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Does Drinking Alcohol Worsen Depression

If you’re feeling sad, it’s natural to want to find ways to cope with those painful emotions. For many, drinking alcohol may seem like a tempting option. It can temporarily numb the pain and help you relax. But does it actually make things better in the long run?

Alcohol and depression are often linked, but the relationship between the two is complex and not fully understood. Some people with depression may turn to alcohol as a way to self-medicate and alleviate their symptoms. Others may develop depression as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. Understanding the connection between alcohol and depression is crucial in order to provide effective treatment for those struggling with both issues.

Northeast Health Services offers depression treatment in Massachusetts that takes into account the role of alcohol in mental health. We’re here to help you or a loved one find the support and help needed to overcome depression and any co-occurring alcohol use. Call 508.794.8711 today to get started.

Why Do People Turn to Alcohol When They’re Depressed?

When people are battling depression, they may find themselves reaching for a drink as a form of relief.

Alcohol often serves as a readily available and socially accepted coping mechanism. It can temporarily dull the pain, providing a brief escape from the burdensome feelings of sadness, anxiety, and hopelessness associated with depression. Some may use alcohol to self-medicate, attempting to manage their symptoms on their own without seeking professional help. In these cases, a social drink may turn into a habit and then into a dependency. For example, a person feeling extremely anxious and unable to sleep might start having a glass of wine every night as a sleep aid. Over time, the quantity may increase as the body develops a tolerance, and soon, the person might find that they can’t fall asleep without alcohol.

Additionally, certain individuals might drink to numb their emotions and feelings. For example, someone who is going through a debilitating breakup might start drinking excessively to suppress the feelings of heartache and loneliness.

It’s important to remember that while alcohol might provide short-term relief, it is not a solution for depression. In fact, it can exacerbate the condition and create a vicious cycle of depression and alcohol abuse.

The Ways Alcohol Can Worsen Depression

Alcohol can intensify depressive symptoms and complicate the path to recovery for various reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Physiological impact – Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which essentially means it can lower serotonin and norepinephrine levels—neurotransmitters that help regulate mood. Thus, excessive alcohol intake can lead to heightened feelings of sadness, lethargy, and hopelessness, all of which are hallmark signs of depression.
  • Poor sleep quality – While alcohol might initially help you fall asleep, it disrupts the sleep cycle and prevents deep, restorative stages of sleep, which is critical for mental well-being. The result is often exacerbated fatigue and worsened depressive symptoms.
  • Increased risk of impulsive behaviors – Alcohol impairs judgment and lowers inhibitions, which could lead to reckless behavior, including self-harm or suicide — especially in those already struggling with depression.
  • Interference with antidepressants – Alcohol can interfere with the effectiveness of prescribed antidepressants, rendering them less effective at managing depressive symptoms.
  • Alcohol-induced anxiety – Regular, heavy drinking can lead to alcohol-induced anxiety, which can occur during withdrawal and even long after withdrawal, deepening the cycle of depression and alcohol use.

Knowing these potential effects of alcohol on depression highlights the importance of seeking professional help for both issues. It’s important to note that the cessation of significant alcohol consumption should be done with the supervision of a medical professional.

Call Northeast Health Services Today to Begin Your Journey to Recovery

We’re ready to help. Call 508.794.8711 or contact us online to discover how our depression treatment services in Massachusetts can help you or a loved one.