Depression is defined as a prolonged period of feeling sad, lonely, hopeless, lost, worthless, devoid of energy, apathetic, and even suicidal. There are many forms of depression. Almost everyone goes through at least a few periods of depression during their life. However, for some individuals, the problem is much more severe and protracted. While the causes of depression are not clearly understood, they include a number of genetic, environmental, and personal factors. Depression can severely impact a person’s personal and professional life, and potentially even lead to suicide.
There are several types of depression, including:
1)Major Depressive Disorder – Sufferers experience very severe depression symptoms that interfere with their ability to function. Some individuals have only one episode, but most have several throughout their lives.
2)Persistent Depressive Disorder – A depressed mood that lasts for two or more years. In some cases, this can be a lifelong condition.
3)Psychotic Depression – Sufferers experience both severe depression and some form of psychosis, including audio and visual hallucinations or having false beliefs or delusions.
4)Postpartum Depression – This form of depression is caused by the hormonal and physical changes associated with pregnancy and giving birth as well as the new responsibilities of caring for a newborn. Between 10 and 15 percent of new mothers experience postpartum depression.
5)Seasonal Affective Disorder – Depression symptoms begin during the late fall and winter months, as the amount of daily sunlight decreases. In many cases, light therapy is helpful for treating this condition.
6)Bipolar Disorder – No longer generally considered a form of depression, sufferers of this group of closely related mental conditions alternate between periods of depression and mania, a state of heightened and exaggerated moods. Also known as manic depression and bipolar depression, bipolar disorder is more often than not misdiagnosed as depression as most sufferers initially seek treatment for being depressed and do not understand or report the typically less frequent manic episodes.
The Relationship Between Alcohol And Depression
Alcohol abuse and depression are very closely correlated. Many depression sufferers, especially ones who have not been properly diagnosed, often turn to alcohol to escape. Desperate to feel better or numb the pain, even for a little while, depression sufferers often use the pleasurable effects of alcohol for that purpose. Alcohol abuse is rampant among sufferers of depression. At least 30%-40% of alcoholics also experience a depressive disorder.
Unfortunately, alcohol ends up having the opposite effect. Alcohol is a depressant that slows the body down. Studies have consistently shown that alcohol use increases both the duration and the severity of depressive episodes. It also increases the likelihood, frequency, and severity of suicidal thoughts. Alcohol can also cause other stressors in life such as career and family problems that worsen depression. If the depressed person than turns to alcohol to make themselves feel better, a vicious cycle has started that can be extremely difficult to break out of.
Alcoholism can also cause depression in some circumstances. Prolonged alcohol abuse can drastically change and rewire the brain, as well as impact many other chemical balances in the body. This is particularly true of the brain’s neurotransmitters, which send electric and chemical impulses and control a great deal of the body and mind’s functioning. These systemic changes can cause depression.
Treatment for Depression and Alcohol Abuse
Treatment for depression often involves some kind of antidepressant medication. These medications can help to modify a person’s brain chemistry in order to stabilize moods. Antidepressants are generally not considered addictive, and they are unlikely to be abused. This is especially helpful when treating a person with concurrent depression and alcoholism, as those with substance use disorders are more apt to attempt to abuse medications. Some initial effects of antidepressant medications can be experienced rather quickly, usually within a week or two, but their full effect usually takes months to take hold. Most doctors instruct patients to continue taking antidepressants for months even after the depression symptoms have subsided completely. If a person only takes an antidepressant for a few weeks, it’s tough to ascertain whether the medication was a good fit.
While either alcoholism or depression can be extremely difficult on a person, experiencing both conditions concurrently can be particularly troubling and often results in significantly worse outcomes. Due to the common co-occurrence of depression and alcohol abuse, many addiction treatment facilities are equipped to treat both disorders simultaneously. This approach of integrated treatment is the most effective way to achieve recovery on all fronts. If only one disorder – either the depression or the alcohol abuse – is treated individually without addressing the other, relapse is highly likely.