Alcohol abuse and depression can be a deadly mix. Yet it is a common combination that can be self-reinforcing cycle — and difficult to break out of.

Alcoholism is a disorder that produces many similar signs and symptoms that may be similar to the diagnosis of clinical depression. A person with depression may sometimes also have alcoholism, and vice versa. In fact, 30 percent to 50 percent of people with alcoholism, at any given time, also are suffering from clinical depression. Family history of depression or alcoholism puts a person at greater risk for developing either illness.

You should know that while alcohol often causes a “good mood” at first, it is a central nervous system depressant. Its depressant effects can carry over into one’s mind, being a contributing factor to a person’s continuing depression.

What you should know about alcoholism and depression:

  • Family history of either depression or alcoholism puts a person at increased risk for developing either illness.
  • Alcoholism may cause a relapse in patients with depression.
  • The depressive symptoms from alcohol are greatest when a person first stops drinking, so recovering alcoholics with a history of depression should be carefully monitored during the early stages of withdrawal.
  • The symptoms of depression in alcoholics are greatly reduced after three to four weeks of stopping alcohol intake.
  • A person suffering from major depression and who abuses alcohol has a much higher risk of attempting and succeeding at taking his own life:
    • Alcohol abuse can exaggerate depression and increase impulsiveness.
    • Alcohol is frequently detected in suicide methods involving driving a moving vehicle or overdosing.
    • Alcohol impairs judgment, which explains its association with painful suicide methods.
  • Because of the risk of suicide, it is critical that people suffering from major depression and abusing alcohol receive prompt medical attention.

Why Alcohol & Depression Don’t Mix

Alcoholism may cause a relapse in people with depression. The depressive symptoms from alcohol are greatest when a person first stops drinking.

People recovering from alcoholism who have a history of depression should be carefully monitored during the early stages of withdrawal. The symptoms of depression are greatly reduced after three to four weeks of stopping drinking. This is where support groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or an online support group can be helpful, to help stop a person from relapsing due to their depressive symptoms.

Higher Risk for Suicide

When a person suffers from major depression and abuses alcohol, he has a much higher risk of attempting and succeeding at suicide. Other facts:

  • Alcohol abuse can exaggerate depression and increase impulsiveness.
  • Alcohol frequently is detected in suicide methods involving driving a moving vehicle or overdosing.
  • Alcohol impairs judgment, which explains its association with painful suicide methods.

Major depression and alcohol abuse are the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorders in people who attempt suicide. One research study showed that following age, alcoholism and drug addictions are the most likely reasons for suicide attempts. A person who is diagnosed with both conditions should be carefully monitored by their mental health professional for such symptoms.

Because of the risk of suicide, if you are (or someone you care about is) suffering from major depression and abusing alcohol it is critical that you seek prompt medical attention.

Alcohol and depression are not a good combination. If you are suffering from clinical depression, try to reduce or cut out your drinking for awhile (even a few days). You may think it helps you “forget” your depressive symptoms, but it’s likely actually contributing to them in the long term.

If you are an alcoholic, consider that your depressive feelings may be related to your drinking behaviors.