How Can Depression Lead to Alcohol Abuse?

How Can Depression Lead to Alcohol Abuse?

Depression or a depressive disorder that impacts a teenager or child raises concerns about the risks he or she will face. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or ADAA (1), estimates that individuals with depression are two to three times more likely to abuse alcohol or other substances than the general population.

The ADAA (1) suggests that around 20 percent of individuals with a mood disorder like depression or anxiety also abuse alcohol. If a teenager or child in your family is showing signs of alcohol abuse or depression, then recognizing the signs of a problem and seeking professional treatment is essential for his or her recovery.

Teenagers and Depression

According to the National Institute on Mental Health (2), around 11 percent of adolescents and teenagers are diagnosed with depression by age 18.

Although girls are more likely to experience depression when compared to boys, any teenager or child has a risk of developing a depressive disorder.

Recognizing the Signs of Depression

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The challenge with children or teenagers is recognizing the signs of depression. According to the National Institute on Mental Health (2), children and teenagers do not exhibit the same symptoms as adults. Signs of depression in young children include:

  • Clinging to parents
  • Worrying about parents, older siblings or a caregiver
  • Refusing to attend school
  • Complaining about feeling sick, even if he or she does not have any symptoms of a sickness

Older Children and Teens

Older children and teenagers will exhibit behavior that differs from younger individuals. The symptoms of depression from a teenager include:

  • Sulky or grouchy behavior
  • A pessimistic or negative attitude
  • Stating that parents or adults do not understand them
  • Poor grades in school

Depression Often Comes First

When a loved one shows signs of depression, the risk of alcohol abuse increases. Web MD (3) states that almost 1/3 of individuals with a major depressive disorder abuse alcohol.

Although the alcohol abuse occurs first in some individuals, Web MD (3) suggests that the depressive disorder occurs first in many cases.

Alcohol Abuse and Depression

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Psych Central (4) states that co-occurring disorders often occur after a depressive disorder develops because individuals self-medicate. Self-medicating occurs when an individual uses drugs or alcohol to reduce the symptoms of a mental health disorder. Depression causes feelings of sadness, loneliness, hopelessness or similar emotions. Chances of alcohol abuse increase when an individual is not treated for depression.

He or she attempts to calm the emotions by using alcohol. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse worsens the symptoms of depression.

Seeking Treatment

The National Institute on Mental Health (2) states that teenagers with co-occurring disorders are less likely to respond well to treatments for depression.

When a loved one has a co-occurring disorder, a treatment program must treat both concerns. A healthy treatment plan, like cognitive behavioral therapy and counseling, offers a realistic solution and focuses on both disorders. The result of treating depression and alcohol abuse at the same time is a lower risk of relapse in the future.

Alcohol abuse impacts many lives, but the best treatment plan depends on the cause of the abuse. Treating the underlying depression or depressive disorder offers the opportunity to focus on recovery goals and find realistic solutions to the negative emotions.


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