April is alcohol awareness month and one important issue to consider is that alcohol dependence, or alcoholism, and alcohol abuse can be linked to depression and other mental disorders.
There are many studies that demonstrate this link, but one study reported by ScienceDaily suggested that “problems with alcohol abuse may lead to an increased risk of depression, as opposed to the reverse model in which individuals with depression self-medicate with alcohol.”
It’s common knowledge that many people who have depression or other mental disorders engage in detrimental activities like heavy drinking in order to appease symptoms and unwanted feelings. However, it is interesting to think that alcohol abuse can cause serious depression instead of the other way around. It could lead to the conclusion that in different cases, the causes of each type of disorder can shift.
Some statistics of the study include that 19.4 percent of participants at ages 17 and 18 (this was a long-term study that followed participants until they were 25) “met criteria for alcohol problems.” Of these participants, 18.2 percent had major depression.
It has been known that alcohol is a depressant, but the study proved to what extent, since major depression is not just a fleeting depressed feeling that some people can experience after drinking a certain amount.
A conclusion on the link between alcohol abuse and depression is: “At all ages, alcohol abuse or dependence was associated with an increased risk of major depression — those who fulfilled criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence were 1.9 times more likely to also fulfill criteria for major depression.”
Women in general drink less than men, but they can also have more severe consequences, since “female alcoholics have death rates 50 to 100 percent higher than those of male alcoholics,” according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Also, it is estimated that “5.3 million women in the United States drink in a way that threatens their health, safety, and general well-being.”
Another study released in 2005 from the NIAAA showed that “among persons with current major depressive disorder (MDD), 14.1 percent also have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).”
Other findings include that “among persons with lifetime MDD, 40.3 percent had experienced an AUD.” This demonstrates that there is at least some link between depression and alcohol use disorders like alcohol dependence or alcoholism.
Depression is not the only mental disorder associated with alcohol dependence. According to an older study, “antisocial personality disorder, phobias, psychosexual dysfunctions, major depression and dysthymia” can be associated with alcohol and other drug problems.
Another publication from the NIAAA also stated that “bipolar disorder and alcoholism commonly co–occur.” ScienceDaily also stated that anxiety and alcoholism are interrelated.
Awareness can be key, so those with mental disorders need to find proper treatment and avoid self-medicating in unhealthy ways. Those suffering from alcohol dependence also need to see a health professional, since this could lead to depression and other mental and medical complications.