The Complicated Relationship Between Alcohol and Depression

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Peace Valley Recovery is located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Our mission is to provide patient-centered care that focuses on healing and recovery from addiction. This blog provides information, news, and uplifting content to help people in their recovery journey.

Authored by Elliott Redwine, | Medically Reviewed by Peace Valley Recovery Editorial Staff,
Last Updated: March 5, 2023

Am I drinking too much?

It’s common for people to use alcohol to get through difficult times. It seems like a quick way to relieve anxiety, lessen feelings of depression, and take the edge off. When someone goes through a breakup or loss of a job, having a few drinks can help blunt the pain.

Reaching for an occasional drink when looking for relief isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s different when alcohol accompanies every challenge or problem that comes up. If alcohol is your way of coping with struggles or sadness, this might be the sign of a bigger problem.

There is also a connection between alcohol and depression. Using alcohol as a coping mechanism is a sign of disordered drinking. Are people with depression more likely to drink? Or do people with a drinking problem develop depression over time?

There is a complicated relationship between alcohol and depression. Are you curious about how the two conditions interact with each other? Continue reading to learn more about the connections between depression and alcohol abuse.

Alcohol and Depression

Everyone experiences challenges in life from time to time. Breakups, job loss, unexpected illness; life presents difficulties to everyone. These situations come out of nowhere and leave you feeling overwhelmed and upset.

Still, many people can acknowledge the experience, work through it, and move forward. They aren’t affected by what took place for long before continuing with their life. Their sadness is temporary but doesn’t plague them for weeks or months.

Depression is not the same thing as normal sadness. It’s a pervasive condition that affects a person’s outlook on themselves and the world around them. People with depression can’t “get over it.” The sense of hopelessness touches on every aspect of their life.

Alcohol and Depression

People with both depression and a drinking problem are in a more difficult position. The two conditions feed into and build off of one another creating a more intense condition as time goes on. Some individuals start drinking to relieve their depression. Others develop depression as a result of their drinking. What is the difference between the two?

Do Depressed Individuals Drink More?

Depression is a serious illness that impacts the way a person thinks, feels, and acts. It affects the way they view people around them and the world at large. They’re plagued by feelings of sadness that decrease their interest in things they used to enjoy. It can also limit their ability to function at home, work, or in school.

Research also shows about one-third of people with depression also have an alcohol problem. Children and teenagers who show signs of depression are more likely to develop alcohol problems. Women with a history of depression are also twice as likely to turn to heavy drinking for relief.

Why are there such high rates of alcohol use among individuals with depression? It’s the same reason people drink after some upsetting news: they’re looking for relief. And unlike bad news, depression lasts much longer than a few days.

At first, alcohol seems to provide the same relaxing, anxiety-reducing effects. It softens the sharp edges of the world and makes symptoms easier to manage. It might even allow some people to socialize instead of isolating themselves.

In reality, alcohol only makes symptoms of depression worse. Heavy drinking doesn’t relieve depression. It causes more frequent and severe depressive episodes over time instead. It reduces the effectiveness of antidepressants and increases the likelihood of suicidal ideation.