Alcohol and Depression in Women

By December 11, 2023June 25th, 2024Co-Occurring Disorders

What Is Depression?

Depression is the clinical word for feeling very down, low, or blue. Depression can feel like our life force has been drained out of us: we have no energy, we feel sad and hopeless, with a dark outlook.

Temporary depression can be a perfectly normal response to difficult chapters of life, so it doesn’t necessarily mean something is wrong with you. Some people argue that depression is a natural reaction to a deeply unwell world.

Depression can be an important part of grieving, recovering from abuse, and waking up to who you are and want to be in this world. Depression is a messenger from the soul like all other symptoms and doesn’t have to be treated as a completely bad thing.

That said, depression is tricky and we can also get trapped in depression in a way that doesn’t serve us. Depression may be a signal from the soul, but we often need help from other people to figure out what it’s trying to tell us!

Depression Is Treatable

Perhaps unsurprisingly, depression is widespread in contemporary life. Many people meet the diagnostic criteria of the so-called spectrum of “depressive disorders.” Depressive disorders can become dangerous because of the link to suicidal feelings, so they are important to pay attention to.

The most important thing to understand about depression is that it is very responsive to help. Simple changes, for example in habits of thought, diet, and lifestyle can go a long way with depression.

Depression affects the body, mind, and emotions in equal measure, so you have many ways of changing your life to feel better: through exercise, training yourself to think better thoughts about yourself and the world, and prioritizing positive people and activities that fill you with joy, for example.

With time, you may even come to value your depression as a way of deepening your relationship with yourself, as it is known in the world of psychotherapy as a call to go inward to get to know the real you. In other words, when you’re living out of alignment with who you are in your deepest nature, that tell-tale depression will pop up to let you know it.

All of that said, depression is a formidable dragon to slay – it’s best to get help on the quest, in the form of kind, knowledgeable people who can help you because they understand the nature of the beast. You don’t have to do it alone.

Symptoms of Depression

a-woman-looking-at-a-map-smilingPeople don’t always realize that they’re depressed while it’s happening, but there are a couple of clues that can help you catch it.

Depression is characterized by certain types of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. When you’re depressed your thoughts will be more negative, gloomy, and doom-oriented, usually with a kind of “what’s the point of trying, it will always be this way” vibration.

When you are thinking thoughts that make you feel demoralized, beaten down, and hopeless, those are depression thoughts. It’s important to understand depressed thoughts as distortions: they are interpretations of reality, not facts.

Depressed thoughts can feel logical and true to us, but they’re full of assumptions about a future we cannot possibly predict, including obvious fallacies like, I will always feel the same as I do right now. We also tend to interpret other people’s feelings and behaviors towards us with a negative slant, without even noticing that we’re doing that.

The emotional tones that go with depression are a mixture of sadness, being unable to face things, a feeling of “I don’t have what it takes to get through this”, low self-esteem, and hidden, often unrecognized anger.

We can feel tired, like our bodies are extra heavy, as though we have no vitality in us that could be used to move or get something positive going for us.

Behaviorally, we might decide to skip, cancel last minute, or even totally stop doing positive, self-loving, and self-caring behaviors. Staying connected with people, hobbies, eating well, exercising, and self-care activities that normally make us feel good are at risk when we are depressed (these are also the things that will help us feel better again if we start doing them again).

How Does Alcohol Affect a Woman’s Mood?

Alcohol creates depression. It is classed as a “depressant” substance for a reason. It also exacerbates pre-existing depression.

Although when depressed we may temporarily feel better through self-medicating with alcohol, the starting state of depression will be far worse after the effects of inebriation wear off. We often don’t see the connection between depression and our alcohol use, but the correlation is a strong and direct one.

Does Depression Drive You to Drink?

Even though alcohol makes depression worse, many women who start drinking to excess were depressed as a starting condition. It’s not rocket science – if you feel bad all the time, you may get roped into using substances as a way to cope.

So yes, depression may drive you to drink. If you have a disordered relationship with alcohol, you can be fairly sure that underneath the desire to drink lies a hurt self full of negative thoughts and feelings, who is actually in need of love and kind attention.

What Is the Relationship Between Depression and Binge Drinking?

Depression is a direct biological effect of binge drinking, part of the damage that alcohol does to the body. Since binge drinking is also connected to self-destructive behavior and making poor decisions, there is a secondary effect, which is that the life we wake up to after drinking too much is usually more depressing than it would be without the impacts of alcohol.

Drinking too much damages relationships, careers, and the things in life that give joy. Sooner or later alcohol erodes our native ability to feel happy in our skin.

What Should You Do if You’re Struggling With Alcohol and Depression?

a-woman-meditating-on-the-beach-watching-the-sunsetIf you’re struggling with alcohol and depression at the same time, first of all, our heart goes out to you. You’re truly not the only one, this is a widespread problem and there are solutions to get your natural life force and happiness back.

If this is you, it’s best to get some kind of help that will address the destructive behaviors associated with alcohol and will also help you meaningfully get at the emotional and mental pain you’re carrying, that is causing you to seek relief through substance addiction.

The twin burdens of trying to stop drinking and also trying to face down depression can be too much to handle for most women without someone to be in your corner and help you figure it all out.

And there’s no shame in that. The cure for pain lies within you, but it is in connection to other people that you can learn to activate that for yourself.

If you’re looking for treatment or a holistic approach that can address your alcohol use and your depression at the same time, and you like the idea of a positive, whole-woman approach, Villa Kali Ma could be the right place for you. We’d love to help you, sister.

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