Drinking might seem like a release for some of us. After a long week – perhaps even after a particularly stressful work-day – it can be very tempting to reach for a bottle. After all, alcohol can make you feel confident, free, and most importantly: happy.
At least for a little while, anyway.
The thing is, alcohol goes hand in hand with anxiety and depression; two debilitating mental health conditions that affect millions of people around the world. In some cases, alcohol might be the cause mental health conditions; in others, mental health might be the catalyst towards alcoholism, says TherapyTrainings.com, a website that offers free CEUs for social workers.
Alcohol & Depression
The links between alcohol and depression are very well documented. Studies have proven that up to 16% of those with depression also exhibit symptoms of an alcohol problem – this figure is only 7% when compared to the general public.
Alcohol & Your Brain
Your brain produces a chemical called Serotonin, which is responsible for your feelings of happiness and euphoria.
Alcohol (and a large variety of other drugs) cause your brain to produce more serotonin than you otherwise would, leading to feelings of confidence and elation – this is why alcohol might make you feel good.
If you consistently drink large amounts of alcohol, the production of serotonin in your brain will dramatically slow, causing you to become chronically depressed, anxious or maybe even both.
A similar chemical, dopamine, is also produced as a ‘reward’. Dopamine is responsible for the excited-happy feeling that you might get if you go out of your way to help someone else!
Just like serotonin, your brain will produce excess dopamine every time you drink, leading to temporary mood-boosters and a short-term increase in happiness.
These symptoms of alcohol abuse are only short-lived. Due to your brain producing more dopamine and serotonin, it’s likely to produce less the following day – this will lead to a low mood, along with other feelings of hopelessness and depression.
Aside from the physical dangers, sudden withdrawal from alcohol can also cause an intense onset of depression and anxiety, which may even cause you to experience hallucinations or fits.
A Vicious Cycle
For all intents and purposes, the cycle of alcohol consumption and depression truly is a vicious cycle. Drinking might lead to negative feelings, which could encourage you to drink more. After sobering up, you may feel guilty, ashamed or embarrassed – which will lead to further alcohol consumption.