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A Fatal Combination: Alcoholism and Depression

A Fatal Combination: Alcoholism and Depression

(This content is being used for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted in the content is a model)

Author: Shernide Delva

If may be tempting to drink alcohol when you’re feeling down but it can actually be a horrible way of managing your emotions. In fact, the combination of depression and alcoholism is one of the most costly disorders affecting our health care system. Alcohol is a drug that is easy to be abused because it is seen as socially acceptable. Using alcohol for some people is a way to self-medicate and at first it may seem effective however this effect is only temporary.

When you drink to “drown your sorrows,” you ultimately lose every time. Alcohol is a depressant which means is slows down your nervous system and after the initial buzz; alcohol can make you feel worse in the long run. Alcohol is often taken as a quick solution for those who suffer from depression. However, once the depressant effect of alcohol kicks it, the cycle of depression starts all over again.

Nearly a third of people who suffer from depression also have an alcohol problem according to that National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Alcohol problem can mean anything from alcoholism to just heavy drinking. Often treatment centers that specialize in dual diagnosis will diagnose a patient with alcoholism and depression to be able to address both issues.

Symptoms of Depression and Alcoholism

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant which means it slows your mind and body. In moderate to heavy amounts, alcohol can actually make you more depressed. Alcoholism is known to have four common symptoms

  • Craving: You have a strong desire to drink and find it hard to deter the desire to drink.
  • Inability to stop: You lose control of how much you drink.
  • Withdrawal: You feel sick when you stop drinking.
  • Tolerance: You need more alcohol to get high.

Symptoms of depression experienced by those who abuse alcohol are:

  • Insomnia: Inability to Sleep
  • Irritability
  • Guilt
  • Worthlessness
  • Loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Suicidal thoughts

When depression occurs with alcoholism is can be dangerous because it becomes a dual diagnosis. The danger of this is that when both depression and alcoholism are untreated, each illness progressively becomes worse. It is important to address both conditions as only treating both can be effective.

The greatest danger of those who suffer with depression and alcoholism is suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 75 percent of all suicides are linked to alcoholism and depression.  It is believed that the alcohol makes the depression worse because it inhibits the depressed person from making rational decisions. Therefore they act more impulsively on their wish to die and end their ongoing pain.

How can you tell if someone is depressed?

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) — the ‘bible’ of psychiatry — diagnoses depression when patients tick off a certain number of symptoms on the DSM checklist. However, a new study is challenging the approach of using the DSN to diagnose. Lead author Dr. Elko Fried from KU Leuven Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences says,

“We need to stop thinking of depression as a disease that causes a number of interchangeable symptoms. Depression is a complex, extremely heterogeneous system of interacting symptoms. And some of these symptoms may be far more important than others.”

Essentially, the study says that a series of symptoms come as a result of the progressive of more crucial symptoms like anxiety and insomnia. They state that the amount of symptoms analyzed from the DSM need to be simplified significantly.

More research is needed to full understand the diagnosis of depression and alcoholism. One thing is for sure though; the combination of the two can be very dangerous if left untreated. Get help for your symptoms today.

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