A number of substances are known to have specific links to our mood and the ways we feel, and alcohol is one of the most well-known examples here. Alcohol can alter our emotional states in several ways, and these only become more likely as the amounts we drink go up – including potentially severe impacts for people who have substance abuse issues related to alcohol.
At Moonlight Mountain Recovery, we’re proud to offer quality alcohol rehab programs for patients in Washington and several surrounding states, helping them to recover and get back on track. Our team of highly trained and experienced professionals offer a wide range of services, making sure that each patient gets the care they need to overcome their addiction. One possible impact of alcohol is its link with depression; here’s a look at this connection, including some of the ways alcohol can contribute to depression and how proper treatment can help you or someone else in your life break through this barrier.
Alcohol is a Depressant
At its core, it’s simple enough to understand the link between alcohol and depression. After all, alcohol itself is a depressant, and that’s one of the reasons people often drink it in the first place. When we drink, our brain chemistry is impacted in a way that can lead to feelings of relaxation and even euphoria – but these are only temporary, and they’re quickly replaced by other emotions as the alcohol wears off.
As we drink more and more, our brain chemistry is impacted even further, and that’s where things can start to go wrong. For example, alcohol use can lead to a decrease in the neurotransmitters that are responsible for regulating our mood. This means that we’re more likely to experience negative emotions like sadness, anxiety, and anger. We might also find it harder to concentrate or make decisions, and our sleep patterns can be disrupted, leading to fatigue and even further moodiness.
Alcohol use can also lead to an increase in the levels of stress hormones like cortisol in our bodies. This combination of factors – increased stress hormones and decreased neurotransmitters – can create a perfect storm that leads to depression.
Let’s dig into some of the specifics here in our subsequent sections.
Release of Dopamine
When we consume alcohol, it’s quickly absorbed into our bloodstream and circulated throughout our bodies. One of the first places it reaches is our brains, where it begins to impact our neurotransmitters.
One of the most important neurotransmitters when it comes to alcohol’s effects is dopamine. Dopamine is often referred to as the “feel-good” chemical because it’s associated with pleasurable activities like eating, sex, and – you guessed it – drinking alcohol. When we drink, our brains release dopamine in response to the alcohol. This dopamine release is one of the things that makes us feel good when we drink, and it’s also one of the reasons why alcohol can be so addictive.
Impact on Other Neurotransmitters
Simultaneously, however, alcohol is also impacting other neurotransmitters. As we mentioned, it can lead to a decrease in the levels of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and GABA. Serotonin is often referred to as the “happy chemical” because it’s associated with positive emotions like happiness, contentment, and relaxation. GABA, on the other hand, is known as the “brake pedal” neurotransmitter because it helps to keep our nervous system from going into overdrive.
When alcohol decreases the levels of these important neurotransmitters, it can lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and even anger. As we continue to drink, these negative emotions can become more and more severe, and they may eventually lead to depression.
Disruptions to Sleep
Another significant impact of alcohol is the way it disrupts our sleep. Alcohol can make it harder for us to fall asleep, and it can also lead to poorer quality sleep once we do manage to drift off. This is because alcohol inhibits the production of important hormones like melatonin, which help us to regulate our sleep cycles.
Not getting enough restful sleep can have a serious impact on our mood, and it’s one of the reasons why people who drink heavily often seem tired and irritable. This fatigue can contribute to feelings of depression, and it can also make it harder to cope with other stressors in our lives.
Negative Coping Patterns
In addition to all of the direct impacts alcohol has on our mood and mental health, there’s also the indirect impact that comes from the way we tend to use alcohol as a coping mechanism. For example, if we’re feeling stressed or anxious, it’s not uncommon to reach for a drink in order to relax. This might provide some short-term relief, but it can also lead to a negative coping pattern that can be hard to break.
Over time, this can turn into problem drinking, and it can exacerbate any mental health issues we might be struggling with. This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to be aware of our alcohol consumption and to make sure we’re not using it as a crutch to cope with difficult emotions.
As you can see, there are a number of ways alcohol can impact our mood and mental health. Alcohol abuse is often closely linked to depression, and it’s important to be aware of the risks if you or someone you know is struggling with problem drinking.
If you’re concerned about your alcohol consumption, please reach out for help. Our staff at Moonlight Mountain Recovery is here to assist with any substance abuse issues you or someone in your life is dealing with, providing services across Washington and several other states. Get in touch with us at your convenience.