Alcoholism as a Dual Diagnosis

Many individuals who are struggling with an alcohol addiction can also be described as having a dual diagnosis. This means that they have another mental health problem alongside their addiction. They may have originally turned to substance abuse as a means to cope with their mental health problem. In many instances the individual will not have even known exactly what was wrong. They just found that using alcohol helped them escape their mental discomfort – this is often referred to as self-medicating. As well as people who have a mental health problem to begin with there are also those who develop symptoms as a result of their alcohol abuse. One of the most common examples of this is alcohol induced depression.

Depression Explained

Depression is a state of low mood that can impact an individual’s feelings, thoughts, behavior, and well-being. It can be a normal reaction to life events, but if the symptoms of depression are persistent it could indicate that the individual has a mood disorder. With clinical depression the individual will experience low mood for weeks or months at a time. It disrupts their life and some people describe it as living in a world of grey.

Types of Depression

There are actually a number of different types of depression including:

* Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is triggered by changes in the seasons. People are most likely to experience this condition during the long dark winter months.
* A minor depression usually occurs because of life events, and it only tends to last a few days.
* Postpartum depression can be experienced by new mothers. It is caused by hormonal changes in the body.
* If the symptoms last more than a couple of weeks it is referred to as a major depression or Dysthymic disorder.
* Some individuals have a condition known as bipolar disorder where they experience periods of mania followed by periods of depression.
* The most serious version of this condition is psychotic depression. This means that the individual will experience psychotic thinking as well as depression.

Symptoms of Depression

The symptoms of depression can include:

* Things that the individual once found enjoyable no longer bring any satisfaction.
* They struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
* Irritability and general moodiness. People can even feel on the verge of tears much of the time.
* Lack of energy and motivation.
* Body aches and pains that don’t seem to have any explanation.
* Pessimism about the future.
* Thoughts of suicide. It is estimated that as many as 850,000 people kill themselves each year because of depression.
* Changes in appetite. The individual might lose their appetite or even turn to food for comfort.
* Inability to sleep at night. People can lay awake with negative thoughts bouncing around in their head.
* Inability to concentrate of focus on anything.
* The individual experiences low self esteem. They might believe that they somehow deserve to feel bad.
* They may turn to alcohol or drugs for comfort, but this only makes things worse.
* Feelings of guilt about things that happened in the past.
* The individual can develop the belief that life lacks any meaning.

Causes of Depression

Depression can occur because of:

* Substance abuse
* History of mental trauma
* Certain medications can trigger the symptoms of depression
* Those individuals who have a history of depression in their family are more likely to experience it themselves.
* Major life events such as being diagnosed with a terminal illness.
* Death of a loved one.
* Loss of employment or other major life change.
* Arguments at home or at work.
* Guilt about things that have happened.

Alcohol Induced Depression

Alcohol is a type of drug known as a depressant. This means that it inhibits certain receptors in the brain and the result of this is that there is a depressive effect on the central nervous system. It is hardly surprising then that chronic alcohol abuse leads the individual to develop depression. The irony is that many of these individuals will be using alcohol already as a means to escape depressive symptoms. While they may initially feel like they are getting some reprieve they are actually making things worse. Those individuals who have never had to deal with depression are likely to do so as a result of alcohol abuse.

Dual Diagnosis and Recovery

Those individuals who become sober yet continue to battle with the symptoms of depression can find it difficult to settle into sobriety. If these people are not aware that their symptoms are caused by depression they may wrongly assume that they are doing something wrong. Well meaning people in recovery fellowships may even suggest that the problem is the failure of the individual to work the program properly. This claim is not only wrong, but it can also be detrimental. It is vital that anyone who is suffering from symptoms of depression gets advice from those who are qualified to give it. Putting more effort into a recovery program is unlikely to help with a condition that requires medical support – it may even make things worse because they individual will become frustrated and blame themselves for their failure.

How to Deal with Alcohol Induced Depression

Those people who are suffering from alcohol induced depression need to take action. These symptoms are unlikely to disappear by themselves. The situation may deteriorate until the individual takes action. In order to deal with this type of depression the individual needs to:

* Quit alcohol and other forms of substance abuse. If the individual has reached a stage where their drinking is causing depression then this may be a sign that they need to quit altogether.
* If the individual has been abusing alcohol long term then they may need medical assistance in order to give up. This could include a stay in rehab or a medically supervised withdrawal period.
* Some people with a dual diagnosis will need to have both their conditions dealt with simultaneously. This can be achieved in a rehab that specializes in treating people with a dual diagnosis.
* In most instances they symptoms of alcohol induced depression will disappear after the individual has been sober for a few weeks.
* If people continue to suffer from symptoms of depression after becoming sober they need to seek appropriate medical advice.