Alcohol Awareness Week – Alcohol & Depression
Alcohol, do we know the facts?
Every day we see the impact of hazardous, dangerous and dependent alcohol consumption – we see lives severely affected by addiction, its health and social impacts and the devastating harm it causes to families and relationships. However, we work in services to change this.
Educating people on the dangers of hazardous alcohol consumption can make a big difference and help stop lives being blighted by addiction. This week is Alcohol Awareness Week, with the particular theme of alcohol and its relation to health. Each day we will be sharing facts and information about alcohol and its influencing role in many health issues – read on and share and promote these messages.
Alcohol and Depression
High levels of alcohol consumption can have an influencing effect on an individual’s mental health, reflected in the reciprocal relationship between alcohol and depression. In small quantities, alcohol can have a positive effect on the body, causing the mind and body to relax, relieving social anxiety and increasing confidence – this can often lead to people using alcohol to ‘self-medicate’, and trying to hide depressive feelings. This is where problems begin to develop. Alcohol alters the brain’s chemistry, it is a depressant substance that dulls the brain’s (and hence, the body’s) normal functioning, hiding, and in many cases, actually exacerbating depressive feelings, contributing to increased ‘self-medication’ and problematic drinking.
Consuming large quantities of alcohol starts to affect vital brain functions, including preventing the release of serotonin and noradrenaline. Low levels of these chemicals, responsible for controlling functions like mood, sleep and appetite, are proven to be linked with depression. Symptoms of depression include experiencing no happiness or pleasure from any activity, finding it hard to sleep or get up, change in appetite, fatigue, poor concentration, feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Left untreated, these symptoms can develop into clinical depression, which includes suicidal thoughts, self-harm and psychosis.
To treat depression and alcohol dependence – known as ‘dual-diagnosis’ – it is necessary to address both conditions concurrently. Due to their reciprocal relationship, addressing only one tends to make the other worse, resulting in poor recovery rates. If an individual’s alcohol issues and mental health are addressed in tandem it improves their general wellbeing, allowing other areas of their lives to improve and promote recovery.
- Alcohol dependence is 3 times more likely for people with depression
- Depression affects around 1 in 10 people, and it has been shown that decreasing alcohol intake is an effective way to relieve depression
- Those with depression are three times more likely to develop alcohol dependence
Alcohol and depression are intrinsically linked, we can’t treat someone’s mental health and alcohol consumption in isolation. It is imperative that when an individual engages with our services that we take into account all of their health issues, and advocate treatment that acknowledges the link between alcohol consumption and mental health.
As a charity dealing with these issues every day, we are the experts by experience – we see the results of alcohol dependence, but importantly, work to rectify them. We should continue to raise awareness of the dangers of hazardous alcohol consumption, preventing addiction and ensuring people are aware of the risks.