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If you have ever dealt with a bout of depression, you know how hard it is to overcome. Depression can latch on and persist for months, affecting every facet of your life. Someone recovering from depression may mistakenly believe it is okay to drink alcohol. Drinking may not be a good fit for someone with a history of depression, but can alcohol cause depression relapse?
Learn About Major Depressive Disorder
Depression is a complex mental health disorder that remains somewhat of a mystery, thus the ongoing clinical studies. The NIMH reports that depression impacts over 21 million U.S. adults each year.
The symptoms of depression can cause major impairment in daily functioning. When these symptoms persist for more than two weeks, it is likely to be a clinical depressive episode. The symptoms of depression include:
- Feelings of sadness and despair persist most of the time.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Slowing of motor and cognitive functions.
- Change in sleep habits.
- Sudden weight loss or gain.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or activities once enjoyed.
- Feelings of guilt or shame.
- Trouble concentrating or making decisions.
- Thoughts of death or suicide.
There are several factors that can increase someone’s chances of developing depression. These include:
- History of trauma.
- Being female.
- Loss and grief.
- Substance abuse.
- Personality traits.
Can Alcohol Make Depression Worse?
Alcohol acts like a sedative in slowing down the central nervous system. This also causes the breathing rate and heart rate to slow. When someone is depressed, drinking alcohol only enhances the symptoms of depression. This is because alcohol lowers the serotonin and norepinephrine levels in the brain, which results in low mood.
Alcohol can also make depression worse because it causes disrupted sleep. Not getting enough sleep or quality sleep only makes you feel lousy the next day. Also, the more you drink, the less inclined you are to get outside and exercise. You may also trade off calories and skip healthy meals so you can drink. Alcohol abuse also leads to more isolation, as you choose to drink alone. All of these effects can make depression worse.
What Are the Warning Signs of Depression Relapse?
When you finally feel the heavy veil of depression lifted it is cause for celebration. You feel like your old self is slowly coming back, and your quality of life improves daily.
This is why it is so disheartening to recognize the signs of depression sneaking back in again. Depression is a relapsing mental health disorder, so it is not at all uncommon to have future episodes. Here are the signs of a depression relapse:
- You find yourself drinking more. Alcohol is often used to numb the symptoms of depression, which is why the two are so often linked.
- You stop eating a healthy diet. You may abandon all the healthy eating habits you’ve formed while in treatment for depression.
- You start isolating yourself more. A common sign of depression is a desire to be alone more often. This may also be in tandem with wanting to drink alone.
- You are having sleep disruptions. A change in sleep habits is a common symptom of depression. You may find yourself sleeping too much or struggling with insomnia.
- You lose interest in normal activities. If you are abandoning hobbies and avoiding family and friends it is likely your depression is returning.
- You feel sad and hopeless much of the time. Of course, this is the defining symptom of depression. If you are feeling sad most of the time it is a sign of depression relapse.
What Happens When the Person Has Both Depression and Alcohol Use Disorder?
Could it be that you had a drinking problem prior to the depression? Maybe you were starting to experience the many negative effects of alcoholism, like losing your job or seeing relationships crumble. The fallout from alcohol use disorder can be profound and can trigger an episode of depression.
What then transpired became a vicious cycle. You turned to alcohol to relieve the symptoms of depression but then develop an addiction. The alcohol that once numbed the unwanted emotions is now exacerbating the depression. You may have turned the corner on the depression, but picking up a drink can restart the cycle.
It has been found that alcohol use disorder and depression are common dual diagnosis. When there is both depression and alcoholism present, it is vital to receive specialized dual diagnosis treatment.
What is Dual Diagnosis Treatment?
Dual diagnosis treatment is the best way to overcome depression with co-occurring alcohol use disorder. Recovery success depends on healing both of these conditions at the same time. If you only address and treat one of the disorders, it will quickly result in depression relapse or alcoholism relapse.
An integrated treatment program tackles both the depression and the alcoholism simultaneously. A specialized dual diagnosis rehab program includes both psychiatric services and addiction treatment experts in the program.
Dual diagnosis treatment includes:
- Medication. Antidepressants are often needed to help manage the depression.
- Medical detox. Detox from alcohol will be closely monitored, as there are some potential risks involved.
- Psychotherapy. One-on-one talk therapy sessions allow the person to explore any behaviors and thought patterns that need to be changed.
- Group therapy. Group sessions allow peers in recovery to share their own experiences and to offer support for each other.
- Family therapy. Family members learn how to best support their loved one in recovery.
- Classes. You learn coping skills that help prevent either a depression relapse or an alcohol relapse.
This integrated approach can help the person battling AUD and depression. They will learn how to manage stress with new coping tools learned in therapy. Some of these are techniques that help them relax, like yoga and mindfulness.
LifeSync Malibu Luxury Dual Diagnosis Treatment
LifeSync Malibu is a leader in the dual diagnosis treatment space, providing the highest standards of evidence-based therapies. If you wonder whether alcohol can cause depression relapse, we can help you. Our expert team is committed to guiding clients through the healing process for both depression and alcohol use disorder. Call us today at (866) 491-3541.