Many people who are depressed turn towards alcohol to make them feel better, at least temporarily. Conversely, many people who use alcohol in a dependent way tend to become depressed. The classic chicken and egg situation.
Alcohol has an incredible efficiency at making life seem rosy, that’s why it is so popular of course. But it is a double edged sword, because it’s also the most powerful depressant around.
Depression, whether associated with addiction or not, can be broken down into cognitive (thoughts), emotional and behavioural components.
The Cognitive component of depression is primarily concerned with a person’s negative thinking, their inaccurate beliefs about themselves or the world. Depressive thoughts can be grouped in terms of four aspects of a persons life:
Their opinion of themselves –
- “I’m weak (because I can’t resist my cravings)”
- “I’m a failure”
- “I’m helpless (because I can’t control myself)”
- “everything I do is wrong”
- “I’m worthless or disgusting”
Their memories of the past –
- “I’ve never done anything right”
- “I’ve always been unhappy”
- “nothing has gone right for me”
Their perception of their current life situation –
- “my job is depressing and boring”
- “my partner is not right for me”
- “I can’t cope with all these demands on me”
Their lack of optimism about their future –
- “what’s the point in trying to change, I’m bound to fail”
- “I’ll never be able to stop drinking”
- “I haven’t got anything to look forward to”
The Emotional component of depression is obviously characterised by feeling low, sad, hopeless, alone. But this also includes not enjoying the things that you used to enjoy, feeling apathetic or de-motivated, not feeling as much affection for others any more.
The Behavioural component encompasses the physiological changes, like disturbed sleep and altered appetite. It also includes social isolation and passivity (lying in bed all day, or just sitting in front of the TV). Of course for some people it unfortunately includes attempts at suicide too.
Being depressed as a result of your alcoholism heaps an extra layer of difficulty onto the situation. People may be filled with contempt for themselves, may feel they lack moral strength, that they are being rejected because of their problem with alcohol, or may consider they are defective or ‘sick’ – a conception promoted by the 12-step groups such as AA.