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Depression and alcohol: Five things to know

According to the mental health charity, Mind, one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem every year. On top of this, it is reported that one in six people in England will experience a common mental health problem such as depression and anxiety in any given week. So where does alcohol come in? Unfortunately, there is a strong link between depression and alcohol in what could be considered a vicious cycle. These two problems together can cause serious health problems and also issues in relationships with family, friends and a partner. With this in mind, let’s take a look at five things to know about the connection between alcohol and depression.

Depression and alcohol: Five things to know

  1. Alcohol is a depressant
  2. Alcohol can worsen depression
  3. Regular alcohol intake lowers levels of serotonin
  4. Alcohol can have a negative interaction with antidepressants
  5. Cutting out alcohol can relieve depression symptoms

1. Alcohol is a depressant

Even a small amount of alcohol can have negative effects on you due to the delicate balance of chemicals in your brain. Many people reach for alcohol when they are experiencing stress in order to reduce the effects, but actually, this is increasing the risk of feeling worse. Alcohol is a depressant, and even though the initial effects of consumption may make you feel relaxed, even confident, the effects will usually only be negative after this point.

The more alcohol you consume, the possibility of feeling negative emotions such as anger, anxiety or upset increases, along with the risk of feeling depressed.

2. Alcohol can worsen depression

The symptoms of depression can be worsened through the consumption of alcohol. The most worrying issue is that suicidal thoughts can be heightened, as a result of drinking alcohol. The severity of many symptoms can be increased and even last for a longer duration of time.

Symptoms such as fatigue, feelings of guilt and worthlessness, difficulty concentrating, insomnia or excessive sleeping and irritability among many others can be exacerbated through the consumption of alcohol. Not only this, but hangovers bring on feelings of dizziness, anxiety and guilt, further amplifying the problem.

3. Regular alcohol intake lowers levels of serotonin

Serotonin acts as a neurotransmitter, and while its function biologically is extremely complex, it’s presence is attributed to happiness and wellbeing. Lack of serotonin has long been connected with mental health problems such as depression and also chronic pain, fibromyalgia and alcohol abuse as well as many other illnesses.

Consuming alcohol regularly lowers levels of serotonin and therefore it becomes harder for the brain to balance and manage your mood.

4. Alcohol can have a negative interaction with antidepressants

This is why the connection between depression and alcohol can also be thought of as a vicious cycle. The most common antidepressants are ‘selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors’ (SSRIs) which treat the chemical imbalance of serotonin in the brain. The consumption of alcohol reduces serotonin, making depression worse, but also taking these antidepressants at the same time as consuming alcohol can increase side-effects.

Taking antidepressants at the same time as drinking alcohol is discouraged as it can increase the chances of you experiencing drowsiness, dizziness and coordination problems.

5. Cutting out alcohol can relieve depression symptoms

This last point probably won’t come as a surprise after reading those before, but reducing or cutting out alcohol can relieve the symptoms of depression. Most people with depression will begin to feel better after a couple of weeks of not drinking alcohol.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists advise identifying and dealing with the alcohol problem first and then treat the depression afterwards, if the issue hasn’t got better after cutting out the drink.

We provide other types of alcohol awareness advice at Port of Call.

If you feel you have a problem with depression and alcohol addiction then Port of Call can help. Call us now on 0808 273 2598 or visit our help page for more information.

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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