Is Social Drinking Okay When You’re Recovering from Depression?

When it comes to the subject of problematic drinking patterns, many people abide by a simple rule, which is that if you have to ask whether or not you have a problem, you definitely have a problem.

While there might be a bit of wisdom in this mantra, it misses the mark in a lot of ways. First of all, it’s a good thing when any person takes a step back and honestly analyzes their own life and behavior. Furthermore, many people who do not suffer from alcoholism will periodically decide that it’s time to cut back or take a break.

People who are recovering from clinical depression often find themselves having to ask a lot of tough questions about their relationship with alcohol. While alcoholism isn’t a requirement to be depressed, it’s often a comorbidity. If you are working on overcoming depression and aren’t sure if social drinking can be a part of your life anymore, keep reading.

Understanding Why The Depressed Drink

People who struggle with depression are often suffering from a lack of serotonin, which is the chemical in the brain that makes us feel content, peaceful and happy. When the brain doesn’t naturally produce enough serotonin, people will feel sad and hopeless, despite of how good their lives might seem to those on the outside.

While alcohol doesn’t produce serotonin, it does produce dopamine, another feel-good chemical. Dopamine is produced as a response to stimuli like alcohol and drugs, but can also be produced in response to healthier triggers, such as falling in love or participating in sports.

However, dopamine is more of a “cheap thrill” chemical. While it can give us a sense of satisfaction in the short term, our brains need serotonin in order to have consistently positive moods. This is why mental health professionals prescribe medications that promote the production of serotonin, not dopamine.

Essentially, a person who’s suffering from a lack of serotonin due to depression will often turn to harmful substances for a quick dopamine rush. However, this is not a safe, healthy or effective way to combat depression. Once the dopamine is gone, the depression can become even worse.

Understanding The Perils of The Phrase “Problem Drinking”

It’s true that there is such a thing as a problem drinker who isn’t an alcoholic. College students are a very common example of this. Many kids have unhealthy relationships with alcohol during college due to peer pressure and binge-drinking culture. However, many of these kids will grow up to be adults who have a healthy relationship with alcohol.

It’s possible that a person can engage in problem drinking during a period of depression and then return to healthy social drinking once they’ve sought treatment. However, this presents a dangerous trap. While it’s true that some depressed people rely on alcohol as a crutch and are not actual alcohols, many depressed alcoholics will use this knowledge as a way to deceive themselves and others into thinking that they don’t actually have a problem.

The truth of the matter is that determining whether or not you might be an alcoholic isn’t something you should do alone. A conversation with an addiction specialist or a screening by a mental health professional is the only accurate way to figure out whether or not your issues with alcohol are chronic or if they’re merely a byproduct of a bout with depression.

Sobriety is Never a Bad Choice

Understanding addiction isn’t as cut and dry as, “if you have to ask, then you’re an addict.” Many people aren’t sure and it doesn’t mean that they’re necessarily alcoholics. Remember, it’s always a positive thing to question your behavior and ask yourself tough questions. This is a huge part of growth.

Remember, you don’t necessarily have to be an alcoholic to choose sobriety or even to seek addiction counseling. There’s no blood test for alcoholism and many people who pursue treatment fall into the “problem drinker” category. Sobriety and treatment programs are for people who want to improve their lives and change their relationships with harmful substances.

If you’re currently undergoing treatment for depression and suspect that alcohol might be playing a harmful role in your life, it’s important that you bring this up with your health professional. If the two of you decide that a treatment program might be an appropriate course of action, contact us today at 772-934-6580 to find out more information about how you can end your problematic relationship with drugs and alcohol.