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 (877) 679-2132.

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Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been working in the addiction industry for half a decade and has been writing about addiction and substance abuse treatment during that time. He has experience working for facilities all across the country. Connect with Joe on LinkedIn.
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Christopher Glover CDCA

My name is Christopher Glover, and I am from Cincinnati, Ohio. I am currently in school and working to grow in competence to better support our community. As a recovering individual I know the struggles that you or a loved one can go through and that there is help for anything you may be struggling with.

The hardest part is asking for help and we are here as a team to best support you and your decision to start your journey towards a better future. Connect with Chris on LinkedIn

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Amanda Kuchenberg PRS CDCA

I recently joined Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers as a Clinical Case Manager. I am originally from Wisconsin but settled in the Cincinnati area in my early 20s.  My career started in the fashion industry but quickly changed as I searched to find my drive and passion through helping others who struggle with addiction. 

As someone who is also in recovery, I wanted to provide hope, share lived experience, and support others on their journey.  I currently have my Peer Recovery Support Supervision Certification along with my CDCA and plan to continue my education with University of Cincinnati so I can continue to aid in the battle against substance addiction. Connect with Amanda on LinkedIn.

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Patrick McCamley LCDC III

 Patrick McCamley (Clinical Therapist) is a Cincinnati native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2019. Patrick received his bachelors degree in psychology from University of Cincinnati in 2021 and received his LCDC III (Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2022. Patrick has worked in Clinical Operations, Clinical Case Management, and Clinical Therapy throughout his career.

Patrick has tremendous empathy and compassion for the recovery community, being in recovery himself since 2018. Patrick is uniquely qualified to be helpful because of the specific combination of his academic background and his own experience in recovery.

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Bill Zimmerman CDCA

Bill Zimmerman is a Greater Cincinnati Area native who has worked in substance use disorder/co-occurring mental health disorder treatment since 2018. Bill received his (Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant) license from the Ohio Chemical Dependency Professionals Board in 2020.

Bill has worked in Clinical Operations in both support and supervision, and Program facilitating and 12 step recovery support during his career. Bill has a passion for the recovery community, having been in recovery himself since 1982. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn

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Taylor Lilley CDCA, PRS

Growing up in Louisiana with addiction running rampant on both sides of my family. A life away from drugs and alcohol seemed impossible for someone like me. I remember what it was like sitting across from someone thinking there is no way they could ever understand what I was going through.

Sharing my experience offers a credibility and a certain type of trust with clients that only someone who has walked down this road can illustrate. To immerse myself further into the field of addiction, I am currently studying at Cincinnati State for Human and Social Services.  I hope I never forget where I came from, if I can do it, so can you!

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Thomas Hunter LSW

Hello my name is Thomas Hunter. I was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio. I am a licensed social worker.In my scope of practice I have worked in the areas of mental health and recovery for thirty years. The clients I have worked with in my career have ranged in age from seven to seventy.

I strive each day to serve my purpose of helping those in need and I believe I do so by utilizing all of my experiences to accomplish my goal of supporting those who desire to establish their sobriety and maintain it in their recovery. Connect with Thomas on LinkedIn.

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Mary D.Porter,LICDC

 My name is Mary D. Porter. I received my Masters of Social Work in 2008 from The University of Cincinnati. I received My Licensed Independent Chemical Dependency Counselor Licensure in 2001. I retired from The Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center on April 14, 2014. Currently, I am the Associate Clinical Director for The Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers in Cincinnati.. Due to the fourth wave of the Opioid Epidemic in 2019,  I decided to enter back into the workforce to assist the addicted population.

The overdoses were astounding and I wanted to help.  I consider myself  to be an advocate for the addicted population. My compassion, resilience, empathy, wisdom, knowledge, experience and  love I have for this forgotten population goes beyond words. I consider what I do for the addicted population as a calling versus a “career,” because I too was once an “addict and alcoholic.” Today I am 45.5 years alcohol and substance free.

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Ben Lemmon LCDC III

Hello, my name is Ben Lemmon, and I’m the Vice President and Clinical Director at Ohio Community Health Recovery Centers. I’ve been working in the addiction and mental health field since 2013 and decided to enter the field after overcoming my own challenges with addiction.

When I first meet a client, I always explain to them that the reason we are meeting is because they are not capable of obtaining or maintaining sobriety, and my goal is to create a person that can maintain sobriety. I believe a person’s personality is made up of their thoughts, feelings and actions and my job is to help clients identify the thoughts, feelings and actions that have them disconnected from recovery and provide them with the tools to live a healthy and happy life. Connect with Ben on LinkedIn