Living with depression, especially when it’s left untreated, is painful, dangerous, and significantly disruptive to your life. If you are suffering from any kind of depression, it’s vital to seek professional help and guidance to get it under control. If you don’t, your depression could get worse, potentially leading to suicidal thoughts or even worse, actions.
Whether you’re currently working with a mental health professional or not, think about how you’ve tried to stave off the pain of depression. Do you try to ignore it? Do you throw yourself into your work? Or perhaps you do something many people do to try to dull your symptoms: self-medicate with alcohol.
You may not even realize you’re self-medicating with alcohol. But it’s a good idea to take a look at your drinking habits and recognize if you’re self-medicating depression with the bottle.
What Does “Self-Medicating with Alcohol” Mean?
The term “self-medication” was coined in 1985 by Dr. Edward J Khantzian at Harvard Medical School. His hypothesis basically states that individuals struggling with any sort of pain may turn to substances as a coping mechanism. Furthermore, Dr. Khantzian also points out in his hypothesis that continued substance use as a coping mechanism for mental health concerns may actually worsen symptoms over time.
While you may feel temporary relief from your depression symptoms while self-medicating with alcohol, it does nothing to help you work through your underlying mental health issues. Not to mention, self-medicating depression with alcohol can make your depression or anxiety even worse, resulting in an endless, vicious cycle of feeling horrible and drinking more and more just to cope.
It’s also worth noting that self-medicating with alcohol doesn’t necessarily mean addiction. However, if you have depression, you’re more at risk for developing an addiction, so getting the help you need as soon as possible could help prevent dependence and addiction.
Here Are Some Signs That You Are Self-Medicating Depression With Alcohol
It may be challenging to recognize if you are self-medicating with alcohol, but it’s vital you do. Here are some signs you may be self-medicating.
You drink alcohol to feel “normal.”
You might feel like the only time you ever feel like “yourself” is when you’re drinking. That’s likely because you are drinking to avoid feeling your depression symptoms. When you drink alcohol, it triggers the release of dopamine in your brain, temporarily relieving your feelings of depression and anxiety.
In other words, you feel more “normal” rather than depressed. So when you feel your depression symptoms start to overtake you, you may turn to alcohol to soothe them. But in the end, it’s not going to help your depression. It’s only going to mask things for a short time.
It takes more and more alcohol to feel any kind of relief.
When you habitually turn to alcohol in an attempt to soothe your depression, you eventually find that it takes more and more to numb your pain. Continuing to self-medicate depression with alcohol will increase your tolerance. If you require additional amounts of alcohol, you not only increase your risk of addiction, but you also do damage to your body.
You isolate yourself from friends, family, and social events.
Self-medicating with alcohol could lead to more and more time spent alone drinking. One of the symptoms of depression is isolating yourself from friends and family and not participating in activities you typically enjoy. This symptom can be magnified if you are self-medicating depression with alcohol. Rather than healthy coping mechanisms like talking to trusted family and friends, you turn to alcohol.
Drinking makes your depression symptoms even worse.
You may feel “better” temporarily when you drink to numb your depression symptoms, but many times, self-medicating with alcohol makes your depression worse. Alcohol is a depressant, so when you continually turn to the bottle, you could be making matters even worse and avoiding overcoming what’s really troubling you.
You end up having more problems than you started with.
Depression is no fun to live with. We get it. But self-medicating with alcohol isn’t going to reduce your mental health concerns and will likely cause more issues in your life. Drinking to soothe your depression negatively impacts your health, relationships, and wallet. This only adds to the vicious self-medicating cycle because the more problems that develop in your life, the more you may turn to alcohol to cope.
Your family and friends are concerned about your drinking.
Even if you don’t realize you’re self-medicating with alcohol, your friends and family will likely notice and express their concerns. Have your loved ones noticed changes in your personality, social life, or behavior? Have they mentioned you’re drinking more than you used to? If so, there’s a good chance you’re self-medicating depression with alcohol.
Your work or school performance is suffering.
Drinking alcohol to numb your depression symptoms is likely to take a toll on your work or school performance. You may struggle to keep up with your workload or homework or miss several days of work or class. You may not realize it’s the drinking that’s causing your work or school issues, but it’s a good idea to take a closer look at your drinking patterns.
What Can You Do Instead?
If any of the above signs of self-medication ring true for you, you need to seek professional help as soon as possible. While it may not be the case for everyone, self-medicating with alcohol could lead to a dual diagnosis of substance use disorder and depression. And this is a slippery slope. Getting help is your best option.
Your mental health provider, like our alcohol and depression treatment specialists at BOLD Health in San Diego, can help you better understand your depression symptoms and learn healthier ways of coping.
Along with mental health support from a specialist, you can work on some things on your own, which your therapist can coach you through. Some of the healthier coping mechanisms that can help minimize depression outside of alcohol treatment in San Diego include:
- practicing mindfulness and meditation
- getting more exercise
- regularly practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or yoga
- developing healthy sleep patterns
- eating a healthy diet
Trust In BOLD Health For High-Quality Depression and Alcohol Treatment in San Diego
You shouldn’t be ashamed of your depression. It’s not a choice you made. Depression is the result of several possible biological, historical, and situational circumstances that are oftentimes out of your control. Reaching out for professional help and support can help you break the cycle of self-medication with alcohol. All you have to do is take that first step and schedule a consultation.
At BOLD Health, we provide effective, evidence-based, holistic alcohol and depression treatment in San Diego. We don’t simply treat your symptoms. We take the time to truly get to know and understand you so we can tailor a treatment program that will work for you.
Your depression or alcohol treatment in San Diego at BOLD Health may include:
- individual therapy
- group therapy
- family therapy
- medication management
- alcohol detox
- intensive outpatient program (IOP)
- ketamine treatment
Don’t waste another minute trying to take matters into your own hands by self-medicating depression with alcohol. Contact us so we can help you thrive and live a more fulfilling life free of depression and the “need” to drink to feel better. You deserve it.