Alcohol abuse is a common coping mechanism for painful feelings or emotions one is trying to escape. At the same time, alcoholism is likely to have disastrous consequences for one’s physical, psychological, social, and emotional health.
Alcoholism can ravage a life to the point of severe depression. Similarly, the powerful feelings of self-doubt, self-hatred, and hopelessness that can arise from depression could easily lead one to a dependence on alcohol. Research is still being conducted on how the two are related, and whether one can directly cause the other.
Regardless of how the two conditions are connected, alcoholism and depression can easily feed off of one another. Their co-occurrence requires professional help sooner rather than later.
Which Comes First: Alcoholism or Depression?
Alcoholism and depression are two conditions that commonly co-occur, with “approximately 30 to 40 percent of alcoholics experiencing a comorbid depressive disorder”. It remains unclear whether one condition causes the other.
One study found that “the majority of patients with alcoholism and depression had a history of onset of alcoholism prior to that of depression.” Other studies point to scenarios where “depressive episodes frequently predate the onset of alcoholism”, a dynamic which is notably more common in women.
It may be useful to separate what the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism calls an “alcohol-induced mood disorder” that in some ways, resembles depression, from an independent diagnosis of major depression. Further, alcohol-induced depression may affect people of different treatment history, racial and gender demographics, and mental health histories differently compared to independent major depression.
Who Experiences Co-Occurring Alcoholism and Depression
Research has shown that genetics play a large role in determining whether a person experiences both conditions, as well as a number of environmental risk factors. Women are more prone to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety, which may partially explain the greater likelihood of co-occurring alcoholism and depression. Numerous economic and social factors likely contribute to gender and racial differences in the relationship between the two conditions.
How do Depression and Alcoholism Interact?
Anyone suffering from both depression and alcoholism knows how one condition worsens the other. Studies show that “untreated alcoholism intensifies depressive states, decreases responsiveness to conventional therapeutics, and increases the likelihood of suicide, suicide attempts, and other self-destructive behavior”. Many abuse alcohol to avoid or escape the vulnerable emotional states common to depression, but the effects of alcohol often drive one further down the destructive path of substance abuse. Proper treatment for such cases must recognize the ways that the two conditions support one another. Research suggests that “utilizing antidepressant medications in conjunction with psychosocial therapies” such as “motivational enhancement therapies, cognitive therapies, and twelve-step facilitation” may be most effective.
Treatment for Alcoholism and Depression
Granite Recovery Centers in New Hampshire offers 12-step based substance abuse recovery programs that incorporate the latest clinical treatment modalities. The caring, experienced team at Granite Recovery Centers will work with you or your loved one in identifying the roots of addiction, along with any co-occurring mental disorders, such as depression or anxiety that may worsen them. With a combination of 12 step work, numerous forms of therapy, life skills training, and community building, we will help you learn key strategies for managing depression, quitting alcohol and other dangerous substances, and creating the healthy, sober, and happy life you deserve.
Call our alcohol treatment admissions staff for help at (603)339-4160.
Stories of Addiction Recovery: A Family Recovers
Stories of Addiction Recovery: I’m an Alcoholic