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Apr 15

6 Ways that Alcohol Makes Depression Worse

Increased alcohol use is not that uncommon as we shelter in place and avoid regular social interactions as an effort to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.  For most, this alcohol use is not a problem – but for some, a preexisting dependence on alcohol means this is at best an unhealthy practice but for some, it is downright dangerous.

For many abusers of alcohol, there is also a history of depression. Alcohol lies and because it feeds our brain’s serotonin receptors, alcohol it makes us feel good for a short amount of time. But eventually, alcohol abuse causes you to crash and feel even worse than you did before.

And this vicious cycle continues and is, unfortunately, very hard to break without asking for professional help.  Current environmental circumstances make this only more problematic.

The Chicken or the Egg Theory

Both alcoholism and depression are psychiatric illnesses that cause distress and impair a person’s ability to function. It is not surprising at all that these two diseases are linked, but which tends to come first?

Researchers have found that alcoholism doubled a person’s risk of developing depression. In fact, the analysis indicated that alcoholism was more likely to cause or worsen depression than depression was likely to cause or worsen alcohol use/misuse.

6 Ways That Alcohol Can Worsen Depression

  1. Alcoholism can eventually lead to isolation, which exacerbates depression. Humans are social creatures and we can become very depressed when left alone for too long. Current times call for creative efforts to reduce isolation, making this even more important now.
  2. Alcoholism also leads to poor economic outcomes, as is common with the loss of a job. Chronic financial stress can cause or worsen depression symptoms.
  3. Alcoholism can trigger health crises that can lead to or worsen depression. Fatty liver disease, heart disease, and diabetes are just a few of the chronic illnesses linked with alcohol abuse.
  4. Alcohol can cause brain or metabolic changes that can lead to depression. For instance, alcohol can mess with a person’s endocrine system and the resulting hormonal imbalance can worsen their depression symptoms.
  5. Alcohol is a depressant. While it can make you feel “happier” initially, it eventually worsens the depression.
  6. Alcohol impairs judgment and increases impulsivity. This can lead to poor behavior and negative consequences that lead to or worsen feelings of depression.

The bottom line is alcohol abuse and depression are a dangerous combination. And unfortunately, this combination can be self-reinforcing and incredibly hard to break. Anyone who is feeling depressed and has a tendency to abuse alcohol should speak with a therapist to get their symptoms under control (men, you get depressed too). Our therapists focus on your alcohol use as a part of what brings you to therapy – we look at you and your experience wholistically – helping you develop and implement new positive ways to cope and embrace the life you want.

If you or a loved one are interested in exploring therapy to address your alcohol use along with any feelings of depression, please get in touch with us. PeoplePsych therapists specialize in mood disorders as well as substance-related issues. We would be happy to discuss how we can help.

PeoplePsych therapists are currently accepting new clients for telehealth services (which can transition to in-person sessions once social distancing guidelines no longer prohibit traditional office-based sessions).  We look forward to hearing from you.

Life can be complicated, messy, and rarely progresses in a straight line.  PeoplePsych is a Chicago-based psychotherapy group that treats adults seeking profound change in their lives.  We provide services that affirm the dignity, worth, and value of all individuals. We strive to create a safe non-judgemental space for clients to explore the issues that bring them. To connect with one of our therapists, please contact our Clinical Coordinator at (312) 252-5252 or