Alcohol and Depression

By Ben Martin, Psy.D.

Alcoholism is a disorder that produces many similar signs and symptoms required for diagnosis of Major Depression. Although alcohol often initially causes a “good mood,” alcohol is a depression-causing drug.

While no studies have shown that depression actually causes alcoholism, the two disorders are commonly seen in the same patients at the same time. Thirty to fifty percent of alcoholics, at any given time, are also suffering from major 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.

 

APA Reference
Martin, B. (2006). Alcohol and Depression. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 19, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/alcohol-and-depression/00047
Scientifically Reviewed
    Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
    Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.