What is the relationship between alcoholism and depression?
Sometimes individuals become addicted to alcohol because they discover it as a means to “self-medicating” feelings of depression. Ultimately, alcohol is a poor and dangerous way to feel better if an individual is depressed, as while the short-term effects may seem to ameliorate the unwanted feelings, alcohol is itself a depressant and will ultimately exacerbate the unpleasant feelings while distracting the individual from addressing the real causes of their depression. Other individuals may develop depression as a result of the depressant nature of alcohol, in addition to the severe life consequences that alcohol addiction often brings.
What challenges does this pose for treatment?
When an individual has been using alcohol to escape feelings of depression (regardless of which came first), it is challenging to interrupt this cycle. These individuals often lack support and coping skills (sometimes as a result of their alcohol use and related consequences), which furthers their reliance on the temporary escape of alcohol.
What sort of help can depressed alcoholics get? How can loved ones help them?
There is extensive and effective help for depressed alcoholics. Loved ones can help alcoholics by supporting sobriety and participation in clinical treatment programs for the dually diagnosed, which refers to persons with both substance abuse and mental health issues. These programs will address the depression, the addiction, and the connection between the two in a comprehensive and compassionate manner. Appropriately treating the depression and the addiction are key to long-term recovery.
If you or someone you know is struggling with an alcohol problem and depression, you might need specialised dual-diagnosis treatment.