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Alcohol and Depression: How Are They Connected?

Last Updated: November 3, 2023

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

Depression and alcohol use disorder are two conditions that can often occur hand-in-hand. On their own, these conditions can affect a person’s life, but together, they can exacerbate the negative impacts. It’s crucial to understand how they are linked and why getting help for both is essential.

What Is Depression?

Depression is not just feeling sad for a short time. It’s a mental condition characterized by ongoing feelings of sadness, loss of interest in things and lacking motivation. Depression can be influenced by genetics, stress, certain health problems and more.

Types of Depressive Disorders

The different types of depression, including major depressive disorder, persistent depressive disorder, postpartum depression, seasonal affective disorder and psychotic depression. All of these conditions can be made worse by drinking too much alcohol.

Major Depressive Disorder

  • This is when a person feels persistent sadness or disinterest in anything for a long time, making it hard to work, sleep, eat or enjoy things.
  • Drinking too much alcohol or drinking too frequently can make these symptoms worse, making recovery more difficult.

Persistent Depressive Disorder

  • This long-term type of depression is not as severe as major depressive disorder, but it  lasts for at least two years and affects daily life and relationships.
  • Alcohol misuse can make persistent depressive disorder last longer and exacerbate its symptoms.

Postpartum Depression

  • Some women experience this depression after giving birth, with symptoms such as sadness, fatigue, sleep and eating changes, and reduced libido.
  • Drinking alcohol can worsen these symptoms and make it tough for new moms to take care of their babies.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

  • SAD is a type of depression that changes with the seasons. It often starts in the fall and continues through winter, draining energy and causing moodiness.
  • Alcohol misuse can make SAD symptoms worse, leading to more severe depressive episodes during these times.

Psychotic Depression

  • This is a severe form of depression with added psychosis, such as hallucinations and delusions.
  • Alcohol misuse can complicate treatment and make psychotic episodes more frequent and severe.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Depression shows up in various ways, such as constant sadness, feeling worthless, changes in sleep and eating habits, trouble concentrating and, in severe cases, thoughts of suicide.

How Alcohol Abuse Connects to Depression

Alcohol abuse and depression often occur together and can make each other worse. Sometimes, alcohol can temporarily numb or distract someone from their depression symptoms, but they worsen when the effects wear off, creating a harmful cycle.

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Does Alcohol Cause Depression?

Alcohol doesn’t directly cause depression, but it can play a part in starting it. Long-term and frequent alcohol use can change a person’s brain chemistry, leading people to feel depressed. Those already with depression might use alcohol to cope, which can make their symptoms worse.

Can Alcohol Make Depression Worse?

Yes, alcohol can make depression worse. It can interfere with the effects of antidepressant medication and lead to more severe and frequent episodes of depression.

How Long Does Alcohol-Induced Depression Last?

The time alcohol-induced depression lasts depends on the person. It can stay for a few hours to several weeks, depending on how much alcohol was consumed and the person’s overall mental and physical health.

Treatment for Co-Occurring Depression and Alcohol Use Disorder

If you or someone you know is struggling with both addiction and mental health challenges, don’t face it alone. The Recovery Village Kansas City is here to help you find a path to recovery and a healthier future. Our compassionate and experienced team specializes in dual diagnosis treatment, providing comprehensive care for addiction and co-occurring mental health disorders. Contact a Recovery Advocate today to start your admission or find out more.


National Institute of Mental Health. “Depression.” Last reviewed April 2023. Accessed August 16, 2023.

Merz, Beverly. “Six common depression types.” Harvard Health Publishing, October 13, 2020. Accessed August 16, 2023.