By far, the most widely used form of self-medication is alcohol. When you had a bad day, you have a couple to relax. When you feel stressed, you pop a bottle open and have a couple. Nothing wrong with that right? Wrong.
- 40 percent of people who drink very frequently and in higher amounts, 3 drinks and up, have symptoms that are related to depression.
- The existence of alcohol abuse issues earlier in someone’s life is an accurate predictor of clinical depression later in life.
- Even moderate amounts of alcohol usage have been linked to increased anxiety, low mood, poor sleep and a change in eating habits.
- Increased stress/damage to the liver has been linked to taking antidepressants and drinking at the same time.
- High frequency of drinking by those who are suffering from mental health issues are at great risk of developing alcoholism.
For the above reasons, mental health clinicians will often advise their clients to abstain from drinking altogether. In addition, drinking heavily or with great frequency can lead to other problems that also increase the severity of depressive symptoms. For example, if one has a few drinks to help temporarily deal with the pain they feel; they might feel ok for a few hours. However, they will then have their sleep disrupted and wake up feeling a bit hung-over. This sleep disruption, coupled with the after effects of alcohol, will then lead to an increase in depressive symptoms. It may then take a couple days to have your mood stabilize. With these days that you have now had an increase in symptoms (this also applies to anxiety, anger and stress) your progress in dealing with these issues will stop. Your symptoms increase, you feel worse, you then maybe sleep all day and are constantly engaging in negative self-talk, eating to self-medicate and engaging in other behaviors that don’t help your symptoms. This could all potentially snowball into more severe problems all of which could have been prevented in the first place.
Now, therapists will advise to not drink due to the reason that those who engage in drinking to self-medicate find it extremely difficult to stop at just one or two. Or, maybe you convince yourself that you can control yourself and stop after that second glass. You maybe go a few days without drinking, but then find the need to “take the edge off”. Instead of going a few days in-between, you then drink the next night. Drinking only two times a week may then turn into three, four, or five days a week. Slowly over time the amount you drink at each time increases as well. Very gradually, and without you realizing it, you are now engaging in what could be considered alcoholism.
This might seem far-fetched for some, but for people who deal with depression, anxiety, stress or anger, this is all too common the situation. Yes, there are those who can drink socially or in moderation. However, for those dealing with the previous issues, they will find it a near impossible task over the long-term and may never realize what has happened.
In the end, if you are dealing with depression, anxiety, anger or stress, it is very important to be aware of how often you drink and how many drinks you have. If at all possible, significantly reduce your alcohol consumption. Better yet, eliminate it all together. You wouldn’t believe how much better you may start to feel by just doing this one thing.