Alcoholism and Depression
WHAT IS DEPRESSION?
It is not uncommon to hear people say that they are feeling depressed, but that is not the same as someone who is suffering from depression. Depression is a mental health condition that involves continually experiencing feelings of sadness and hopelessness. Over time, these emotions influence how people think and act. This can affect many aspects of a person’s life, including professional responsibilities, personal goals and relationships with family members and friends.
For those struggling with depression, alcohol is sometimes used to suppress symptoms related to their condition, such as irritability, loss of interest, anxiety, restlessness and insomnia. Drinking becomes a way to escape reality and relax. Unfortunately, using alcohol as a way to self-medicate depression can significantly impact physical and emotional well-being.
THE EFFECTS OF ALCOHOL
Heavy alcohol consumption alters the brain’s neurotransmitters. Chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine will fluctuate rapidly with alcohol consumption. Serotonin helps balance a person’s mood, whereas dopamine controls the brain’s reward system. Unusually high or low levels of these chemicals can trigger symptoms of depression, among other health problems.
Without proper treatment, self-medicating depression with alcohol increases the risk of severe bodily injury, and even suicidal behaviors.
TYPES OF DEPRESSION
There are several different types of depression that are commonly diagnosed in individuals suffering from alcoholism. While some forms of this mental illness are less severe than others, depression can quickly take control of a person’s life.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)
This type of depression is linked to changes in light stemming from a shift in seasons. Typically, symptoms of SAD start to emerge in the autumn and gradually worsen during the winter. Research shows that a lack of light during the winter months contributes to a case of the “winter blues”. These gloomy moods often shift to optimistic spirits through spring and summer. For a formal diagnosis, SAD symptoms must present themselves for at least the last two consecutive years. Symptoms of SAD include:
- Feeling sad and irritable most days and not knowing why
- Gaining or losing more weight than usual
- Experiencing changes in appetite
- Having a “heavy feeling” in arms and legs
Alcohol can be used to achieve a temporary sense of pleasure during dreary months. However, frequent and excessive drinking can lead to a full-blown addiction that lingers long after fall and winter. This is because the body becomes dependent on the chemicals released by alcohol to achieve feelings of happiness. As a result, a person will begin to crave alcohol in order to achieve a feeling of satisfaction.
A more severe form of depression, psychotic depression, involves hallucinations, paranoia or delusions. This type of depression can cause individuals to hear voices or make them believe that someone is out to harm them. Some signs of psychotic depression include:
- Extreme mood swings
- Staying awake all night and sleeping all day
- Neglecting self-care, such as bathing
- Incoherent speech
Combining drinking with psychotic depression can be extremely dangerous to an individual’s health and well-being, as well as those around them. Rather than providing a sense of calmness, alcohol can actually exacerbate the symptoms of psychotic depression. A person’s paranoia intensifies dramatically while under the influence, resulting in bizarre behavioral outbreaks, mania and suicidal thinking.
Over time, a person can become dependent on alcohol and rely on it to get by. However, if an individual suffering from psychotic depression and alcoholism tries to quit drinking cold turkey, their body may go into shock. This can result in serious health complications and a co-occurring disorder should only be treated under the care of professionals. For these reasons we offer a medically assisted detox as part of our inpatient programs for those who need it.
Persistent Depressive Disorder
Individuals who suffer from persistent depressive disorder, or dysthymia, have recurring symptoms of depression for at least two years. However, symptoms are rarely uniform over any given two-year period. Some weeks and months may include minor signs of depression, while other times they are much more severe. Symptoms of persistent depressive disorder include:
- Low self-esteem and feelings of worthlessness
- Distressing over making decisions
- Difficulty concentrating
- Avoiding social gatherings, hobbies and other events which were previously enjoyable
Persistent depressive disorder greatly increases the likelihood of developing a substance use disorder, such as alcoholism. Co-occurring depression and alcoholism can take a toll on a person’s physical and emotional health, as well as their relationships with loved ones. The more alcohol an individual consumes, the stronger their dependency will become over time.
No one should suffer in silence from the harmful effects of co-occurring alcoholism and persistent depressive disorder and that’s why at The Lighthouse Bali, our professional team is able to treat both alcoholism AND depression and provide you with the tools necessary for staying in recovery long-term.
The most serious type of depression is major depression. This occurs when depression symptoms, such as feelings of sadness and worthlessness, interfere with a person’s daily life. It is estimated that roughly 20 to 25 percent of adults in the US will experience a major depressive episode at some point during their lives.
People with major depression are typically only able to see the negative in various personal and professional situations. This mental health condition can take a toll on overall well-being, including how a person sleeps, eats and thinks. Signs of major depression include:
- Excessive crying (for no reason)
- Irritability (and not knowing why)
- Low energy and motivation every day
- Insomnia or hypersomnia
- Seeing the negative in situations and relationships and unable ‘snap out of it’
- Recurring thoughts of suicide
Alcohol and drugs should definitely be avoided with major depression. Drinking can heighten the symptoms of depression, which can have life-threatening implications. This is because alcohol impacts the same areas of the brain that help regulate mood. Drinking can alter the brain’s chemical levels, which can trigger the symptoms of a mental health illness including major depression.
HOW IS DEPRESSION DIAGNOSED?
Medical professionals use a number of methods to diagnose depression and these may include physical exam, laboratory/blood tests, and psychological evaluations. These tests help determine the type of depression present, as well as eliminate the possibility of certain health conditions like thyroid problems and viruses. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) is commonly used by physicians and psychologists to reach a formal diagnosis.
Questions that may be asked by our clinical psychologist during your initial evaluation may include:
- In the past several weeks, how often have you felt hopeless, sad or depressed?
- Have you had thoughts about self-harm or harming another person when you’re feeling down?
- How much uninterrupted sleep do you get each night?
- How often do you drink alcohol or use any recreational drugs and how much?
- How do your symptoms interfere with your personal and professional responsibilities?
- Does your mood fluctuate? If so, how often?
It is important that you answer questions honestly without playing down or exaggerating your responses.
ALCOHOL AND DEPRESSION TREATMENT
Even the most severe forms of alcoholism and depression can be treated. However, the earlier you or your loved one seeks treatment, the better. Due to the nature of co-occurring conditions, it is highly recommended that individuals receive treatment from a rehab facility such as The Lighthouse Bali that specializing in BOTH alcoholism and depression.
Our tailor-made programs are not only safe and effective, but we will also help you to prepare to acclimate back into everyday life. The Lighthouse Bali provides extensive aftercare options which range from transitioning from a residential inpatient program to an outpatient program as a ‘stepping stone’ before returning home, through to online counselling with your therapist while settling back in to your home country.
Inpatient Care and Rehab
The Lighthouse Bali’s proven combination of an initial Primary Inpatient Program followed by Outpatient Care and Ongoing Therapy has helped alcohol addicts from around the world get their lives back on track. Through individually tailored treatment, professional therapy, medically assisted detox (if required), and compassionate support, you will be given the tools you need to ensure the best possible chances for long term recovery.
If you are concerned about yourself or a loved one, we urge you to reach out and contact us in confidence. Our private programs are tailor-made to suit individual needs and our doctorate level clinical staff have extensive experience in the field of addiction.
If you are not currently in Bali but would like to begin a recovery program immediately, contact us as we will be able to arrange a VISA for entry into Indonesia.
We also have online recovery options available which can be taken should you not wish to travel.
To talk to one of our team members, contact us on WhatsApp or by Phone. Alternatively, send us an email and we will either answer your questions in writing or call you back, according to your preference: Contact Us.
We understand how difficult it can be to reach out for help but it is the first step towards recovery and a happier, healthier way of living.