Alcohol And Depression: What’s The Link?
Alcohol and depression go hand-in-hand- with alcohol being a depressant, it’s easy to see why. And drinking heavily, or binge-drinking– if we’re being honest, is something most of us do or have done.
Friday comes around and unless you’re (by some miracle) having a chilled weekend in, then you’re more than likely out for a meal (accompanied by drinks), at a party or ‘out out’. As much as we hate to admit it, getting together with friends and even family, more often than not, involves a drink (or ten).
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Alcohol And Depression: Is It About Time For A Reality Check?
If you find yourself drinking most weekends, then don’t worry we aren’t diagnosing you with an alcohol addiction, but it’s maybe time to start regulating your alcohol consumption.
Granted, most of us do it simply out of habit now- going out for dinner goes hand in hand with a cocktail, going ‘out’ comes with pre-drinks, and going to a party usually involves ‘BYOB’. We’re part of a culture in which we regularly drink in social situations.
The problem comes when you find yourself succumbing to peer pressure, and drinking simply because it’s ‘expected’ of you, and not doing so would be ‘out of character’. Doing anything to please others, and especially something that is potentially harmful to not just your physical, but mental health isn’t okay, and it’s your own responsibility to regulate and control just how much often you choose to take part.
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Alcohol And Depression: An Epidemic
As we aren’t an alcoholics anonymous page, we don’t intend to advise on addiction, but something that we all have a responsibility to do for ourselves, is keep on top of our physical and mental health. When drinking and your weekend antics starts to interfere with either, or both, it might be time to take a step back.
We have the legality and accessibility of alcohol to thank for the epidemic of binge-drinking and mental illness related to it. We, as a country, tend to overlook the fact that alcohol is a drug, and a depressant at that. It’s one of the most addictive, whilst being the most readily available drug on the market. And we wonder why we have a drinking culture problem…
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Alcohol And Depression: It’s Depressing, Literally…
Alcohol’s status of a depressant means it physically affects the neurotransmitters in your brain that are fighting to keep mental illnesses such like anxiety and depression at bay. Abusing alcohol upsets the chemical balance in your brain, which manifests in your behaviour and mindset.
A hangover is the physical manifestation of what we’ve done to our bodies the night before: we’ve essentially poisoned it. And, more than likely, deprived it of sleep, and probably also overindulged in terms of food as well. It’s all a knock- on affect.
You’ve dehydrated and deprived your body, and the hangover is a sore reminder of it. Exhausted, drained of energy, queasy and probably with a banging headache, you regret those 28283 units of alcohol you guzzled last night, yet find yourself in the same cycle week after week. To make matters worse, you might also be experiencing feelings of depression- you have to ask yourself, is it really worth it?
It’s All In Your Head
This is all well and good (well for your body it certainly isn’t), but perhaps what’s even worse than the physical damage, is the mental affects that follow when we drink alcohol. The feelings of anxiety (aka hangxiety/ beer fear), the following day, the mid-week slump, the short temper and the mood swings.
There’s not a perfect negative correlation between alcohol intake and mental health deterioration in everyone, because everyone is different. But, for some, especially those struggling already or with a genetic predisposition to struggle, alcohol only amplifies these problems, increasing the risk of mental health problems.
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Staying In Is The New Going Out
If you think your intake’s getting a bit out of hand, try stopping drinking and going alcohol free for a few weekends, to monitor your mental (and physical health). It might be a short-term goal to increase your number of t-total weekends, but it could really open your eyes to how your mood elevates in the long-term when you avoid heavy drinking for a while.
Instead of just by default, going out every weekend, try these other activities to keep you busy, fulfilled and most importantly- not hungover the following day.
Take yourself outside– going for a long walk, or run if you’re feeling brave, will get the blood flowing and oxygen circulating; it’s underrated what a bit of fresh air can do!
Get yourself to the gym– again, another physical activity focused one, but deserving as the endorphins released from a good session wont leave you ‘chasing those weekend highs’.
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Volunteer- nothing compares to the feeling of helping someone- it’s good for the soul, and the brain. Seeing those less advantaged than you will also put it all in to perspective, and perhaps keep you from wanting to throw all your money away on those weekend drinks.
We all like to go out and let our hair down- we’re only human. But, for that very reason we also need to keep a watchful eye on our lifestyles and how an unhealthy one can coincide massively with the state of our minds. Just remember: happy mind, happy life- our mental health should be made priority over everything else!