Written by Ben Martin, PsyD
Alcoholism is a disorder that produces many similar signs and symptoms required for diagnosis of major depression. Although alcohol often initially causes a “good mood,” alcohol is a depression-causing drug.
While no studies have shown that depression actually causes alcoholism, the two disorders are commonly seen in the same patients at the same time. Thirty to fifty percent of alcoholics, at any given time, are also suffering from major depression.
What you should know about alcoholism and depression:
Family history of either depression or alcoholism puts a person at increased risk for developing either illness.
Alcoholism may cause a relapse in patients with depression.
The depressive symptoms from alcohol are greatest when a person first stops drinking, so recovering alcoholics with a history of depression should be carefully monitored during the early stages of withdrawal.
The symptoms of depression in alcoholics are greatly reduced after three to four weeks of stopping alcohol intake.
A person suffering from major depression and who abuses alcohol has a much higher risk of attempting and succeeding at taking his own life:
Alcohol abuse can exaggerate depression and increase impulsiveness.
Alcohol is frequently detected in suicide methods involving driving a moving vehicle or overdosing.
Alcohol impairs judgment, which explains its association with painful suicide methods.
Because of the risk of suicide, it is critical that people suffering from major depression and abusing alcohol receive prompt medical attention.
Related CE Courses for Mental Health:
Everyone occasionally feels blue or sad. But these feelings are usually short-lived and pass within a couple of days. When you have depression, it interferes with daily life and causes pain for both you and those who care about you. Depression is a common but serious illness. Many people with a depressive illness never seek treatment. But the majority, even those with the most severe depression, can get better with treatment. Medications, psychotherapies, and other methods can effectively treat people with depression.Some types of depression tend to run in families. However, depression can occur in people without family histories of depression too. Scientists are studying certain genes that may make some people more prone to depression. Some genetics research indicates that risk for depression results from the influence of several genes acting together with environmental or other factors. In addition, trauma, loss of a loved one, a difficult relationship, or any stressful situation may trigger a depressive episode. Other depressive episodes may occur with or without an obvious trigger.This introductory course provides an overview to the various forms of depression, including signs and symptoms, co-existing conditions, causes, gender and age differences, and diagnosis and treatment options.
Data on alcohol use, abuse, and dependence show clear age-related patterns. Moreover, many of the effects that alcohol use has on the drinker, in both the short and long term, depend on the developmental timing of alcohol use or exposure. Many developmental connections have been observed in the risk and protective factors that predict the likelihood of problem alcohol use in young people. This course is based on four public-access journal articles published by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the online journal Alcohol Research & Health. The issue of the journal in which these articles appeared was devoted to the topic: “A Developmental Perspective on Underage Alcohol Use.” This course is based on the first four articles, which focus on the impact of alcohol on the development of children and youth from birth through 20.
Rebecca E. Williams, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, clinical supervisor, and award-winning author. She specializes in recovery from mental illness, addictions, and life’s challenges. Dr. Williams received her master’s degree in Counseling and Consulting Psychology from Harvard University and her Ph.D. from the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently a clinic director at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.