Alcoholism and Depression: A Common Dual Diagnosis

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Alcoholism and depression are often interlinked and often manifest simultaneously in a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder. 

Alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing brain condition clinically described as alcohol use disorder that is a demanding condition when it presents in isolation. If alcohol use disorder co-occurs with major depressive disorder, you’ll need to engage with comprehensive and integrated dual diagnosis treatment for the most favorable outcome.

While depression and alcoholism striking at the same time can be intensely challenging, an individualized treatment plan based on an accurate diagnosis can help you move beyond life constrained by these debilitating conditions.

Understanding the Overlap Between Alcohol and Depression

Research shows that nearly 1% of lives impaired or prematurely ended in the U.S. are attributable to alcohol and almost 6% are associated with mental health disorders like depression.

Alcohol use disorder is diagnosed according to the number of criteria present from DSM-5-TR, the most current edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM-5-TR is APA’s benchmark diagnostic tool used by physicians and mental health professionals to diagnose alcoholism, drug addictions, and mental health conditions.

Although alcoholism was once widely perceived to be triggered by a lack of willpower or a moral failing, the disease model of addiction holds that alcohol use disorder is a chronic brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol abuse despite negative consequences. SAMHSA data shows that almost 22 million over-12s in the United States are have a substance use disorder involving alcohol only, and almost 6.5 million are addicted to both alcohol and drugs.

Major depressive disorder is the clinical descriptor for depression. Depression is a mood disorder that triggers persistent feelings of sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness.

Depression might be common – it impacts almost one in ten U.S. citizens at some stage – but it is also an SMI (serious mental illness) that often worsens when untreated. Fortunately, engaging with the right depression treatment typically delivers benefits in just a few weeks.

NIMH (National Institute on Mental Health) states that for a diagnosis of depression, the symptoms must endure for two weeks or more. APA (American Psychiatric Association) reports that symptoms must also involve impaired functioning for a clinical diagnosis of major depressive disorder.

Like alcohol use disorder, major depressive disorder is diagnosed according to the symptoms outlined in DSM-5-TR.

Studies consistently indicate that those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder per DSM are three times more prone to developing mood disorders like depression than those without alcohol use disorder.

Additionally, research suggests that at least half of those with SMIs also abuse addictive substances, whether alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs.

NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) states that over one-third of those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Among those diagnosed with an SMI like major depressive disorder, around one-third abuse illicit drugs or alcohol.

Can Alcohol Cause Depression and Loneliness?

Alcohol use disorder and major depressive disorder may be closely interrelated, but one condition does not always cause the other.

Research in this area is vigorous and the findings to date show that:

  1. Alcohol use disorder can increase the risk of developing mental health conditions: All mental health disorders have an environmental and genetic component. Those addicted to alcohol are at increased risk for mental health disorders.
  2. Alcohol use disorder can inflame existing symptoms of mental health disorders: Anyone with depression or another existing mental health disorder will find that alcohol abuse makes the symptoms worse. You can also expect an adverse reaction if you mix alcohol with antidepressants.
  3. Those with an undiagnosed mental health disorder frequently self-medicate symptoms with alcohol: Many people who experience depressive episodes without an underlying diagnosis self-medicate the symptoms with alcohol. This can alleviate the symptoms in the short-term and boost the mood, but self-medication is ineffective and liable to inflame both conditions long-term.

So, while abusive patterns or drinking and addiction in the form of alcohol use disorder are more common among those with mental health conditions, alcoholism does not necessarily cause depression.

How Does Alcohol Influence Depression?

When alcoholism and depression co-occur, this can:

  • Delay recovery from alcohol use disorder
  • Complicate treatment
  • Further destabilize mood

Treating both issues head-on and simultaneously is the best approach for most co-occurring disorders.

Alcoholism is treatable with a combination of medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy. You’ll discover how to identify what triggers you to abuse alcohol and a therapist will also guide you to create and implement superior coping strategies when faced with stress in everyday life.

Most cases of major depressive disorder respond favorably to treatment with antidepressants and psychotherapy.

Shortcut your recovery by exploring the alcohol and depression treatment programs on offer here at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers alcohol and depression rehab.

Treatment for Alcohol and Depression in Ohio

We offer treatment programs for alcoholism, depression, and co-occurring disorders at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers.

Pick the type of treatment that best suits the severity of your alcoholism, depression, and your personal circumstances. We deliver therapy at these levels of American Society of Addiction Medicine’s continuum of care:

  • Medication-assisted treatment
  • Partial hospitalization programs
  • Intensive outpatient programs

All treatment programs draw from a personalized array of evidence-based treatments, including MAT, psychotherapy (CBT or DBT), and counseling. You will also have access to holistic therapies to supplement research-backed interventions.

Take the first crucial step by contacting us online or by calling 513-757-5000.

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