When one feels depressed, one might start to use excessive amount of alcohol while seeking emotional relief. Alcohol consumption may bring a momentary relief, however in a long run it only makes one feel more depressed. Several studies have shown that the neuronal activity level in certain areas of the brain has decreased in depressed people when compared to healthy people who do not perceive themselves as being depressed.
Alcohol is effectively “paralyzing” the brain, decreasing the neuronal activity level even more and hence resulting in stronger feeling of anxiety and depression, especially after the effect of alcohol has worn out. For this reason, depressed people should avoid using excessive amounts of alcohol while they are trying to recover.
Biological mechanism of alcohol function in the brain
In physiological terms alcohol is called a depressant, because it decreases neuronal activity in certain areas of the brain. When one drinks alcohol the level of neuronal activity in certain brain areas drops. The brain is trying to compensate this by bringing the activity back to the baseline level.
When the effect of alcohol starts to wear out, consequently the neuronal activity level of the brain starts to increase towards normal level. However, due to compensatory processes that are still active, the net neuronal activity will eventually be above the original baseline. This excessive activity in the neuronal networks results in anxious, nervous feeling that is typical during the hangover.
Depression, anxiety and hangover
From a biological perspective depression and anxiety are two very different conditions. In the brain of a depressed person the activity has dropped in certain areas, whereas in the brain of an anxious person the activity in certain areas has increased. Anxious person may feel as if there is “an iron wire around the head”, whereas depressed person may feel too tired to take any initiative and lacks interest towards life in general.
When a person is experiencing hangover after drinking, the level of activity in certain areas in the brain can fluctuate rapidly. These fluctuations in the neuronal activity level can make a depressed person feel worse. For this reason it is wise to avoid excessive alcohol consumption if one is suffering of depression.
In addition to decreasing the level of neuronal activity, alcohol prevents the formation of new neuronal connections, leading to problems with memory and learning. The formation of new neuronal connections is crucial for formation of new memories and the ability to learn new skills. In order to recover from depression, the brain of a depressed individual has to be able to form new neuronal connections. If a depressed person consumes large amounts of alcohol, he/she is effectively preventing the brain from recovering.
How one can help a depressed brain to heal
Instead of seeking relief from alcohol, the best thing a depressed person can do is to make it into one’s goal to help the brain to recover and form new connections as effectively as possible. If one uses too much alcohol, it is not uncommon to dwell on self-accusations and guilt related to drinking. These negative feelings will not help a depressed person to heal, instead they will further aggravate the condition.
Many depressed people claim that when they stopped using alcohol, the mere knowledge that they were actually doing something concrete that helped their brain to recover was enough to make them feel slightly better, and they were able to use that tiny sparkle of energy to start to do things that further aided their healing. Luckily there are many small things that one can do to help the brain to recover.
Alcoholism and depression may be two seemingly dissimilar things, but they are closely knit. The symptoms that are present leading to excessive alcoholic consumption are the same as those required to diagnose someone as under a state of depression. Nonetheless, a lot of people treat alcohol as an antidepressant and they feel relieved whenever they have a shot of it. But though it may give initial relief, it will eventually put you back in a more serious state of depression.
Let it be known that alcohol is not an antidepressant. It may even cause a more severe depression. Sad to say though, a lot of people still go for alcohol when they want to stave off sadness. But to clearly state the relation between alcoholism and depression, here are some thoughts that you might want to consider:
- Alcoholism can cause depression to relapse.
- The depression level of a patient significantly drops after he has given up alcohol for three to four weeks.
- You may suffer from alcoholism and depression if your family has a history of both situations.
- When someone is under the spell of alcoholism and depression, suicidal attempts are high.
- Alcoholics and depressed people are often irritated and offensive.
Because of these similarities, alcoholics and depressed people need more attention. They have the potential to be dangerous not only to others but to themselves as well. Once someone is suffering from both conditions, medical help is urgent so that the deadly effects of these situations can be prevented.
Therefore, there is a strong relation between alcoholism and depression. Because alcohol is often seen as an antidepressant, most depressed people resort to it to forget their problems. They would drink a high volume of alcoholic drinks that will leave them calm for a moment but more depressed as time goes by.
Using alcohol to repel depression will only worsen the depressed state that someone is experiencing. Sure there is an initial relief, but once the hangover of alcohol is gone, a person is brought to a worse level of depression. There is scientific proof to back this up.
Studies show that alcoholism elevates the level of depression and as many as 50 percent of alcoholics also suffer from depression. However, it is not clear though whether depression gives birth to alcoholism, although a recent study shows that about ten percent of depressed people carry alcoholism symptoms too.
But whatever the causes of these two may be, an individual should stand his ground against them. Depression alone can lead someone to commit suicide. And depressing as it may sound, alcoholism might take people’s lives as well through the diseases that it will eventually manifest. These problems have to be faced, solved, and trashed for good.