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Depression Health Center

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Alcohol and Depression

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Some people say they drink alcohol to "drown their sorrows" after a bad breakup, job loss, or other major life stress. And yes, because alcohol makes you sleepy, a few beers or glasses of wine can seem to relax you and relieve anxiety.

A drink once in a while when you’re stressed out or blue is one thing. But when you need that cocktail every time a problem crops up, it could be a sign of alcohol abuse.

Recommended Related to Depression

Depression and Risky Behavior

Depression poses many dangers, burdening people with hopelessness and raising their risk of suicide. But in attempts to quell the pain, some turn to alcohol, drugs, and other harmful behaviors that endanger them even further, psychologists say. “There is a strong relationship between depression and high-risk behaviors,” says Pamela Cantor, PhD, a psychologist and lecturer at Harvard Medical School. “Excessive drinking, drug abuse, unsafe sex, and cutting are all self-injurious behaviors that...

Read the Depression and Risky Behavior article > >

There’s also a strong link between serious alcohol use and depression. The question is, does regular drinking lead to depression, or are depressed people more likely to drink too much? Both are possible.

Does Depression Drive You to Drink?

Nearly one-third of people with major depression also have an alcohol problem. Often, the depression comes first. Research shows that depressed kids are more likely to have problems with alcohol a few years down the road. Also, teens who've had a bout of major depression are twice as likely to start drinking as those who haven’t.

Women are more than twice as likely to start drinking heavily if they have a history of depression. Experts say that women are more likely than men to overdo it when they’re down.

Drinking will only make depression worse. People who are depressed and drink too much have more frequent and severe episodes of depression, and are more likely to think about suicide. Heavy alcohol use also can make antidepressants less effective.

Does Drinking Too Much Make You Depressed?

Alcohol is a depressant. That means any amount you drink can make you more likely to get the blues. Drinking a lot can harm your brain and lead to depression.

When you drink too much, you’re more likely to make bad decisions or act on impulse. As a result, you could drain your bank account, lose a job, or ruin a relationship. When that happens, you're more likely to feel down, particularly if your genes are wired for depression.

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