Friday, July 19, 2013

Alcohol and Depression - Giving Up For Your Health

One night at a party, I had three drinks and two tequila shots. I was on top of the world! I was the best dancer and most interesting person in the party. I was sooo happy I went to sleep with a smile on my face. The next day, not so much. After a couple of years of the "day after party" ritual of mandatory headaches, and need for gallons and gallons of water, I started waking up with a disturbing lethargy and grumpiness that was not characteristic. At first, it was just the day after, then, the couple of days after. And then, it never left. I was always tired, unhappy, emotional, hopeless. I was depressed."

Depression is a usual and not at all expected consequence of alcohol consumption. Alcohol, at the moment it is consumed, can bring a jittery, top of the world feeling that intoxicates people with the notion of invincibility. But alcohol, in fact, is not an upper but a downer and its long term effects are a lot more related with depression than with any form of happiness.

Here is how it works: Alcohol lowers the chemicals in your brain that give you your good feelings, serotonin and norepinephrine, and nullifies the effects of stress hormones, making you feel unhappy and stressed the next day. In a recent study, people were cut off drinking completely after drinking one drink per day for a period of time. After three months, their depression scores on the standard depression inventories had improved. Also, according to the psychiatry branch of the National Institute of Health (NIH), alcohol has been proven to activate a gene that causes depression and other mental health issues, including manic-depressive episodes and seizures.

Symptoms of depression may include:

o Overwhelming feelings of grief or sadness.
o Feeling worthless, hopeless or helpless.
o Not having energy, feeling tired all the time.
o Trouble making decisions and/or concentrating.
o Little interest in what used to be usual activities. Change in sleeping patterns - sleeping more or less than usual
o Change in eating patterns - eating more or less than usual.
o Avoiding people.
o Lowered sex drive.

In addition, alcohol can lower the levels of folic acid in the body, speeding up the aging brain process and increasing the risk of Alzheimer's disease and vascular dementia. How's that for feeling depressed. A curious note is that alcohol is linked to depression no matter the sex, but in men the alcohol more often precedes depression, whereas in women, depression precedes alcohol consumption. So, in general, men become depressed from drinking, while women drink because they are depressed.

Using alcohol to distract oneself from depression is dangerous and ineffective. You may feel better in the moment, but in the long run it just makes things worse. Why not visit for more options and information about alcohol and its effects.

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