Alcohol Abuse and Depression – Diagnosis and Treatment

Alcohol abuse is different from alcoholism in that abusers are not completely powerless in applying limitations on their consumption. For a time, they might be able to retain a degree of control over their drinking. However, that can erode as depression drives them to drink more, which eventually lead to alcoholism later in life. Therefore, it is vital to look out for the early warning signs of abuse.

Signs of Abuse or Dependency

Concern is a completely natural reaction if you are worried about the alcohol consumption of the people in your life, from friends and family to work colleagues. After all, alcohol can result in devastating effects on the mind and body later in life. To help you spot the signs, the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) has identified five to watch out for:

  • Neglecting responsibilities – Hangovers can cause abusers to miss work, avoid home responsibilities, neglect children, and shrug everyday chores.
  • Drinking in dangerous circumstances – Alcohol consumption in work can lead to potentially harmful accidents, while driving drunk has a frighteningly high risk of fatalities.
  • Legal problems arise – Drunk driving, fighting, and getting into loud arguments can all result in legal problems that can prove costly in terms of both money and reputation.
  • Drinking through problems – When things are not going well, an abuser will continue to drink and party with their friends. Ignoring relationship problems with loved ones is a classic sign of abuse or dependency.
  • Using alcohol to relieve stress – Alcohol is a proven depressant, which is why it should never be used to relieve stress. In fact, alcohol will only make the situation worse. Abusers will have to drink more to attain the same sedative side effects.

Symptoms of Depression

Mental conditions like anxiety and depression cause some people to endure symptoms that are extremely difficult to cope with. At first, it is tough for many to realize or accept that what they are going through is not normal. But before some people seek help from their doctor or a medical professional, they might turn to alcohol abuse as a means of trying to cope. Of course, that will never work for them.

Another concern of alcohol abuse and mental health is for those who suffer from more extreme conditions in the forms of manic depression or bipolar disorder. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH) has previously found that alcohol abusers with a bipolar disorder are also at risk of triggering manic-depressive episodes.

In a broad sense, the most common symptoms of depression include hopelessness, joylessness, self-loathing, erratic sleep patterns, low energy levels, and higher irritability. Persistence of those symptoms over a couple of weeks or more can help you to spot depression among loved ones.

Selecting Dual Diagnosis

Dual diagnosis defines co-occurring disorders. In this instance, that would entail alcohol abusers also having to endure depression or a bipolar disorder. And the reason why dual diagnosis is such a concern is that alcohol abuse and a mental condition can feed off one another, making it far more difficult to control dangerous drinking

In diagnosing this condition, the medical professional first has to consider whether or not alcohol is playing a role. After performing a range of tests, the professional needs to have a yes answer in order to proceed to the psychological stage.

The next goal is to determine if they merely have symptoms or else a clear syndrome. An alcohol-induced syndrome will mean that they do not have a dual diagnosis, which would entail treating both disorders simultaneously.

Starting Treatment

The first stage is to seek help if you feel like you cannot stop drinking or else you have trouble controlling your consumption. You can seek help from your doctor or information from specialist organizations like NCADD and NIH. Various self-help groups also exist nowadays, so perform a search online.

Inpatient treatment is highly effective for treating dual diagnosis because patients can get around-the-clock psychological support from experienced professionals. Groups like Alcoholics Anonymous simply are not equipped to provide the behavioral therapy support they need. An inpatient treatment facility has the expertise and knowledge required to make a dual diagnosis and then prescribe an approach with the greatest chance of success.