Alcohol and depression do not mix.
What’s the impact of taking pills as treatment?
Does the depressive state influence alcohol consumption or vice versa?
Are men more likely to drink alcohol when being depressed?
Let’s find out…
People with depression sometimes use alcohol to numb the emotions that overwhelm them and fail to express or manage. They drink to forget their ill-being, to support their suffering, to get to sleep … Drinking is seen as a “solution”, an attempt at self-medication.
Conversely, the vast majority of people who are addicted to alcohol, manifest at some point in their lives symptoms of depression. The onset of depression is often linked to low self-esteem, emotional relationships made difficult by chronic alcoholizations.
The combination of the two sufferings exposes to a high suicidal risk and makes the steps of request for help more difficult.
According to a recent survey conducted in June 2019, nearly one in ten people had experienced a depressive episode in the past 12 months. The people most affected include women aged 35-44 year olds, man under 45, unemployed or otherwise inactive people, widowed or divorced people, and people earning low incomes.
The effects of alcohol in depression
The moral suffering (intense sadness, guilt, pessimism, loss of interest, etc.) of which the depressed is a victim to, may encourage the consumption of alcohol. In the short term, drinking alcohol can give an impression of relief, distance from problems and allows for a tranquilizing or soothing effect. But these immediate effects are misleading and can even worsen the depressive state!
Indeed, this sense of improvement is ephemeral, it dissipates quickly. But above all, alcohol has depressant effects (decreased brain function, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, sadness) that are related to its interference with the functioning of several neuromediators. Moreover, the first signs of depression – insomnia, fatigue, irritability, general disinterest – are those of alcoholism.
“Thus, alcohol can cause a worsening of depression” reports a study by an alcoologist and psychiatrist doctor.
Alcohol, depression and antidepressant treatment
Drinking alcohol on antidepressant (or anxiolytic) treatment is also a problem. Alcohol interferes with the effects of drugs:
- By increasing their side effects;
- By decreasing their therapeutic effectiveness (less effective symptom reduction).
It is therefore best to avoid alcohol consumption if you take medication to treat depression.
Alcohol and depression – affecting a man’s image
Depression is often characterized by a loss of energy, interest, a psychomotor slowing, a feeling of worthlessness, difficulty of concentration, greater indecision, morbid thoughts etc. It is at the absolute contrast of the image of a traditional man. Indeed, the stereotype of the ideal male is still alive today, despite the advances of feminism that challenged it. Manhood is defined by force, control, power, etc.
This masculine ideal, explains a famous writer, is illustrated by the image of the man of the Marlboro cigarettes whose poster has traveled the world. A tough man, lonely because ‘he needs no one, impassive, virile at will’.
If a man forgets his worries by drinking one or two glasses, it does not ruin his image … Quite the contrary, it remains very manly! Admittedly, this male representation is an archetype, but the fact remains that men have generally been educated to speak less about themselves and to communicate less. Moreover, the numbers show that men are the ones who have had the least medical care (only 33.7% of men consult a doctor in case of depressive disorders).
Male stereotype, “cliche” per excellence: alcohol has an integral part. The first drinking is often a sort of initiation rite that marks the transition from the world of childhood to that of adult men. Unlike tobacco, despite regular prevention, alcohol still enjoys a good reputation. Even today, alcohol consumption is more accepted among men than women.
Indeed, in small doses, it soothes anxieties, disinhibits and promotes contact. A good reason to drink, especially if you feel more fragile. While alcoholic women can use depression as a pretext, men do not think it. They drink spontaneously because their consumption is traditionally well accepted.
Depression and the alcoholism pitfall
The pitfall to avoid is to treat depression without taking into account the problem of alcohol. Antidepressants associated with alcohol prove catastrophic and psychotherapy may wild no results for years.
When depression and alcoholism is mixed, treating depression (in almost all cases) is doomed to failure. It is better to first cure alcohol dependence, and then depression if it persists. It is because the alcoholic will have understood the reasons that led him to drink in the first place. The priority is to stop drinking, then try to understand why…