Can Depression Fuel Alcohol Addiction?

alcohol and depression
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Why do we drink? Winding down after a long day of work, in social settings with friends and family, and during times of celebration. But what happens when you turn to alcohol in times that you are down and want to escape the world around you? That is a tell-tale sign that connects alcohol and depression.

Many people who struggle with depression tend to turn to alcohol as their way to self-medicate. This type of drinking can potentially worsen already existing depression, causing one to drink in excess and more frequently. Ultimately, this may make depression even worse, creating potentially vicious cycle. However, there are ways to recognize the connection and break the cycle, giving you your life back.

What are the Types of Depression?

Depression is a mental illness that affects all aspects of someone’s life and those around them. It can affect someone’s personal and professional life. There are many forms of depression, but they all tie back to common factors such as prolonged feelings of sadness, loneliness, hopelessness, and lack of energy or willingness to do things that once made you happy. Loss of appetite, changes in sleeps, an inability to concentrate, and a withdrawal from friends are also common symptoms. Throughout our lives, it’s common for everyone to go through bouts of depression here and there, especially after major life events. But for some people, depression is more severe and lasts for extended periods of time.

Major Depressive Disorder

This is the most common type of depression in the United States. Those suffering may experience very severe symptoms that interfere with their ability to live their lives as they normally would. This is the type of depression that many people will experience at least once in their life. However, most people will go through cycles of feeling extremely depressed and then periods where they don’t feel any depression symptoms.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

Also known as dysthymia, this form of depression is a long-term and chronic illness that individuals may go through for several years at a time. It tends to not be as intense and major depression, but it can still affect one’s day-to-day life.

Bipolar Disorder

Often referred to as manic depression, this form presents itself in the form of mood episodes with extreme highs and lows. The highest of highs refers to periods of mania or hypomania that last for at least seven days consecutively.

Psychotic Depression

Losing touch with reality, hallucinations, and delusions combined with major depression make up depressive psychosis. Seeing or hearing things that aren’t actually occurring (hallucinations), false beliefs that don’t make sense (delusions), and paranoia (wrongly believing others are against/after you) are examples of psychotic symptoms.

Perinatal (Postpartum) Depression

This form of depressive is directly connected to childbirth. Postpartum depression refers only to depression that occurs after giving birth. However, perinatal depression can happen during pregnancy. Changes in hormones, combined with lack of sleep, physical discomfort, and anxieties related to becoming a parent can all contribute to this type of depression.

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder

Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, known as PMDD, is a severe form of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). In the days leading up to their menstrual cycle, many women will feel both physical and emotional changes. However, extreme feelings of depression and sadness that affects daily functions are symptoms of PMDD.

Seasonal Depression

Also referred to as seasonal affective disorder, this type of depression is directly correlated with certain seasons. It typically happens during the winter months where people are experiencing a lack of sunlight and decreased physical activity.

Situational Depression

Symptoms are similar to major depression but occur when a major life event happens such as the death of a loved one, serious illness, divorce, unemployment, etc.

Atypical Depression

Depression with atypical symptoms or a temporary boost in mood due to a positive event.

alcohol and depression

Alcohol addiction and dependency can create a feedback loop with depression, worsening one’s health.

How Alcohol and Depression Are Connected

Oftentimes it’s not quite clear which comes first—depression or alcohol addiction. But, having one increases the risk for the other. Genetics, personality, and personal history (including PTSD and previous traumas) are all factors that are believed to play a role in both conditions.

Many people suffering from depression turn to alcohol as an escape. The problem with that, is that alcohol itself is a sedative and depressant. Drinking often may worsen the feelings associated with depression, and may actually cause further drinking. While it may feel like your mood is boosted temporarily, there are negative side effects in the following days.

Simultaneous Effects

You may be addicted to alcohol if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Drinking daily or frequently
  • Craving alcohol throughout the day
  • Hiding your alcohol consumption
  • Drinking despite negative consequences such as trouble with family, friends, or at work

Symptoms of depression include:

  • Sadness
  • Loneliness
  • Feeling worthless
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of energy
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Substance use
  • Suicidal thoughts

Any symptoms of depression can be intensified by consuming large amounts of alcohol, often. It’s important to understand the role alcohol plays in your depression and vice versa.

Treatment Options

By treating one of these conditions, the other may improve. For the best results, a doctor will treat depression and alcohol addiction at the same time. There are some different treatment options available.

Medication such as antidepressants can help relieve depression symptoms. Other medications can be included in order to reduce alcohol cravings.

Rehabilitation can help those looking to recover from their alcohol addiction discontinue use safely. Stopping suddenly can cause withdrawal symptoms which are extremely unpleasant and can be dangerous if not handled properly. It’s best to detox at a rehabilitation facility for the best results. As a part of your detoxification, you may also learn coping mechanisms that will also help with your depression.

Individual therapy and support groups are also effective tools to help those suffering from depression and alcohol addiction gain their lives back. If you are experiencing any symptoms of depression and alcohol addiction, contact us today to learn about our alcohol addiction treatment.


  1. “Dysthymia” – Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School; March 2014