Sometimes people suffering from depression turn to alcohol for help. Sometimes people who are drinking too much alcohol become depressed.
Many people drink to help them relax or to alleviate occasional feelings of stress, but as alcohol is a depressant in its own right, turning to drink to relieve feelings of depression will lead to a deepening of the symptoms of this condition over a period of time. People suffering from depression tend to experience a loss of energy and enjoyment, altered appetite, disrupted sleep, poor concentration and hold a negative outlook on life. Using alcohol to help alleviate some of these symptoms can only perpetuate a vicious cycle of misuse and depression.
In these cases, both the alcohol misuse and the depression need to be addressed. The best way of doing this is to tackle the alcohol consumption problems first, and then after a few “dry” weeks, deal with the depression if it has not started to lift.
Alcohol misuse can destroy lives by making it impossible for the sufferer to function normally in everyday situations such as holding down a job, maintaining close relationships, and dealing with other people in general. In extreme cases, it may even be necessary also to isolate the drinker to avoid high-risk situations in which they may end up harming themselves or even others.
Generally, people underestimate the amount they drink and may not be aware that their alcohol consumption is at a level that it could be the cause of mental, and sometimes also physical health problems, or that their misuse may also be making the lives of those around them difficult and unpleasant. It can be helpful therefore to keep a diary to monitor drinking patterns by noting how much, when and why someone is drinking to determine the extent of the problem and any triggers.
Help in the form of individual or group therapy with alcohol counselling such as attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) on a regular basis can be very helpful. Other support organisations such as Al-non and Adfam also provide valuable support for both the sufferer and their family. In more severe cases, it may be necessary for the drinker to take antidepressants in order to manage their depression and therefore their alcohol intake more effectively.
The most important first step on the path to recovery however, is for someone who is misusing alcohol to recognise that there is a problem and to talk to someone – a partner, a close friend, their GP, or us at Private Psychiatry – and finally to seek the help and support necessary to overcome this destructive condition.