Evil Twins: Depression and Alcohol Abuse
Is there a link between depression and alcohol abuse? Of course there is. And most people know it.
If you are chronically depressed, you may have been tempted to abuse alcohol. If you are the friend or relative of a depressive, you may have witnessed this syndrome first hand. And if you are someone who drinks heavily, and you have wondered why you drink, you may well have come to the conclusion that you are, in fact, clinically depressed.
But why should this be so? Why are there such strong links between boozing and the blues? Is it chemical? Is it purely psychological? What motivates the depressed person to seek solace in a glass? And, maybe most importantly, from the drinker’s perspective, what is the depressed heavy drinker trying to accomplish?
And… how do you escape the grip of depression and alcohol?
Alcohol abuse and chronic depression
Alcoholism is an enormous public health problem throughout the world. It cuts across age and gender, social class, income groups, professions and occupations.
A college freshman, who is away from home for the first time and is struggling to adjust, finds that she copes that little bit better after a shot glass of cheap vodka.
The middle aged divorced man, who is returning to the dating scene, thinks he needs a “little boost” to help him when he sallies forth to meet people.
The single mother suffering from loneliness and perpetual financial worry finds that she drinks to “de-stress”.
The bank manager drinks, the construction worker drinks, the beauty queen drinks. The millionaire drinks, and so does the guy on the dole.
What all these people have in common is that they feel unhappy, stressed, often angry, and unable to cope. For people in all walks of life, alcohol is the cure-all to drown sorrows, allay anxiety and depression, and salve loneliness.
And the link with depression is too statistically large to ignore:
Nearly one-third of people with major depression also have an alcohol problem, according to one major study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In many cases, depression may be the first to occur. Research shows that children who are depressed are more prone to develop alcohol problems once they reach adolescence. Teens who’ve had an episode of major depression are twice as likely as those who aren’t depressed to start drinking alcohol.
Here is a story from “Chris”:
It was a while before I even realized I was depressed. It took even longer to realize that I was an alcoholic. But the suspicion of a link between feeling bad and drink was what perhaps, occurred to me first. At this time I knew nothing of the alcoholism stages or alcoholism symptoms or even depression for that matter. All I knew was that I felt bad…..
I had a job, but it only served as a stage where I could play out my inadequacies and reveal to myself time and time again just how useless I was. I felt that life had nothing to offer me, in fact it had cheated me of things that were rightfully mine.
And this personal story from “Dan”:
Before I got sober my life was in a downward spiral. I was laid-off, drinking most of the time, severely depressed and didn’t think there was anything to live for. I knew then my lifestyle had to change but I couldn’t do it on my own.
And, of course, alcoholism takes a terrible toll on those who are close to the alcoholic. Here is a story of a young woman with an alcoholic boyfriend:
I’ve been with my alcoholic boyfriend for 3 1/2 years now (I’m 27 now and he’s 30) and I love him very much but his alcoholism is really taking a toll on my life. In the beginning everything was good, I didn’t really take him seriously because I had just gotten out of a 7 year relationship, but I grew to like him then eventually fall in love with him. I knew he was an alcoholic in the beginning but stupidly always looked passed it. When he doesn’t drink he is the absolute best boyfriend, but man oh man when he drinks (preferably beer) he is the total opposite of wonderful.