There is a large overlap between depression and alcohol use disorders. Alcohol is a convenient way to temporarily relieve the symptoms of depression, such as persistent self-critical thoughts and ruminating on past mistakes or negative possibilities. This is especially true of men who suffer from depression. While fewer men than women suffer from depression, men are more likely to self-medicate with alcohol and other drugs. While this may offer temporary relief, it actually makes depression worse in the long run. Here’s how.
Addiction increases feelings of helplessness.
When alcohol becomes an addiction, several things happen that make you more prone to depression. First, you feel more helpless. Addiction is primarily characterized by wanting to quit but being unable to. You just continue drinking even though you can see how it hurts your loved ones, your health, and your career. People often feel ashamed of their behavior, leading to feelings of low self-worth and persistently self-critical thoughts.
Alcohol is a depressant.
As blood alcohol levels rise, your levels of norepinephrine also rise. Norepinephrine is a hormone that makes you more alert and energetic so you can deal with possible threats. This is why you often get a boost of energy after a couple of drinks. Norepinephrine levels may be low in people with depression, so drinking can temporarily make you feel better. However, as blood alcohol levels off and starts to drop, so do norepinephrine levels, which is why you get drowsy and fall asleep after drinking. Drinking also causes a temporary rise in the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is associated with positive mood. Unfortunately, over the long term, drinking causes serotonin levels to drop, making your mood worse and encouraging more drinking.
Heavy drinking causes hypoglycemia.
About 90 percent of people with an alcohol use disorder also have hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. Alcohol consumption stimulates the release of insulin and causes it to be released over a longer period of time that would be needed for food, even high-sugar food. As a result, blood sugar drops for hours at a time. This can lead to a number of symptoms, including confusion, irritability, poor concentration, headaches, and disturbed sleep–symptoms very similar to those of depression.
Alcohol disrupts sleep.
Although alcohol makes you drowsy and you can fall asleep more easily, you don’t sleep as deeply. Alcohol disturbs your sleep in several ways. If you drink too much, you may wake up feeling sick. You may have to go to the bathroom more. You may have a blood sugar crash and wake up feeling anxious and achy. Alcohol also affects your sleep cycle, preventing you from reaching deeper levels of sleep that allow your body and mind to heal. Inadequate sleep has been linked to a number negative effects, including increased anxiety, less emotional control, poor concentration, poor memory, and increased suicidal thoughts.
Heavy drinking can cause malnutrition.
Heavy drinking can damage the lining of your intestines, making them unable to absorb nutrients efficiently. Your brain needs proper nutrition to function correctly. Alcohol especially interferes with the absorption of B vitamins, which can lead to depression, memory loss, hallucinations, and even dementia. Heavy drinking can also reduce levels of zinc and magnesium, which has also been associated with depression.
If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction or mental illness, we can help. Recovery Ways is a premier drug and alcohol addiction treatment facility located in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have the resources to effectively treat a dual diagnosis. Our mission is to provide the most cost-effective, accessible substance abuse treatment to as many people as possible. Request information online or call us today at 1-888-986-7848.