Alcohol aggravates mental illness

Alcohol and depression

Depressed mood, listlessness, feeling tired and limp - everyone probably knows days like this. Such feelings are common and much stronger in depressed people. Despondency never stops, life seems unbearable. Depression is not a temporary phase of low mood or depression, but rather a serious illness from a medical point of view. People who are suffering from depression can hardly free themselves from their negative thoughts and feelings.


How are alcohol problems and depression related?

According to estimates, 15 to 20 percent of all people in Germany are affected by depression or a chronically depressed mood once in their life. Women are affected more often than men.

In Germany there are around 1.4 million people who are alcohol abused, around 1.7 million people are considered to be alcohol-dependent. About 30 percent of them also suffer from depression, 24 percent of men and 49 percent of women. So depression is more common among people with alcohol problems than in the general population.

Do you get depressed because you drink? Or do you drink because you are depressed? Both are true. Because there is a close connection between the consumption of alcohol and the development of depression.

Depression as a trigger for alcohol abuse

In most cases, alcohol addiction arises as a result of depression. This is because many depressed people drink alcohol to ease the symptoms of depression.

Depression creates listlessness, irritability, negative feelings. Life seems boring and pointless. Alcohol, on the other hand, lifts the mood, creates artificial euphoria and a sense of wellbeing. Alcohol makes talkative and self-confident, reduces anxiety and disinhibits - exactly what alleviates depression in the short term. Alcohol is therefore the supposedly appropriate "medicine". But alcohol consumption itself leads to irritability and malaise. The subsequent hangover from alcohol offers those affected a suitable explanation for the gloom and lack of drive they experienced, and also appears to be socially accepted. However, depression as an underlying disease remains. This creates a vicious circle that leads to higher and higher alcohol consumption.

People with depression must therefore be particularly careful with their alcohol consumption. You are at an increased risk of developing alcohol addiction. Alcohol is by no means suitable for improving the depressive symptoms, as in the long run it increases the tendency to feel depressed, to develop or harden the depression up to the risk of suicide.

Alcohol abuse as a trigger for depression

However, high alcohol consumption can also contribute to the fact that depression develops in the first place. The reason for this: Alcohol interferes with the mechanisms of action of the brain. As with other drugs, alcohol also directly affects the messenger substances and the transmission of stimuli in the brain. The brain adapts to the regular stimulation from alcohol, so that the state of emergency gradually becomes the rule. So if the alcohol constantly releases a stimulating substance, the brain reduces its responsible receptors so that there is no oversupply. If the stimulation ceases, withdrawal symptoms occur. Even the continued stimulation and activation of certain brain centers changes the brain structure in the long term. Among other things, this can trigger or worsen depression.

In addition to the direct effects of alcohol on the brain, the negative social consequences of alcohol abuse, such as loneliness, can also lead to depression.

Depression caused by alcohol consumption must also be treated as a mental illness.

Be careful when handling alcohol

There is no low-risk alcohol consumption for people suffering from depressive moods. You shouldn't drink alcohol at all. Because they have a higher risk of developing addiction or abusive consumer behavior. Studies also show that alcohol consumption can worsen existing depression.


Alcohol cannot drive away frustration and anxiety

The stress currently associated with the coronavirus in particular makes the situation more difficult for depressed people. Because through the depression, the negative is particularly perceived. The worries and fears, e.g. of being sick from COVID-19, appear particularly depressing. The limitations of daily life represent an additional challenge, because there are no opportunities for distraction and relaxation.

In such a situation, in particular, it is important not to use alcohol. Those who drink alone or out of boredom only intensify the dejection and existing depression.

And even if you are worried or stressed, alcohol is taboo. Because the alcohol only covers up this pressure, and that can intensify the negative psychological consequences. People with mental illnesses should therefore generally stay away from alcohol.

Before that happens, there are a few things you can do:

  • A fixed daily and weekly structure can help not to fall into the dangerous severity of depression. The German Depression Aid Foundation gives some specific tips on this.
  • Put your alcohol supplies far away, preferably in the cellar, and simply leave out the alcoholic drinks when you go shopping.
  • If you still feel like drinking something alcoholic, try to outsmart your cravings with our tips.


No alcohol when taking antidepressants

It is not uncommon for drugs called antidepressants to be prescribed to improve symptoms of depression. You can support the treatment positively. With almost all antidepressants in use today, it is strongly advised not to take alcohol at the same time, as the interactions are unpredictable and can be very difficult.