Depression and Alcoholism

Table of Contents


Alcohol and depression are often interlinked and often manifest simultaneously in a dual diagnosis or co-occurring disorder.  

Alcoholism is a chronic and relapsing brain condition clinically described as alcohol use disorder that is a demanding condition when it presents in isolation. If alcohol use disorder co-occurs with major depressive disorder, you’ll need to engage with comprehensive and integrated dual diagnosis treatment for the most favorable outcome.

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While depression and addiction striking at the same time can be intensely challenging, an individualized treatment plan based on an accurate diagnosis can help you move beyond life constrained by these debilitating conditions.

Alcohol and Depression Basics

Research shows that nearly 1% of lives impaired or prematurely ended in the U.S. are attributable to alcohol and almost 6% are associated with mental health disorders like depression. 

Alcohol use disorder is diagnosed according to the number of criteria present from DSM-5-TR, the most current edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. DSM-5-TR is APA’s benchmark diagnostic tool used by physicians and mental health professionals to diagnose alcoholism, drug addictions, and mental health conditions. 

Although alcoholism was once widely perceived to be triggered by a lack of willpower or a moral failing, the disease model of addiction holds that alcohol use disorder is a chronic brain disease characterized by compulsive alcohol abuse despite negative consequences. SAMHSA data shows that almost 22 million over-12s in the United States are have a substance use disorder involving alcohol only, and almost 6.5 million are addicted to both alcohol and drugs. 

Major depressive disorder is the clinical descriptor for depression. Depression is a mood disorder that triggers persistent feelings of sadness, helplessness, and hopelessness. 

Depression might be common – it impacts almost one in ten U.S. citizens at some stage – but it is also an SMI (serious mental illness) that often worsens when untreated. Fortunately, engaging with the right depression treatment typically delivers benefits in just a few weeks. 

NIMH (National Institute on Mental Health states that for a diagnosis of depression, the symptoms must endure for two weeks or more. APA (American Psychiatric Association) reports that symptoms must also involve impaired functioning for a clinical diagnosis of major depressive disorder. 

Like alcohol use disorder, major depressive disorder is diagnosed according to the symptoms outlined in DSM-5-TR.

Studies consistently indicate that those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder per DSM are three times more prone to developing mood disorders like depression than those without alcohol use disorder. 

Additionally, research suggests that at least half of those with SMIs also abuse addictive substances, whether alcohol, prescription medications, or illicit drugs. 

NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) states that over one-third of those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder have a co-occurring mental health disorder. Among those diagnosed with an SMI like major depressive disorder, around one-third abuse illicit drugs or alcohol. 

Can Alcohol Abuse Cause Depression?

Alcohol use disorder and major depressive disorder may be closely interrelated, but one condition does not always cause the other. 

Research in this area is vigorous and the findings to date show that: 

  1. Alcohol use disorder can increase the risk of developing mental health conditions: All mental health disorders have an environmental and genetic component. Those addicted to alcohol are at increased risk for mental health disorders.
  2. Alcohol use disorder can inflame existing symptoms of mental health disorders: Anyone with depression or another existing mental health disorder will find that alcohol abuse makes the symptoms worse. You can also expect an adverse reaction if you mix alcohol with antidepressants (like Zoloft or trazodone).
  3. Those with an undiagnosed mental health disorder frequently self-medicate symptoms with alcohol: Many people who experience depressive episodes without an underlying diagnosis self-medicate the symptoms with alcohol. This can alleviate the symptoms in the short-term and boost the mood, but self-medication is ineffective and liable to inflame both conditions long-term.

So, while abusive patterns or drinking and addiction in the form of alcohol use disorder are more common among those with mental health conditions, alcoholism does not necessarily cause depression. 

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Finding Treatment for Depression and Alcoholism

When alcoholism and depression co-occur, this can: 

  • Delay recovery from alcohol use disorder
  • Complicate treatment
  • Further destabilize mood

Treating both issues head-on and simultaneously is the best approach for most co-occurring disorders. 

Alcoholism is treatable with a combination of medication-assisted treatment and psychotherapy. You’ll discover how to identify what triggers you to abuse alcohol and a therapist will also guide you to create and implement superior coping strategies when faced with stress in everyday life. 

Most cases of major depressive disorder respond favorably to treatment with antidepressants and psychotherapy. 

Shortcut your recovery by exploring the treatment programs on offer here at California Detox.

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Depression and Addiction Recovery at California Detox

Here at our California alcohol rehab, our treatment team can help you recover from alcohol use disorder, major depressive disorder, or co-occurring disorder at our beachside facility.

We are proud to offer treatment programs at all levels on ASAM’s continuum of care as follows: 

  • Residential rehab/inpatient rehab
  • Outpatient rehab
  • IOPs (intensive outpatient programs)
  • PHPs (partial hospitalization programs)
  • Virtual IOP (remote therapy)

If you have severe alcoholism, you may benefit from a supervised medical detox before engaging with ongoing treatment. Benefit from continuous emotional and clinical care along with FDA-approved medications to streamline alcohol withdrawal here at California Detox. 

All of our addiction and mental health treatment programs draw from evidence-based therapies, such as: 

  • MAT (medication-assisted treatment)
  • Group counseling
  • Individual counseling
  • Psychotherapy (CBT and DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Holistic therapies

For those with co-occurring alcoholism and depression, our dual diagnosis treatment allows you to unpack both issues at the same time. An integrated intervention is proven more effective than treating addiction and mental health conditions separately. 

To start living your life beyond the shadow of alcoholism and depression, reach out to California Detox today by calling 949.567.8790.


Depression and alcoholism are two of the most common co-existing disorders that require dual diagnosis treatment.
Alcohol will only exacerbate depression, making the situation worse and causing someone to spiral further.


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