What Causes Depression After Drinking Alcohol?

It is not uncommon to use alcohol as a way to deal with difficult moments in our lives. From the notion of taking your mind off a difficult day, alcohol can lift your spirits in moderate amounts. However, the more you drink, the more it can alter your emotional state. Sometimes, alcohol can make you feel worse than you did before. Understanding the link between alcohol and depression can help you understand it, manage it, or prevent it from happening.

Why Does Alcohol Cause Depression?

People may feel depressed after drinking alcohol because alcohol is a depressant. Alcohol has a very unique impact on the brain. Because drinking alcohol activates the reward system in the brain, this triggers the release of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that sends messages between the cells and can influence your feeling of reward and motivation. 

As dopamine produces positive emotions, this can reinforce your desire to drink. However, alcohol also has an impact on your central nervous system by interfering with the release of neurotransmitters that can regulate your mood. Neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine and serotonin in low levels can affect your speech, energy, and coordination in the short term, but long-term changes in the brain chemistry can result in depression and anxiety.

What Are Other Reasons Alcohol Contributes to Depression?

Alcohol Disrupts Your Sleep

A very common occurrence after drinking excessively. Drinking alcohol interferes with your sleep-wake cycle, which means you do not get enough REM sleep. When you don’t have sufficient sleep, it can impact your mood the next day because you haven’t been well-rested. Combined with an inability to concentrate, you can feel quite low.

Alcohol Can Heighten Emotions

In an average brain that doesn’t experience depression, alcohol can heighten positive emotions in the short term, but in the long term, they can worsen negative ones. For anybody who already has depressive symptoms, alcohol can make these emotions feel more intense. 

Alcohol has the effect of clouding an individual’s brain, preventing them from seeking useful solutions to problems, while also lowering inhibitions. This explains why many people feel more emotional after a few drinks. Those who start drinking to forget what’s going on in their lives can find themselves wallowing in negative feelings later on, which can be a very difficult cycle to break free of. Many people start drinking to feel better or forget about negative emotions, but prolonged alcohol use can have long-term negative effects on mood states.

Alcohol Creates Unhealthy Coping Patterns

When someone regularly uses alcohol to manage issues or negative feelings, this becomes a “band-aid” solution, where they are not addressing their problems in a healthy manner. When we use alcohol to escape the troubles we face, this can mean the issues can progressively get worse. For example, if you rely on alcohol to dampen your anxiety about social settings, you may never get to the root cause of why you feel like this. This may also mean you make hasty decisions because of your temporarily lowered inhibitions in social settings, resulting in unpleasant outcomes.

How Can You Treat Alcohol Dependence and Depression?

Depression after drinking alcohol is a very common side effect. But it is also important to note that mental health disorders like depression are closely linked with someone experiencing substance abuse in some form. 

Alcohol dependence can increase the underlying risk for mental disorders and can make symptoms of a mental health problem worse. This is where a dual diagnosis, which is the practice of diagnosing co-occurring disorders, may help to shed light on the situation. However, it can be difficult to identify this because it takes time to understand what might be a mental health disorder or what might be an issue with alcohol. The symptoms and signs will vary depending on the substance being abused and the mental health problem itself. It may also shed light on the subject of if an individual feels depressed even when they are sober, or if it is something that has occurred within their family.

Reach out to Peaks Recovery

When someone is experiencing depression after drinking alcohol it is important to deduce if this is arising from alcohol use or if the depression was already pre-existing. When someone relies on alcohol to dampen their emotions, it can become a devastating cycle that is hard to break out of. Addiction in any form needs addressing at the root which is why, if you or someone you care about needs support, Peaks Recovery can help get to the core of the issue.