high.
* This is the pattern of drinking that is most likely to cause hangovers.
* Some people will experience blackouts when binge drinking. This means that there will be parts of the evening that they cannot remember.
* It can mean that people are unable to take care of their family, social, and work commitments the next day.
* When people are intoxicated they can do things that they later deeply regret.
* Binge drinking is associated with domestic violence.
* It is also associated with promiscuous and unsafe sex.
* People will make irrational and impulsive decisions when they are inebriated.
* Many people who commit suicide will have been binge drinking beforehand.
Reasons For Why Binge Drinking Causes and Worsens Depression
There are a number of reasons for why binge drinking causes and worsens depression including:
* Alcohol is a depressant type drug.
* If the person is already depressed then it means that they are trying to hide from the condition rather than treat it. This strategy is unlikely to prove successful in the long run.
* The individual will tend to do things that they regret when inebriated. This means that they will have more things to feel bad about.
* Inebriation makes people impulsive. If they are already feeling depressed then they may engage in behaviors that they would not normally consider.
* The individual will have less self control when they are drinking. This coupled with the fact that they have a reduced decision making capacity means that they will be at far higher risk of committing suicide.
* Binge drinking often means that the individual can begin having problems with family members, friends, or people at work. This gives them further reasons to feel depressed.
* Alcohol is a toxin that harms the body and mind. This means that the individual will be less able to handle he symptoms of depression.
Vicious Cycle of Binge Drinking and Depression
When people with depression binge drink they can get caught in a vicious cycle. Their symptoms make life a bit unbearable so they turn to alcohol as a type of self medication. Initially the individual will feel a temporarily easing of their symptoms, but binge drinking produces further depressive symptoms. The individual is then caught in the terrible downward spiral of drinking to ease their symptoms which in turn is causing further symptoms. Unless the individual can escape this downward trajectory they will be heading towards suicide or an alcoholic death.
How to Deal with Depression
Binge drinking is not an effective way of dealing with symptoms of depression. In order to improve their symptoms the individual is advised to:
* The individual will need to go and see their physician to discuss the symptoms. This professional will be able to determine a proper treatment plan.
* Stop binge drinking immediately. They may be best advised to quit alcohol completely – at least until their depression is under control.
* If people are unable to control their alcohol intake they will need to abstain. This may mean that they need to enter rehab.
* If the symptoms of depression have been caused by alcohol abuse then they should soon disappear in sobriety. If these symptoms do not seem to be resolving then the person will need medical help.
* One of the most common ways to treat depression is to use drug therapies. These medications can take a few weeks before they begin working effectively – it may also sometimes be necessary to try a number of different medications before the right one is found.
* If people are feeling suicidal they should seek support right away. The worst thing the person can do is to keep such thinking a secret.
* Psychotherapy can be an effective treatment for depression.
How to Avoid Alcohol-Induced Depression
In order to avoid the symptoms of alcohol-induced depression the individual needs to stick to safe levels of alcohol consumption. This means no binge drinking. Social alcohol consumption is the safest pattern and this means:
* Less than one drink per day for women.
* Two drinks per day for men under 65 years of age.
* One drink per day for men over 65 years of age.
* No alcohol for people who have any problems sticking to the recommended levels.
In the above recommendation a drink would be equal to a standard beer, a glass of wine, or a shot of pub spirits. It is not acceptable for people to save up their daily limit and drink this all in one go. For example, a person who only drinks one night a week but consumes 12 drinks at that time is not sticking to safe levels.