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Alcohol as the Cause of Depression?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

The March 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry discusses a piece of research done in New Zealand that points to the strong possibility that alcohol abuse causes depression rather than the other way around. The older view was that those who are depressed abuse alcohol in an attempt to self medicate depression.

In New Zealand a study was started 25 years ago with a sample of people born in 1977 and followed throughout. The sample size was 1055 people. The surprising results showed a correlation between alcohol abuse and major depression with the direction going from alcohol use leading to depression.

What the researches suggest is that there are additional factors that, added to alcohol use add weight to possibility of developing depression. These stressful factors include such stressful things as social pressures, employment problems and financial difficulties.


There are certain symptoms that should be taken as warning signs to an individual that they may be developing and alcohol problem:

1. Family history of alcohol abuse because that may suggest a genetic predisposition.

2. Looking forward to having a drink all day so that it becomes a major preoccupation.

3. Beginning the day with a drink.

4. Wanting to stop drinking but not being able to.

5. Having repeated episodes of drinking so much the night before that there is no memory of what you did or where you went the next day.

6. Experiencing cravings for alcohol and not being able to wait for the next drink.

7. Repeatedly missing work due to powerful "hangovers" the next day.

These are just a partial list and no one symptom indicates that there is a problem but rather a set of symptoms that form a pattern of behavior.

Many people stumble over the term "alcoholism" or "alcoholic." Without attempting to contradict Alcoholics Anonymous, I want to suggest that you not worry or think about that word if you are worried that you may have a problem but, rather, go and get some help. The first stop might be your medical doctor’s office and then a psychotherapist.

Whether alcohol causes depression or vice versa the fact is that it can become a problem and should be addressed.

Your comments are welcome and encouraged.

Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

Keep Reading By Author Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.
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