Alcohol dependence and depression is a combination that is not uncommon, and such a comorbidity is in fact rather prevalent amongst individuals in both their young and late adulthood. According to one of the 2 main studies conducted in the United States, the National Comorbidity Survey (NCS), it was found that nearly one-third (29.2%) of the NCS respondents with alcohol dependence suffered from a mood disorder, out of which 27.9% of them struggled with Major Depressive Disorder. Moreover, these alcohol-dependent respondents were 3.9 times more likely to have had depression than those who were not. Keep in mind that these figures were obtained from a nationally representative household survey conducted between 1990 and 1991. Considering how globalisation and economic growth have made our lives increasingly fast-paced and stressful, it would not be surprising to learn that these numbers are growing exponentially, affecting countless globally.
Although severe alcohol problems get the limelight in regard to the media and public attention, mild or moderate issues can also cause substantial damage. The consequences of alcoholism aren’t necessarily limited to the individual himself, and could most certainly impact the drinker’s family, friends, and the wider community. For sure, everyone drinks once in a while, but how do we define alcoholism? How much is too much?
Here are some guiding questions for you to better understand some of the symptoms that may be indicative of an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD):
In the past year, have you…
- Had times when you ended up drinking more / longer than you intended to?
- More than once tried to cut down on alcohol consumption but couldn’t?
- Wanted a drink so desperately that you couldn’t focus on anything else?
- Cut back / given up on activities that you enjoy just to drink?
- Continued to drink even if it made you feel more anxious or depressed?
- Had to drink much more in order to attain the same effect that you once had?
- Found that you started experiencing withdrawal symptoms (e.g sleep disturbances, nausea, sweating) whenever the effects of alcohol started to wear off?
- Continued to drink even if it was causing trouble to your family, friends or colleagues?
In the same vein, let’s discuss the symptoms of depression. It is important to note that depression is more than just sadness. As per the American Psychological Association, people with depression may experience a lack of interest and pleasure in daily activities, significant weight loss or gain, insomnia or excessive sleeping, lack of energy, inability to concentrate, feelings of worthlessness or excessive guilt and recurrent thoughts of death or suicide. Depressive symptoms may be further fueled by excessive, prolonged periods of alcohol consumption, thus making it an exceptionally daunting situation for the individual.
What Forms Of Alcohol Addiction Treatment Are Available in Singapore?
Essentially, it is key to identify the cause of depression in individuals who also suffer from alcohol dependence – this makes it easier to determine the optimal treatment approach, and to minimise any unnecessary costs for the client. Treatment options can include the use of medication, psychotherapy, or both. However, the treatment process may vary, and is highly dependent on each individual’s situation. For example, if a clinician identifies that the depressive symptoms are clearly linked to unhealthy levels of alcohol consumption, then prescribing antidepressants may not be ideal, for it would not have any therapeutic impact beyond what abstinence would achieve. In certain situations, abstinence from alcohol may cause the direct dwindling of depressive symptoms. In such cases, clients would instead incur unnecessary, burdensome pharmacotherapy costs. Hence, it is extremely important for one to seek help from a professional clinician in order to pinpoint the causality of one’s deteriorating mental health, and not attempt to self-diagnose.
Besides medication, going for alcohol addiction therapy can also be particularly effective in the treatment of comorbid alcohol dependence and depression. The use of cognitive behavioural therapy and motivational interviewing can nudge the client towards making positive lifestyle changes, and reduce any maladaptive behaviours. In the recovery journey of an individual with alcohol dependence and depression, an active process of psychotherapy is necessary in order to help them achieve greater stability. Clients will need to be educated on their condition and its impact on people around them, as well as how they can cope with the acute effects of each of the co-occurring disorders. In doing so, alcohol addiction therapy aims to foster the development of essential life skills to achieve better mental health.
Some may also opt to join an alcohol addiction treatment program involving a peer support group to aid themselves in their recovery process. It can be exceptionally comforting to be able to speak with like-minded people who have been through a similar experience and to engage in a community that allows for greater empathy and practical advice. Exchanging and sharing personal experiences with one another will also provide one with greater motivation to start practising healthy mental health habits.
For those struggling with alcohol dependence and depression, it would be beneficial to seek alcohol addiction treatment early. Why, you ask? That is simply because alcohol is a depressant. Consistent heavy drinking can disrupt that delicate chemical balance and processes in our brain that are crucial for good mental health. Excessive drinking can lead to the uprise of negative emotions, thoughts and behaviours, making one exceptionally prone to mood disorders. As such, alcohol dependence can instead prolong the course of depression, adding to the distress one experiences.
Persistent depression during abstinence from alcohol further heightens the risk for relapse to heavy drinking, as these individuals would face an overwhelming urge to relieve themselves from any pain or emotional stress. The starting point of such a dual diagnosis may differ from person to person. For some, depression may have been the cause of their excessive drinking habits. As for others, prolonged periods of alcohol dependence may have led to the onset of depressive symptoms, thereby worsening the already dire situation, and this may lead eventually to an alcohol addiction inpatient rehabilitation episode Whichever the case, seek professional help early if you find yourself struggling to keep afloat. Don’t allow yourself to fall through the cracks and give in to the vicious cycle.
Visions assists clients in identifying their problems and provides images, names, languages, qualifications, and experience of specialists who can help: https://visionsbypromises.com.sg/our-team/
- Petrakis, I. L., Gonzalez, G., Rosenheck, R., & Krystal, J. H. (2002, November). Comorbidity of Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh26-2/81-89.htm (Accessed 15/12/2020)
- https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/comorbid-depression-and-alcohol-dependence (Accessed 15/12/2020)
- https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-use-disorder-comparison-between-dsm (Accessed 15/12/2020)
- https://www.apa.org/topics/depression (Accessed 15/12/2020)
- DeVido, J. J., & Weiss, R. D. (2012). Treatment of the depressed alcoholic patient. Current psychiatry reports, 14(6), 610–618. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-012-0314-7 (Accessed 15/12/2020)