Plainly and simply, alcohol is a depressant. This means that if you drink an excessive amount on a regular basis, you become exceedingly more likely to get the blues. Drinking to excess for a prolonged period of time can lead to serious and sometimes irreversible brain damage – and has been known to cause depression. Additionally, drinking too much leads to an increased risk of engaging in self-destructive behaviors, such as sabotaging interpersonal relationships, destroying work-related opportunities, and unwittingly draining the old bank account. The more consequences one experiences a direct result of his or her drinking, the more down in the dumps he or she is liable to feel. And if one is genetically predisposed to depression, the risk of developing an acute case increases ad infinitum.
Dual Diagnosis – Depression and Alcoholism
It is not always completely clear as to which comes first, substance abuse or depression. In reality, some individuals will struggle with underlying and undiagnosed depression before they begin abusing chemical substances, and some will experience symptoms of depression as a direct result of continuous and disproportionate use. It has been discovered that both genetics and lifestyle choices are partly responsible for the development of both psychological disorders. Numerous studies have been conducted on twins, and many have illuminated the link between heavy drinking and mental disorders such as depression amongst family members. At least one common gene has been discovered by researchers, and variations of this gene could potentially put individuals at greater risk of alcoholism and depression. This specific gene is involved in vital brain functions such as attention and memory. It was discovered that mutations to this gene are highly hereditary, and thus those who inherit the gene are at greater risk of developing one or both of the disorders if triggered. For example, an individual with this genetic mutation who begins drinking heavily may be more prone to depression resulting from the excessive alcohol intake. In cases like this, drinking can cause depression – but predisposition to depression is already in play.
Links Between Childhood and Depression
Home life and environment also play a crucial role. Children who were either raised amidst poverty or who were abused or neglected throughout adolescence are exceedingly more prone to developing both conditions. But in such instances, which comes first? Does a rocky childhood lead to depression, which in turn leads to self-medication and eventual substance abuse? Or do neglect and abuse increase the odds of alcoholism, which in turn leads to depression resulting from inevitable brain damage? The primary disorder varies significantly depending on the individual and the circumstance. Some alcoholics may begin abusing alcohol as a means of coping with emotionally distressing symptoms of undiagnosed depression, and some may develop depression after years of heavy and relentless drinking. What is far more important than deciphering which disorder proceeded the other is treating both simultaneously. It is absolutely imperative that any individual battling both addiction and depression seeks residential treatment for dual diagnosis disorders. Regardless of which disorder came first, both must be addressed concurrently in order for long-term recovery to be achieved and maintained.
Treatment for Depression and Alcohol Abuse
Up until recently, alcoholism and depression were treated separately. Those who suffered from alcohol abuse were sent to rehab or guided in the direction of Alcoholics Anonymous, while individuals suffering from depression were sent to psychiatrists and treated with medications and therapy. Now that the relationship between the two disorders is better understood, it is clear that in order for both issues to be adequately resolved, they must be treated at once. Treatment facilities like Next Chapter focus on dual diagnosis disorders, providing clients with a careful combination of intensive therapeutic care and psychiatric assistance. For more information on the relationship between depression and alcoholism, or to learn more about our specific dual diagnosis treatment program, please feel free to contact us at any time.