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Alcohol abuse and depression can be a deadly mix.

Often, a person with depression will also have alcoholism, and vice versa. In fact, 30 to 50 percent of people with alcoholism, at any given time, are also suffering from major depression. Family history of depression or alcoholism puts a person at greater risk for developing either illness.

While alcohol often causes a good mood at first, it is a depression causing drug.

Alcoholism may cause a relapse in people with depression. The depressive symptoms from alcohol are greater when a person first stops drinking. People recovering from alcoholism who have a history of depression should be carefully monitored during the early stages of withdrawal.

When a person suffers from major depression and abuses alcohol, he has a much higher risk of attempting and succeeding at suicide. Other facts:

  • Alcohol abuse can exaggerate depression and increase impulsiveness;
  • Alcohol is often detected in suicide methods involving driving a car or overdosing;
  • Alcohol impairs judgment, which explains its association with painful suicide methods.

Major depression and alcohol abuse are the most commonly diagnosed psychiatric disorders in people who attempt suicide.

Recent studies also indicate that not only can the behavior of drinking parents bring about early childhood bouts of depression, but can effect the cognitive skills and IQ’s of their children.

Studies comparing children of alcoholics with nonchildren of alcoholics also have found that parental alcoholism is linked to a number of psychological disorders in children.

The results of several studies have shown that children from alcoholic families report higher levels of depression and anxiety and exhibit more symptoms of generalized stress (i.e., low self-esteem) than do children from nonalcoholic families

In considering children of alcoholics, it is important to remember that, although there is a genetic component to the vulnerability to alcoholism, children of alcoholic issues are not related primarily to alcoholism itself but to the social and psychological dysfunction that may result from growing up in an alcoholic home.

I am a child of an alcoholic parent. While I have two sisters, they never grew up with an alcholic parent as the age difference between us is 10 -12 years and the drinking had ceased by the time I was 18. Alcoholism can also occur from social pressure to drink. Pressure is on young people to drink to be popular and pressure can present itself in the workforce as well. I went for a job interview in a large legal firm and was told that going down to the pub every Friday night was part of their social culture and everyone was expected to go.

There are a number of ways in which alcohol and depression may be linked. 
  • Stressful life events can precipitate both alcohol problems and depression.  Over the last decade new research has shed light on the way alcohol affects the brain, and in the ways in which the brain is affected in depression. It is now known that some of the systems that are involved in producing the symptoms of low mood, anxiety, poor sleep and reduced appetite in depression are also affected by alcohol.

  • People with alcohol problems report more incidences of neglect and poor parenting as children than those without. These factors may also increase the risk of developing depression.        

Because of the risk of suicide, if you are or someone you care about is suffering from major depression and abusing alcohol it is critical that you seek prompt medical attention.

If you just can’t stop drinking, or can’t keep it to a safe level, you can get help from:your doctor, voluntary agencies that specialise in alcohol problems and self help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous or AlAnon and Alateen.
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