Are You Drinking to Cope With Depression? Alcohol Makes it Worse

By Dominica


Last Updated: July 5, 2022

It’s no secret that there are many people who struggle with depression these days.

In fact, millions of men, women, and children struggle with depression for a variety of reasons. Sometimes the depression lasts only a short time, which is more tolerable. Other times, depression lingers on for months or years.

Fortunately, there are various treatment options when it comes to depression, from therapy to medication. I always suggest to anyone who can’t seem to get out from under the depression is to reach out for help from a qualified counselor.



Self-Medicating Depression

One way that some people try to treat depression is to drink alcohol, because they think that drinking makes them feel happier.

I tried this a few times after a breakup years ago. 

I was depressed to say the least. I wasn’t typically a drinker, but the pain was so intense, I just figured drinking would help numb that pain for a while.

At the same time, I also knew drinking was not the solution for the intense depressive feelings I was experiencing. I knew drinking to numb out would NEVER cause me to feel authentically happy. So, that kind of coping behavior came to a halt quite fast for me.

Sure, maybe when you take those first drinks, you may feel a bit euphoric. You may temporarily NOT feel sad.

However, most of the time those couple of drinks turn into more than you’d like and then you start to feel bad. If you get drunk, you wake up the next morning feeling awful and maybe even more depressed. It’s even worse when you’re trying to quit drinking and can’t.


Alcohol is a Depressant.

Some people think that alcohol is a stimulant, but it’s actually a depressant.

This means that it depresses your nervous system, causing you to feel relaxed. Therefore, many people drink when they’re feeling anxious or stressed out. They like the way the alcohol calms the nervous system down.

The problem with this for those that are already depressed is that the booze causes them to sink deeper down into depression. What may feel positive is actually negative, and can put you into an awful cycle that causes a lot of inner pain.



Coping With Depression: Make the Change.

If you’re feeling depressed, first, understand that if you want to ever experience real-deal happiness, you’ve got to stop drinking to cope.

This may be for a period of time, or it may be forever, but either way giving up the booze is necessary to contend with the negative feelings you are experiencing right now. 

So, the first thing you must do is make a commitment to just saying no to picking up a drink. If you’ve been trying to quit drinking and can’t, then it’s time to reach out for help via counseling, an alcohol rehab, 12 Step group, and so on.

It’s tough to get out from under depression when you continue to drink alcohol. 

You may not think it’s a big deal, but it is. When you can stop drinking, you clear your head quite a bit. You get some newfound clarity and then you can begin working with the underlying causes of the depression.

You may have some unhealed wounds from childhood, or you could have a biological cause. The key is to rid your body of the alcohol so that you can move forward targeting the depression.



Only Drink When You're Feeling Happy.

I rarely drink anymore, but when I did, I made a rule for myself that helped me a lot.

I would only allow myself to socially drink IF I was already feeling happy or in a good mood. If I was struggling with something, like grief, depression, anger, frustration, etc., I wouldn’t drink alcohol. I just wouldn’t allow myself to buy the lie that drinking would “make me feel better”.

If you’re going to drink, and drink responsibly I might add, think about taking on this rule for yourself.

If you’re in a rough spot emotionally, skip the drinks. Let those feelings pass and reach out for help from a professional if need be. If you’re in a good spot, allow yourself to have a drink if you want. It makes a difference.



Ask For Help.

Working in the mental health and addiction field over the years, I’ve seen a lot of people fall into the trap of drinking to cope with depression.  It puts them on a fast track to even more inner pain, and some have a tough time stopping the cycle. It’s disheartening to say the least.

At the same time, there are so many effective treatments available for depression and drinking problems. The toughest part is admitting that you’re struggling and then, reach out for help and begin making changes.

  • Are you struggling with depression?
  • Do you drink alcohol to cope with it?
  • Are you trying to stop drinking?

If so, don’t beat yourself up. MANY of us have been there. And, many of us have changed that kind of behavior for the better.

Know that there is treatment available for both depression and problem drinking or alcoholism. It’s time to reach out for help and get your life back. There is hope for you to live the kind of life you desire, so decide today to stop drinking and start dealing, feeling, and healing.

Need help finding a therapist?

Check out Psychology Today’s Counselor Finder.

Photo by Helena Lopes


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