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Is ‘Alcohol Depression’ Associated with Drinking Alcohol?

Which came first: the depression or the alcoholism?

For many people these two things can often fuel the other, leading to a vicious cycle of dependency. In this blog Port of Call investigates whether ‘alcohol depression’ is associated with drinking alcohol, and how to find an alcohol rehab to start your journey to recovery.

What is alcohol depression?

depression and alcoholism

Alcohol is a depressant. That means it can disrupt our thoughts, feelings, actions and sometimes our long-term mental health. This can be partly attributed to ‘neurotransmitters’, the chemicals that help to transmit signals from one nerve (or neuron) in the brain to another.

The relaxed feeling after that first drink is because of the chemical changes that alcohol causes in our brains. A drink can boost our confidence and make us feel less anxious because it’s depressing the inhibition part of the brain.

The more we drink, however, the more the effect on the brain. High levels of alcohol can bypass those pleasurable effects and instead cause a negative emotional response like anger, aggression, anxiety or depression.

Using drink to improve your mood, or mask depression, may create a vicious cycle. Warning signs that alcohol is affecting your mood can include:

  • Disturbed sleep.
  • Feeling constantly lethargic and tired.
  • Low moods.
  • Experiencing anxiety in otherwise normally comfortable situations.

Alcoholism vs. Depression

Alcoholism can share similar hallmarks of depression. If you drink heavily and regularly it’s fairly likely that you’ll develop some symptoms of depression. It’s your brain chemistry at work again. Habitual drinking lowers your brain’s levels of serotonin; the chemical that helps regulate your moods.

According to Drinkaware, Brits who experience anxiety or depression are twice as likely to be heavy or problem drinkers. Whilst for some their anxiety or depression came first and alcohol was their solution. For others, drinking happened first and could have caused their anxieties.

Treatment options for alcoholism

Treatment options for alcohol misuse depend on whether a drinker’s habits are hazardous, harmful or dependent, and whether they’re trying to drink less or give up altogether.

Abstinence is usually recommended for people with a moderate to severe dependency. But whatever the level of alcohol dependency, time away from alcohol is recommended to allow the body to recover from its effects.

Detox at a hospital or clinic may be necessary in severe cases of dependency. Withdrawal symptoms are likely to also be severe and therefore require specialist treatment.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)is often an extremely helpful solution for people with alcohol dependency problems. They advocate a 12-step treatment programme and that total abstinence is the only solution.

Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is a talking therapy to identify more realistic and helpful thoughts that might be associated with the alcohol dependency.

Extended brief intervention (EBI) is a one-to-one session with a healthcare professional. A motivational interviewing technique to explore why they drink the way they do and identify positive reasons for changing.

Family therapy also provides family members with the opportunity to learn more about the nature of alcohol dependence and how to support a family member trying to abstain from alcohol.

For more information about any of these alcohol treatment services, contact Port of Call today on 08000029010.

Case study Example – Alcohol Dependency

John, 36, from Blackpool got treatment for his alcohol dependency after losing his job as a builder in 2011.

“After being made redundant my instant reaction was to hit the pub. Hard. I didn’t think I could get any more depressed but this was a new low. But instead I forced myself to take a long walk – as far away from any pubs as possible – to clear my head and decided to get some help. I stumbled upon Port of Call’s website when I got home and gave them a call.”

“After assessing the level of my problem, they arranged for me to check in to a clinic, near to home, to start a detox programme and rehab counselling. Everything was organised so quickly that I didn’t have time to overthink and change my mind. That was exactly what I needed.”

“Although the detox, and especially the alcohol withdrawal symptoms were tough, I stuck it out. The counselling, which was part of my rehabilitation, really helped too. And I also joined a local AA group to carry on talking things through with people who really knew what I was going through.”

“I haven’t had a drop to drink for more than three months now. It’s not been easy that’s for sure. But with the support of my family and friends, and Port of Call’s fantastic services, I feel happier than I have done in a long, long time.”

Contact Port of Call now to find out more about our treatments for alcoholism or to talk to somebody about your experiences with Alcohol Addiction.

About the author: Martin Preston

Martin is our Founder and Chief Executive. Martin is himself in long term recovery and started Port of Call to help families navigate treatment options. In 2020 Martin will open Delamere Health Ltd, the UK’s first purpose built addiction treatment clinic.

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