Ever heard of the phrase “drowning your sorrows in drink”? Many alcoholics turn to alcohol as a way to cope with difficult emotions and stress after a rough day at work or a stressful or traumatic event. Many depressed individuals self-medicate with alcohol but on the other hand, many alcoholics tend experience many symptoms of depression as well. So, does alcohol cause depression or is it other way round?
Depression is characterised by ongoing feelings of hopelessness, sadness, negativity and a general lack of interest in life. It is also important to realise that depression is often combined with anxiety, so a depressed person is prone to bouts of anxiety and possibly panic attacks.
Although alcohol can make you feel better in the short-term, it actually makes you more depressed in the long-term. Alcohol is a known depressant, and how it acts is to lower the levels of the feel-good chemicals in your brain – serotonin and norepinephrine.
In addition, alcohol also temporarily removes your body’s coping mechanism, the stress hormones. This is why after drinking you feel worse than before, because alcohol depresses your nervous system and brain.
It is also interesting to note that the chaotic lifestyle of most alcoholics can lead to guilt, anxiety, and poor self-esteem, all of which can exacerbate underlying symptoms of depression. For example, constantly being late for work or appointments, missing important family occasions, always letting down your partner/spouse – all of these can lead to an accumulation of guilt and anxiety.
There are no studies showing a clear link between alcohol and depression, but the general consensus is that in cases where depression is already suspected or diagnosed, alcohol should be avoided.
If you are going through a rough patch and am turning to the bottle to cope, DON’T, alcohol will only make you feel worse. Instead, talk to a friend or counsellor today and at the same time, check out this practical guide to help you cut down on your drinking.