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Defining Depression

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, depression is defined as a major medical illness that can interfere with someone’s ability to function. When someone endures depression, they may struggle with eating, completing work or school-related tasks, have difficulty communicating or connecting with those around them, and can experience low energy, low moods, and deep sadness. Depression is a serious condition that can have a life-long impact on the individual and their loved ones. In extreme cases, depression can produce substance abuse, self-harm, harm of others, and suicide. When depression and alcohol misuse are combined, it greatly worsens the impact of both disorders.

Signs Of Depression

Depression has many sources, and depending on the cause, signs can be easy to identify. In some cases, individuals struggling with depression can cope in ways that make identifying signs of depression easier. In other cases, the signs are not always visible, and it can be extremely difficult to control. Common signs of depression include:

  • Deep sadness
  • Feeling tired
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of self-care
  • Mood swings
  • Confusion
  • Talk of feeling depressed
  • Poor coping skills
  • Irritability
  • Indecision
  • Poor appetite
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia or oversleeping
  • Poor academic or job performance
  • Thoughts or talk of suicide

Signs of depression can present differently in each individual depending on factors like substance abuse, age, personal life, temperament, and mental health status.

Depression And Alcohol

In cases where individuals endure depression, if left untreated some can turn to substances like alcohol to cope. The connection between alcohol and depression is a common one which contributes to a cycle of dependency and the worsening of depression needing care and treatment. For example, major depressive disorder can encourage alcoholism causing a dual diagnosis to occur. Regular drinking can result in binge drinking or heavy drinking once someone develops a tolerance. It is called a co-occurring disorder or a dual diagnosis when someone is struggling with both depression and an alcohol use disorder. These two disorders can take on a cycle effect and make each other worse until they are both properly treated by licensed professionals.

Risk factors for depression and alcoholism include a family history of depression or alcoholism, social or personal trauma, abuse, lack of social support or isolation, a personal history of alcoholism, untreated depression, mental health challenges, and socializing with those who drink heavily to name a few.

Depression Statistics

Depression currently impacts 264 million people in the world as of 2020. In America, 17.3 million American adults suffered at least one depressive episode. Moderate to severe depression has increased from 23.2% to 41.1% between 2007 and 2018. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, rises in depression have not been uncommon. Sources reveal major depressive episodes are more common in adults and adolescents than elderly populations. Additional statistics noted women were twice more likely to suffer from depression than men. During their lifetime, 6% of women are likely to experience depression. Expecting mothers often experience depression, which raises that lifetime number of women facing depression to 10%.

According to, mothers can be vulnerable to depression with 70% to 80% of them experiencing “baby blues.” This temporary condition features symptoms including anxiety, mood swings, negative attitudes or feelings associated with motherhood, confusion, and emotionality. This occurs between 1 to 3 days after childbirth but can last 10 days. Additionally, approximately 10% to 20% of new mothers battle postpartum depression. This type of depression is unique to mothers marked by signs of depression and lasts longer. Those with major depressive disorder are 20 times more likely to contemplate or risk engaging in suicide with suicide being the most common between those aged 15 to 19. Lastly, depression in college students surged from 9.4% to 21.2% between 2013 and 2018.

What Causes Depression?

Depression can be seasonal, temporary, intermittent, genetic, or because of substance use disorders. A condition that has many causes, reasons for depression can range from genetics, trauma, a side effect of prescription medications, family history, loss or grief, as a result of type 2 bipolar disorder, or as a result of drug abuse.

Additional factors include the pattern of the brain, and the way chemicals are active in the brain. The brain produces lower amounts of serotonin, dopamine, and other endorphins in the brain, resulting in imbalances in the brain. Research still goes into better understanding causes of depression, and its effects are constantly discussed among experts.

Depression, Postpartum Depression, And Expecting Mothers

According to, mothers can suffer miscarriages, deliver a premature baby, or deliver a baby before the date it is due because of depression. Furthermore, mothers can endure depression during or a few months after pregnancy because of factors like hormonal changes and the lifestyle changes that come with motherhood. Additionally, factors like changes in the body or changes within the household as the family adjusts to a baby can create challenging emotions for new mothers.

Postpartum depression is a condition characterized by severe depressive behavior and can stem from a result of untreated depression. Women who have a history of depression are more likely to suffer postpartum depression. Different from “baby blues,” postpartum depression impacts 13% of new mothers. New moms can feel the effects in the first month, reporting extreme sadness that can impact the child as they develop. Mothers can cope with depression in both healthy and unhealthy ways (like drinking) possibly impacting their unborn children. Choosing to self-medicate via drugs or alcohol can create a cycle of addiction that is hard to escape. Fortunately, getting treatment can help.

Treatment For Depression And Alcoholism

Those with depression are able to find connection and bond with those who are also suffering. Finding a peer group to acknowledge the challenges with depression can improve one’s feeling of being understood. Secondly, those who are battling depression have access to treatment medications like antidepressants to ease symptoms of depression. If someone has also abused alcohol, the patient can get access to treatment medications that can reduce side effects of withdrawal and cravings. Medications, therapy, and other treatment options can be found through inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation facilities across the country. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous also offer support to those with an alcohol use disorder and give them the opportunity to connect with others who understand what they are going through.

Help For Depression And Alcohol Misuse

Experiencing an alcohol use disorder is challenging and dangerous, but you don’t have to face it alone. The support patients receive from hands-on staff with monitoring in facilities can offer the quality of care needed for recovery. Getting care can help prevent co-occurring disorders from emerging as the individual gets counseling and uncovers motivations for depression. If you or a loved one shows signs of depression along with an alcohol use disorder, contact a treatment provider to discuss any rehab-related questions.

  • Author: Krystina Murray | Last Updated: September 30, 2021

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    Krystina Murray

    Digital Content Writer

    Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University. She has over 7 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 17 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, cooking, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.

  • Medical Reviewer: David Hampton

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