Alcohol and Depression Facts: Can One Be Blamed for the Other?


Written By: Geraldine Orentas

Geraldine is Lighthouse Recovery Institute’s Digital Marketing Manager. She has a Bachelor’s in Journalism and experience in the digital media industry. Geraldine’s writing allows her to share valuable information about mental health, wellness, and drug addiction facts, hoping to shed light on the importance of therapy and ending the stigma.

Published on May 28, 2020 | Drug & Alcohol Recovery

There’s an undeniable connection between alcohol and depression. It’s common for people to say they’re drinking to drown their sorrows or to relax. And yes, alcohol can help you relieve anxiety and make you sleepy. After all, the occasional drink when you’re stressed is one thing. But, reaching for a drink every time something comes up can be a sign of alcohol abuse. Does regular drinking lead to depression, or is someone struggling with depression on the verge of developing a drinking problem? Both can be possible, as the facts about alcohol and depression are quite complex.

Understanding the Connection between Alcohol and Depression

Depression is a mental illness characterized by a persistent sense of sadness. Some people are genetically prone to depression, personality also plays a role, and those with low self-esteem are more likely to develop certain levels of depression. However, there are countless reasons for depression, and its root cause varies by person. 

Is alcohol a depressant? Well, yes. To make things more complicated, some people have genetic predispositions, making them vulnerable to both alcoholism and depression. The onset of one can trigger the start of the other. It’s a vicious cycle as alcohol abuse can lead to feelings of depression, just as depressive episodes can lead to increased alcohol intake. 

Alcoholic man drinking on the sidewalk

Alcohol and Depression Facts: Which One Comes First?

According to major studies, individuals with mental health illnesses are more likely to struggle with alcohol abuse. Research also suggests that depression and binge drinking episodes are also co-dependent in women. Also, according to another study, children with major depression are more likely to drink earlier in life.  

However, it’s more common for someone to start on the path of alcoholism and later develop depression. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), depression is a common side effect of the battle with alcoholism. Increasing depressive episodes often lead to more drinking, which re-starts the vicious cycle. 

When it comes to alcohol and depression facts, it can be tricky to determine which comes first fully, as each case is different.

Someone with frequent depression episodes can turn to alcohol as self-medication, thus worsening alcohol misuse. On the other hand, someone who frequently drinks alcohol is more likely to experience bouts of depression, therefore drinking more to lift their spirits. 

Woman walking by the ocean

Dangers of Alcohol and Depression 

Struggling with both depression and alcohol disorders is common. Alcohol use can worsen or onset symptoms of depression. At the same time, those struggling with depression can self-medicate with alcohol. It’s paramount to treat both together since not doing so can make the conditions worse. 

Those struggling with alcoholism and depression are at greater risk of attempting and committing suicide. Alcohol abusers are also more likely to engage in reckless behavior and act on impulse. 

It’s essential to keep an eye on symptoms of both. Some common symptoms of depression include:

  • Feeling worthless
  • Sadness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
  • Lack of energy to complete daily tasks
  • Guilt

Common symptoms of alcohol abuse or dependency include:

  • Binge drinking
  • Drinking frequently, even daily
  • Sneaking alcohol 
  • Avoiding activities to drink
Woman in Blue Scrub Suit Helping Woman Sitting on Bed

Finding Help with Dual Diagnosis 

Unlike other substance abuse problems, when someone struggles with alcoholism and depression at the same time, both issues need attention. Treating each one isolated might only make the situation worse. Both conditions are widespread, which makes treatment options more openly available. 

Regardless of which one comes first, anyone struggling with alcohol and depression needs to seek help. With a dual diagnosis treatment, the path towards recovery is optimistic. Through a dual diagnosis program, depression disorder and alcohol addiction are treated simultaneously to ensure one doesn’t worsen the other symptoms and finally break the cycle. 

With dual diagnosis treatment programs at Lighthouse Recovery Institute, we can help you find the best care options for your alcohol and depression struggles. If you or someone you love is struggling with these conditions, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Our team will analyze both illnesses and craft the treatment plan that best suits your needs.

Cite This Article
Geraldine Orentas. "Alcohol and Depression Facts: Can One Be Blamed for the Other?." Lighthouse Recovery Institute., Published on May 28, 2020,


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