Alcoholism and Depression: Frenemies Forever


UnknownI’ve heard a thousand variations of this problem: “My brother is depressed, but he also drinks a lot, which is probably causing the depression. So what do you treat first? The alcoholism or the depression?”

The two conditions are so intertwined that it can be impossible to separate them.

Just last week I met with an executive director of a behavioral health program here in Annapolis. We were discussing how to start a faith-based initiative.

“Should we also include substance abuse?” he asked.

“Why?” asked a director of separate program for those with severe mental illness.

“Because substance abuse and mood disorders almost always occur with each other,” the first guy responded.

It’s the chicken-egg thing. People get depressed after ingesting a depressant liquid like whiskey into their system. And people drink to self-medicate the pain. When the initial buzz wears off, they need even more of the whiskey to achieve the same result, causing even more depression. And so the vicious cycle begins.

And let’s not forget that alcohol is mostly sugar, the nemesis of depression. As I mentioned in my tirade against stuff the other day, I believe that most people who fight chronic depression and severe mood disorders are allergic to sugar. At the very least, it throws another downer into the mix.

They are frenemies, alcohol abuse and depression. Where you find one, you almost always find the other, even if they spend their time stabbing each other in the back.

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Therese Borchard
I am a writer and chaplain trying to live a simple life in Annapolis, Maryland.

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1 Response
  1. Charlotte

    Therese…your daily entries have been of tremendous help to me. This one was posted some time ago, but I have just now gotten a chance to respond to it. Reading the statistics and comments about the relationship between alcoholism and depression is not new in my understanding. However, I have been so reluctant to admit that these were a major problem in my daughter’s mental problems. She has suffered from treatment-resistant depression since her childhood. Unfortunately before help could arise for her, at the age of 40 she took her life about five years ago leaving 3 little precious youngsters. I have since been at a crossroads as to how we should evidently address the problems to her children…be it alcoholism or depression? P.S. I also suffer from treatment-resistant depression and live with the guilt of not recognizing the severity of it in my only child.