Dual Diagnosis: Depression and Alcoholism

Dual Diagnosis: Depression and Alcoholism

Dual Diagnosis: Depression and Alcoholism

Dual Diagnosis: Depression and Alcoholism
Dual Diagnosis: Depression and Alcoholism

“Nobody understands me, nobody cares, what if I never woke up….I’ll just have another drink. Alcohol is always there for me.”

Dual Diagnosis is the combination of a mood disorder and a substance abuse/dependency problem.  The quote above is an example of a person who suffers from both depression and alcoholism. Alcohol exacerbates depression symptoms which can lead to suicidal thinking. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, depression impacts about 9.5 percent of the population per year and there are more than 30,000 deaths from suicide annually. Alcohol increases the risk for suicide due to the depressing negative effects alcohol abuse has on the brain. It is important for us to have a clear understanding of depression and alcoholism separately in order to fully understand the magnitude of the interaction of depression and alcohol.


Depression is a common mood disorder that has both biological and environmental factors. Biological factors are genetics which are determined by looking at family history for the presence of depression. Grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings may all be able to help give insight about family history of depression. Some common depression symptoms are:

  • Loss of Appetite
  • Loss of Motivation
  • Fatigue
  • Isolative Patterns
  • Negative and/or Suicidal thoughts
  • Concentration Problems
  • Feelings of Hopelessness
  • Feelings of Worthlessness

Depression symptoms can be short term and are often due to different situations, grief and loss issues and chemical/hormonal changes. When depression symptoms have an ongoing growing negative impact on our daily activities, a mood disorder is present. Desire for immediate relief from the painful thoughts can lead to alcohol use. Initially, the alcohol may seem to lift the depression and ease the negative feelings associated with this condition. But, self-medicating the symptoms of depression will in the long run worsen the condition and create a dependence upon alcohol.


Alcoholism is a progressive disease and deteriorates the user’s physical and mental health over time. Alcohol use may offer immediate relief from feelings of depression but because of the addictive nature of alcohol. Over time, tolerance builds and the effectiveness of alcohol to relieve depression weakens due to the regulation of alcohol in the brain and body. The damage created by alcoholism can be devastating in the user’s life.  Some symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Having a strong compulsion or need to drink
  • Drinking Alone or in Secret
  • Memory Problems
  • Blacking Out
  • Having Legal, Financial or Relationship problems due to drinking
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Withdrawal

 As tolerance builds, use increases and depression symptoms worsen. Symptoms of alcoholism may overlap with depression symptoms compounding the symptoms of each creating the environment for a   dual diagnosis or the presence of two disorders simultaneously.

Interactions of Depression and Alcohol Symptoms

The relationship between symptoms of depression and alcoholism can be difficult for a person to manage alone. Both must be treated at the same time addressing mood and substance abuse.  Examples of the interaction between the depression and alcoholism symptoms are:

  • Poor concentration in depression is made worse by memory problems in alcoholism
  •  Fatigue in depression is compounded by insomnia in alcoholism
  •  Isolative patterns in depression are worsened by arguments with loved ones associated with alcohol abuse.
  • Loss of appetite in depression is related to the loss of appetite in alcoholism due to the body’s rejection of food
  • Suicide thoughts related to despair in depression blend with suicide thoughts related  to the cycle of addiction in alcohol abuse

Suicidal Thoughts and Alcohol Abuse

In the midst of depression, negative thinking is more common. Negative feelings and thoughts about self, others, and situations can be overwhelming and the desire to escape grows. Feelings of hopelessness produced by depression feel permanent even though depression is temporary. The effect of alcohol no longer works to help escape from desperate thoughts and thoughts of suicide. Alcohol clouds your judgment and influences irrational decision making and may lead you to believe that taking your own life is an option.

(If you feel that you suffer from dual diagnosis you can call a Recovery Coordinator now who will be able to speak with you immediately. 866-812-8231)

Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Alcoholism and Depression

When you suffer from depression and alcoholism, both issues need to be addressed in an integrated program. In a quality treatment center for dual diagnosis, both detox and treatment will be provided. The transition from detox to rehab is essential for proper diagnosis, mood management and continued recovery from alcohol abuse. A smooth transition from detox to rehab in the same facility offers stability and safety and the continuum of care. A comprehensive dual diagnosis program will provide:

  • A Medically Monitored Detox
  • Psychiatric Evaluation upon Detox
  • Ongoing Patient Evaluation
  • Medication Management
  • Individual Counseling
  • Group Counseling
  • Relapse Prevention
  • Dual Diagnosis Educational Lectures
  • Support Groups
  • Life skills training
  • Individualized Aftercare Plan