Twenty-six episodes of ‘The A-Files’ will run throughout Alcohol Awareness Month on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Alcohologist.com and AddictedMinds.com, among other web and social media sites. Episode M is on mood disorders and their intertwining with alcohol use. Bouts of depression are often the direct result of alcohol intake, according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The researchers linked alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism to one third of depressive episodes. These periods of depression are different than depressive episodes caused by other life events.
Experts, like Marc Schuckit of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, have long known that drinking can spur temporary episodes of depression while, at the same time, many with alcohol use disorders use alcohol to relieve depression. They self-medicate. “I don’t know that the average person realizes that heavy drinking can induce mood problems,” says Schuckit.
It’s a vicious cycle. Alcohol can temporarily make you feel better, but alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. That means any amount you drink can make you more likely to get the blues. Drinking the blues away frequently can harm your brain and cause more depression. Alcohol also is going to mess with the effectiveness of anti-depressant drugs.
The other side of mood disorders is anxiety. People who suffer from anxiety are three times more likely to turn to substance abuse than those who do not have such symptoms.
Those people who never suffered with any issues involving anxiety also can create anxiety problems as a result of alcohol use. (See related publication) This is because drinking excessively induces the symptoms of anxiety, and it can even trigger panic attacks three ways:
- Alcohol drops the serotonin level in the brain. Serotonin is a feel-good brain chemical that when in short supply can cause feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Alcohol drops blood sugar, causing dizziness, confusion, nervousness and shaking. These symptoms can most certainly trigger a bout of anxiety.
- The nervous system is out of whack because the body goes into a state of hyperactivity to counteract the sedative, alcohol.
Some people become so impressed with the way alcohol eases anxiety. The fact that it appears to calm disguises the reality – alcohol is probably the worst solution in the world for anxiety. Or depression. Or any mood disorder.