It’s not unusual to find depression or anxiety in alcoholics. Mental health disorders are often closely linked with alcoholism. Many alcoholics find relief from stress and other inner issues by drinking. The alcohol lowers their inhibition and enhances their mood. It’s an escape.
While alcohol can help improve moods and reduce stress from anxiety and depression, over-consumption leads to addiction. Regularly alcohol use leads to dependence and tolerance. Many alcoholics find themselves drinking more and more liquor to achieve the same effects. This causes an endless cycle of abuse. The alcohol worsens their mental state, and their mental state causes them to continue to abuse alcohol. Those who struggle with depression are much more likely to abuse alcohol. In fact, 41.7% of hospitalizations from alcohol abuse was due to major depression.
Among the 1 in 8 Americans who struggle with an alcohol use disorder (AUD), many are diagnosed with depression or anxiety.
If you believe that you have a drinking problem, it might be wise to get your mental health evaluated.
What Is Depression?
Depression, also known as major depressive disorder, is a serious medical illness. It causes feelings of sadness and a loss of interest in once pleasurable activities. Depression can be debilitating and can hinder one’s ability to function both at work and at home. Alcoholics are four times more likely to struggle with depression than a person who is not affected by alcoholism.
Diagnosing depression can be difficult. This mental health disorder can go undetected for quite some time. To be diagnosed with depression, a person must experience the following symptoms for the majority of the day on a daily basis for at least two weeks:
- Appetite or weight changes
- Constant sadness or “empty” moods
- Difficulties concentrating or making decisions
- Difficulties sleeping or waking up
- Loss of interest from once-pleasurable activities or hobbies
- Loss of energy and feelings of extreme fatigue
- Persistent feelings of guilt, worthlessness or helplessness
- Persistent feelings of pessimism or hopelessness
- Regular mood swings and changes, especially irritation
- Suicidal thoughts or even attempts
Depression can also cause symptoms of aches and pains that don’t have a clear physical cause. Many people struggling with depression will experience cramps, headaches and digestive problems. Each person who is depressed will experience different symptoms. Some experience many symptoms while others get away with just a few. Depression affects each person differently.
Finding an addiction counselor who can treat depression and recognize signs of depression is critical. The medical staff will need to follow your progress to determine the severity of your depression and how well you’re recovering. They will look at how each patient is dealing with depression while detoxing from alcohol.
Risk Factors for Depression
- Biological makeup. Some experts suspect that minor differences in the brain’s wiring may attribute to both a higher risk for depression and alcohol addiction.
- Environmental factors and elements. A person’s environment can shape them. Those who have a history of abuse or trauma are more likely to struggle with a dual diagnosis.
- Genetics. Depression can often have a genetic element to it. It can run in families. Those who have a close family member that struggled with depression are more likely to struggle with depression themselves.
- Mental health condition. Those who struggle with other issues like low self-esteem and pessimism are more likely to experience depression. They are also equally likely to turn to alcohol to deal with their issues.
If these risk factors apply to you, let a health professional at the alcohol rehab center know. It’s best if they have a good idea of the factors that influence your situation. It will make it easier for them to diagnose you and recommend an effective alcohol treatment plan.
What Is Anxiety?
Anxiety is characterized as feelings of tension and stress. Those struggling with anxiety often have worried thoughts. They often worry about issues that haven’t even happened yet. Anxiety is not merely a mental health disorder. Its effects can also be seen physically. In fact, many people struggling with anxiety will experience physical symptoms, like a higher blood pressure.
To help cope with these feelings, many turn to alcohol. 35.8% of males diagnosed with alcohol dependence have a comorbid anxiety disorder. A much higher percentage of females, at 60.7%, struggle with both alcoholism and anxiety. Many patients who struggle with anxiety also struggle with panic disorder, social phobia or agoraphobia.
Types of Anxiety
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). This is one of the most common types of anxiety disorders. It involves excessive, persistent anxiety and worries about nonspecific situations and objects. In many cases, those struggling with GAD cannot figure out what the cause of their anxiety may be.
- Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). This anxiety disorder causes repeating and distressing thoughts that are often intrusive. The compulsions tend to be unreasonable and even irrational. For example, some people with OCD may have an obsession with washing their hands.
- Panic disorder. Panic attacks are usually sudden and brief. The affected individual experiences an intense feeling of terror. Symptoms can include nausea, breathing difficulties, confusion and dizziness. While most panic attacks tend to peak after 10 minutes, others can last for hours.
- Phobia. It involves an irrational fear or avoidance of a certain situation or object. This type of anxiety stems from a specific cause.
- Separation anxiety disorder. When separated from a specific person or from a place, the affected individual will experience high levels of anxiety.
- Social anxiety disorder. People struggling with a social anxiety disorder are afraid of being in social situations. They are often afraid of feeling embarrassed while in public.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Those who have PTSD have troubles dealing with trauma. Commonly affected individuals include veterans and those who were sexually assaulted.
Different types of anxiety disorders respond better to different behavioral therapies. Professionals at the alcohol rehab center will first assess the degree and severity of the disorder that each patient is affected by.
The Relationship Between Depression and Anxiety with Alcoholism
Those struggling with depression or anxiety will often have a chemical imbalance in the brain. They may have low or high levels of dopamine, serotonin or other neurotransmitters. This causes weird signals to be sent to the brain. It either goes into overdrive or it fails to function at the needed level.
Alcohol may help ease some of the symptoms temporarily. It may either temporarily raise or lower certain chemical levels to help ease certain symptoms. However, the presence of alcohol causes the brain to depend on the substance.
The brain will slowly start to adjust the natural production of certain signals to accommodate the presence of alcohol. This causes the brain to malfunction even more. To function properly, it needs alcohol. This is also how dependence is built.
Depression treatment should focus on not only restoring a chemical balance in the brain, but also uncovering the underlying reasons behind the depression. The healthcare professionals will want to know whether you drink alcohol when you feel depressed or stressed, as well as the amounts of alcohol consumed. They’ll also probably ask you whether you started drinking to cope with the mental health issues.
Treatment Options for Depression or Anxiety Among Alcoholics
To treat depression or anxiety in alcoholics, alcohol detox and rehab centers rely on different treatment plans. Depression treatment or anxiety treatment should happen at the same time as the alcohol addiction treatment programs. In fact, they should be seamlessly incorporated into the treatment. This applies for all co-occurring disorders, even eating disorders and bipolar disorders.
There are many different types of treatment plans recommended for dual diagnosis treatment. Most professionals recommend one of the following prescribed medications:
- Acamprosate, which was just recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This medication blocks cravings, and helps in maintaining abstinence. It can prevent relapses.
- Naltrexone, which is a mu receptor antagonist. It removes the rewarding effects of drinking alcohol to reduce cravings.
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. These are effective in treating the depressive component of alcohol consumption. It’s an ideal medication for those struggling with both alcoholism and depression. In fact, it’s a highly recommended depression treatment.
There are many other prescription medications that treat specific symptoms. For example, anti-convulsants are great for treating seizures. They are usually only prescribed as necessary. It depends on the physical symptoms that each patient experiences.
Other than medical detox, patients will also be asked to try a variety of behavioral therapies at the alcohol rehab center. Behavioral therapies ease psychological symptoms and treat mood disorders. This can help reduce or limit alcohol misuse.
There are many different types of behavioral therapies. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) can help retrain the mind. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) can help treat symptoms of depression or anxiety that result from trauma. It’s especially effective in treating PTSD. Family therapy can mend and improve relationships with friends and family.
Seek Continuous Support with AA Meetings
It’s much easier to stay up-to-date on the latest clinical trials and to feel supported when you’re a regular at these meetings. Learn more about the various treatment options that are available, as well as the success rates involved with each one.
Members not only offer words of wisdom and advice, but they can also use the AA meetings as an outlet for sharing personal stories. It’s a great place to vent and to get negative thoughts and emotions off of your mind. Those who are feeling depressed can share their emotions without any judgment.