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Feelings of depression after quitting drinking are a completely normal, if uncomfortable, side effect of long-term alcohol use. Depression in people with alcohol use disorder can be a sign of mental illness that has been present all along or can develop after quitting drinking. In both cases, treatment at a dual diagnosis addiction treatment facility can help. Managing the symptoms of depression is important for your long-term sobriety, and you should not be afraid to seek help when depression begins to interfere with your life.

Symptoms of Depression

The symptoms of depression can vary, and experiencing just a few can have a significant impact on your emotional well-being. Common symptoms of a depressive after quitting drinking include:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Persistent feelings of sadness, anxiety, or emptiness
  • Lack of hope for the future
  • Sleep difficulties, including trouble falling asleep or sleeping too much
  • Sudden weight changes
  • Suicidal thoughts or attempts

People may experience one or several of these symptoms after quitting drinking. If any of these symptoms are causing you distress, interfere with your everyday life, or are leading you to consider returning to drinking, seeking professional help to manage your depression and substance use disorder can bring substantial relief.

The Link Between Depression and Drinking

The Link Between Depression and Drinking

Co-occurring mental illness is very common among people with an alcohol use disorder. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 45.2% of all individuals with an alcohol use disorder experienced a mental illness in 2019, and 20.7% had a major depressive episode. So why do depression and alcohol addiction seem to go hand-in-hand? And what causes depression after quitting drinking?

Some people may drink as a coping strategy to deal with existing depression, while others may develop depression because of their substance use. In addiction research, these are referred to as the self-medication hypothesis and substance-induced depression.

The Self-Medication Hypothesis

The self-medication hypothesis explains addiction as result of pre-existing mental illness. In this model, people drink to cope with symptoms of depression, anxiety, trauma, or other mental health issues. This can quickly develop into problematic alcohol use. Recent evidence suggests that self-medication accounts for between 21.9% and 24.1% of all substance use disorders.

Drinking to cope with depression may provide some short-term relief, but even moderate levels of alcohol use can worsen depression symptoms. In addition, drinking to cope often causes many alcohol-related problems, including problems at work, strained relationships, and poor physical and mental health.

Substance Induced Depression

Conversely, depression is often the result of extended alcohol use. The connection between alcohol use disorders and depression exceeds levels described by self-medication and can pose a strong barrier to recovery. If depression is left untreated after quitting drinking, people may begin to feel that a life in recovery is not enjoyable or worthwhile.

Risk of Alcohol Relapse

Regardless of the cause, depression after quitting drinking increases risk of relapse threefold. People who drink to self-medicate may not even be aware of their pre-existing mental illness. In fact, many people drink to deal with negative feelings and never realize that there’s an issue. But if someone has not addressed their mental health issues after quitting drinking, then both issues may stay present and affect the individual’s quality of life.

People with substance-induced depression can feel as though the hopeful promises of recovery are left unfulfilled after achieving abstinence. This can drive people to return to active drinking, only to see their mental health symptoms worsen and their outlook on life grow ever bleaker.

Treating Depression After Quitting Drinking

depression after quitting alcohol

Fortunately, there are several evidence-based treatment options available to people experiencing depression after quitting drinking. Seeking treatment at a dual diagnosis program can work to reduce the symptoms of mental illness and alcohol use disorder simultaneously, with a team of psychiatrists and counselors working together to treat all aspects of a person’s mental health.

When seeking treatment for depression after quitting drinking, it is best to treat both problems together. Research from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration shows that treating co-occurring disorders at the same time delivers better outcomes for the treatment recipient, including a higher likelihood of long-term abstinence.

Several evidence-based care options are available for treating co-occurring disorders:

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
  • Dialectical Behavioral Therapy
  • Motivational Interviewing
  • Individual and Group Therapy

Rehab facilities that offer dual diagnosis care typically offer a dynamic approach to treating depression after drinking. Antidepressant medications can help regulate chemical imbalances associated with depression, while psychotherapy teaches people valuable coping skills and strategies to manage depressive symptoms. Your treatment team will work together to cater a treatment plan to your specific needs, ensuring that you receive the best possible care for treating both depression and alcoholism.

Effectiveness of Depression Treatment

Treatments for depression have shown to be highly effective. The combination of psychotherapy and antidepressant medications can reduce depressive symptoms by 66%, and either treatment alone can cut depressive symptoms in half. While medication is always given on a voluntary basis at Port St. Lucie Hospital, it can make a great deal of difference in quitting alcohol while dealing with depression. And thankfully, with proper care, most people will achieve full relief from depression and alcoholism after receiving treatment.

When Should You Seek Help?

Depression after quitting drinking is a severe problem and should not be taken lightly. Chances are, you are reading this article because you or a loved one is having difficulty leading a fulfilling life after achieving abstinence. And sadly, these symptoms may not get better on their own. But they can certainly improve if you seek professional dual diagnosis treatment.

Co-occurring depression and addiction may go away after long periods of abstinence, but the increased risk of relapse and decreased quality of life make waiting a risky choice. Too often, the side effects of quitting drinking will lead people back to active use and a worsening of depressive symptoms. On the other hand, seeking treatment can help you to manage these symptoms both in the short-term and for years to come.

Dual Diagnosis Care at Port St. Lucie Hospital

Whether you are dealing with depression, trauma, or anxiety after quitting drinking, our behavioral health center is here to help. You can reach our expert care team at any time by giving us a call at 772-408-5871 or by filling out our confidential contact form. Do not let the side effects of quitting drinking stand in the way of living your best life in recovery–contact our team today and start the path to whole-person wellness.

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