A number of people say they drink alcohol to ‘hide their sorrows’ after a messy breakup, loss of job, or other major stresses related to the usual ups and downs of life. Alcohol does have a temporary tranquilizing effect on the brain. A few pints of beer or an occasional glass of wine do have a calming effect and tend to relieve a lot of people of their anxieties.
Drinking alcohol occasionally with friends and having a good time is one thing, but using it to deal with personal problems is symptomatic of alcohol abuse. Drinking heavily might also be an indication that a person is depressed, or in worst cases is the cause of depression itself….
Studies conducted across the world are finding a strong link between serious alcohol use and behavioral problems like depression and anxiety. The moot question that perplexes researchers is, whether regular alcohol consumption leads to depression, or depressed people tend to drink more than other.
Opinion is divided on the issue. The following article discusses in brief some of the causative factors that make alcohol abuse and depression so inextricably linked with each other.
Can depression lead to reckless alcohol consumption?
According to a major study conducted by the American National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, almost one-third of people suffering from depression related problems, also grappled with alcohol related issues at some point in their life. In the majority of cases, depression may be the first to occur.
The same research also shows that people who were depressed during their childhood are more susceptible to develop alcohol problems once they reach adolescence. Teenagers who have suffered from an episode of major depression are two times as likely to start drinking alcohol in comparison to people who didn’t have any major psychological problem before.
Depression may also be a significant causal factor for alcohol abuse in women, who are highly susceptible to start drinking profoundly if they have a history of depression. Experts say that women have a higher propensity to heal themselves with alcohol than men.
Does uncontrolled alcohol consumption lead to depressed minds? Human Behavioral studies suggest that excessive alcohol consumption increases the risk of suffering from depression in a significant number of people. This causal link may be because of the direct exposure of the brain to the toxic effects of heavy alcohol consumption.
Reckless alcohol consumption also can have serious impact on a person’s life by causing financial and legal troubles, weakened judgment & thinking, as well as marital discord. If a person is struggling with paucity of monetary resources or coming to terms with a failed relationship, they have a higher chance to feel depressed and may also resort to binge drinking.
Are Genetic or Lifestyle characteristics accountable for the connection between reckless alcohol use and Depression?
Researchers have not yet come across clinching evidence that depression triggers alcohol abuse or vice versa, but it’s very likely that they share causative factors. Studies conducted on twins have shown that the same determinants that add to heavy drinking in families are also responsible for causing major depression in the same person.
Researchers have been probing for a similar gene or genes that might be behind both conditions. They have located at least one such gene i.e. a sub-type of the gene CHRM2 that plays a major role in controlling important brain functions, including memory and retention. Variations in the quantity and availability of this gene might put people at risk for alcohol dependence and depression.
A person’s domestic and social environment also plays a huge role in determining whether they might be susceptible to both depression and a drinking problem. Children who have been privy to physical or mental abuse or the ones who were raised in poverty tend to be more susceptible to both the conditions than other children of the same age-group.
Heavy and irresponsible consumption of alcohol results in worsening the problem of depression that a person already suffers from. People who are depressed and are dependent on severe alcohol addiction have more recurrent and harsh episodes of depression, and are more likely encounter suicidal feelings.
Alcohol abuse and depression are both serious problems that shouldn’t be ignored at any cost. People with chronic alcohol related problems can look up to Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) to help them better understand their problem.
They must visit one of AA’s meetings, at least once and instead of relying on other people’s opinions, should seek a first-hand experience of the strong peer support group that AA has built for its members. Also consulting with a psychologist on a regular basis and subscribing to non-medicinal treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy helps to lessen the frequency of depressing episode in a patient’s life.
There is some evidence that taking antidepressants may help relieve depression on a long term basis and also reduce the craving for consuming alcohol for relieving stress and anxiety from such depression. However, recourse to any such medicine should be taken only after a thorough consultation with a reputable physician or psychiatrist.