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Drinking and Depression Don't Mix

Updated on December 1, 2011
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

Do You Suffer from Christmas Blues?

The holidays are upon us. For too many of us, December is the most depressing month of the year. Knowing we're supposed to feel the "Christmas spirit" and "goodwill toward men" and "jolly" and "generous" only makes (some of) us feel worse. It's a fact: stress, depression, and suicide risk spike during the holidays. So does excessive drinking.

Coincidence? No.

Correlation? Yes.

If you are depressed, reaching for a cocktail, glass of wine or beer seems like a logical thing to do. There's only one problem: drinking makes depression worse.

Why am I even writing about something so obvious? Because it wasn't obvious to me -- for decades. And I suffered because of it. And so did those around me A lot.

I eventually made the connection that alcohol and depression don't mix. If my words can spare you or a loved one from diving into a bottomless bottle of despair between now and New Year'sDay, it will be worth it.


Drink less to feel better? No thanks!

You've seen them in magazines, in your inbox, on TV -- even on YouTube. Those ubiquitous "holiday survival guides." And no holiday health tips list is complete without this smarmy warning: Limit alcohol consumption.

I used to read those articles and sneer. "Limit alcohol consumption? Are they high?" (Yes, I was quite the comedian back in the day.) I'd have no problem whatsoever with the author's other suggestions. Forgo mountains of cookies? Not a hardship (as I'd much rather drink my calories anyway). increase my gym time? Sure. Manic exercise is a great way to burn off a holiday hangover. But drink LESS during the holidays? Who do they think they're talking to? Certainly not moi!

So I went right on drinking (excessively) through the holidays and wondering why I kept right on feeling miserable.

Why Drowning Your Sorrows Doesn't Work

If it did, I wouldn't be writing this hub and you wouldn't be reading this hub.

Believe, me, I tried it for years (and not solely during the holidays). Drinking when I felt down (which was a lot of the time) always held out the promise of working "this time." And yes, it would work. For a couple of hours I'd be able to get outside myself and have fun. But I never knew how to maintain that level. So I just kept going. And pretty soon the positive effects of the drinks wore off and I'd find myself tipping from tipsy to drunk to passed out to coming to full of guilt, shame, remorse and anxiety. My temporary lift in spirits was inevitably followed by a far worse mental/emotional condition than I started with.

And yet, I kept doing it again. And again. And yet again. It felt "natural" to me to try to manage my moods with booze. Not only did it come naturally, it was the only "treatment" that my warped brain would consider. On some level I knew (didn't I?) drinking wasn't working.

Quite honestly, I was SHOCKED to find out that alcohol was actually making my depression worse.

Newsflash: Alcohol is a Depressant

Alcohol, the great social lubricant. It makes us merrier and brighter and more joyous ... at first.

The way alcohol works on the body (and brain) is to depress our central nervous system. The initial effects we feel are warmth, relaxation, decreased inhibition. That's the positive side of drinking. And for those who don't suffer from depression -- or alcoholism -- those positives stay positive and there's no problem.

But those effects are fleeting if you:

a) Continue drinking

b) Suffer from an already depressed state

c) Are an alcoholic (which you might not be aware of)

On Antidepressants? Don't drink!

The cure for depression may (or may not) come in a pill. It does not come in a bottle.

Have you been prescribed antidepressants by your doctor? It's quite common these days for even general practitioners/primary care physicians (PCPs) to put their patients on antidepressants. Especially at this time of year. It's like getting a little "boost" of sanity to get us through the dark days of December (and January and on through the year).

I remember being thrilled to get my first scrip for Serzone. Or maybe it was Paxil. Or Prozac. It was many, many years ago. I sincerely expected the pills to work magic and lift me out of my (by then quite severe) depression. No more days upon days unable to get out of bed. I remember thinking to myself, "Woo hoo! My problems are solved!"

There was only one flaw in my thinking -- and my subsequent behavior: I washed down my Serzone/Paxil/Prozac with ... alcohol!

Why did I do that?

Because drinking was my nature!

Because nobody told me not to.

Certainly the pills came with the usual "Don't consume alcoholic beverages while taking this medication" warning label on the bottle. But then, lots of prescription drugs carry the same warning label, with a further explanation that alcohol may "cause drowsiness." Drowsiness being a highly desirable state for me, I was used to ignoring these silly admonitions.

I didn't at the time see it as an either/or thing. So I chose both.

Antidepressants Do NOT Work with Alcohol

Nobody sat me down and said, "If you drink alcohol with these pills they WILL NOT WORK because the alcohol literally cancels out their effect. These are ANTIDEPRESSANT drugs. Alcohol is a DEPRESSANT."

I'm 99.9% sure that I wouldn't have listened even if they had. It was not something I wanted to hear. I wanted my depression to go away, hence the antidepressant pills. But I had no interest in not drinking, so any/all warnings would have fallen on deaf ears.

My experience is far from unique. I have heard probably hundreds of other people share the same thing. They combined alcohol with their prescription antidepressants -- and wondered why they didn't work!

Now we know better.

And now you do, too.

If you're struggling with depression, whether it's seasonal or conditional or clinical (chronic), whether or not you're on prescription antidepressants, do yourself a favor and "limit" your alcohol consumption (smarmy as it is, MM's recommended dose is zero drinks/day).

If you do drink, keep in mind you're merely compounding your already depressed state with a depressive substance. That is your choice. I hope it works better for you than it did for me.

Wishing you a sane and sober season. I know you'll find it's much better than simply "getting" through the holidays. Cheers. MM

How do you treat depression

Which of these is the best remedy for feeling blue during the holidays

See results


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    • Debby Bruck profile image

      Debby Bruck 

      6 years ago

      Dear MM ~ How are you doing with this situation? I'm sure it's a life long effort to overcome strong desires. Of course, homeopathic remedies address a number of these problems, both the depressive feelings and the craving for alcohol, and many of the emotions triggering a need for this support. People do the strangest things and have the best rationalizations for all our thoughts and actions. We have a knack of tricking ourselves not to choose a healthier path. We also know that the motto, "One day at a time" is absolutely true for all things great and small.

      Don't forget the dark days of winter coming and pull out the full spectrum lamp, the sunny walks around the pond, and the vitamin D3 and omega 3's to provide internal support. Blessings, Debby

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      And for normal people, a few drinks won't hurt them. But they are not using alcohol to self-medicate a brain chemistry imbalance!

      Alcoholism and depression often co-occur.

      Thanks for your comment, FF.

    • FreezeFrame34 profile image


      6 years ago from Charleston SC

      Very important reminders; the truth is, many people taking medications often disregard the alcohol warnings. Drinking is something that they do every day and it is a habit or else they don't realize how much they actually drink; they think a few drinks won't hurt them.

    • Sage in a Cage profile image

      Sage in a Cage 

      6 years ago

      Great hub. I suffer from chronic depression and have learnt as the years go on that alcohol is a disaster with me as far as my mood is concerned! As a psychologist I too have seen some adverse reactions when individuals on certain psychiatric medications continue to drink alcohol.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you devjeet. Sounds like you have some experience with the downside of alcohol. I hope recovery has found the loved one(s) drinking tried to claim.

      All my best to you. MM

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you, Courtney L J. You'd think it would be patently obvious. But if you are on the inside of depression (or alcoholism) it's pretty hard to make the connection.

      I hope your best friend is able to stop the cycle.

      I will say that just giving up alcohol doesn't always (or even close to always) cure depression. Some of us still have to treat our depression sober. But the treatment has a fighting chance if we're not defeating the purpose with alcohol:-).


    • Courtney L J profile image

      Courtney L J 

      6 years ago

      An eye-opening hub. I guess I never knew for sure whether or not alcohol completely mitigated the effects of anti-depressants. I have watched my best friend struggle with intense depression and alcoholism for years and can definitely see how alcohol and depression keep each other churning on. Props to your thoughtful revelation.

    • NarcononVistaBay profile image


      6 years ago from California

      Well done Mighty Mom on your last comment!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, MojoDawg (great hubber name, btw).

      I swear I don't know why it took me soooo long to figure this one out. Could be that alcohol was my solution to every problem in the universe for a long time. It never really was, of course.

      Glad you've got it figured out for yourself.

      I took myself off my anti-depressants and am trying to go holistic. It is a struggle, but I am determined to win this battle and not be chemically dependent!

      Good luck to you, also. MM

    • MojoDawg profile image


      6 years ago from Fort Worth Texas

      I know about this one first hand, depression is difficult enough without adding other stimulants, the alcohol does not make it better. Antidepressants have ample side effects on their own without any help from booze which only adds to the complexities of your state of mind.

      Great Hub

    • glowingrocks profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Great one Mighty Mom!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Awesome comment! LOL on the excuses for drinking. I used every one of those -- and more!

      This whole self-medicating my depression with alcohol came as such a shock to me. Truly. Like a "duh" moment.

      I like your alternatives a lot.

      Especially "do something for someone else without getting caught."

      LOVE THAT!


    • ruthclark3 profile image

      Ruth Clark 

      6 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Great hub, and oh, so true. I went around all December (just last month) saying, "I hate December." I am past feeling guilty for feeling as though I'm suppose to be joyful and full of glee. I'm grateful and thankful for EVERY day that I wake up without a hangover.

      I used to drink because I was depressed;I drank because the sun was shining or because it was raining, or snowing, or just because it was 5:00 p.m. somewhere in the world. And, of course I was depressed.

      I just chose to medicate myself with alcohol. A little wine for the stomach's sake...even after the bleeding ulcers were cut out. If you lived as I had to live, you'd drink too. Poor me.

      I'm a fire hazard today and OMG it's a miracle! I'm not depressed. But, if anyone IS depressed, seek help. Great hub.

      btw, I checked the box in the poll to wait it out. I sew, read, make myself get out of self, and do something for someone else without getting caught. Works for me.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      You're welcome MM

    • profile image 

      6 years ago

      Thanks Mighty Mom

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Interesting comment, gmaoli. I have no problem writing about alcoholism and recovery -- I've written about them a lot. If you are already negatively oriented, alcohol just brings that out. You've seen that happen with your example.

      But if you are really depressed, that is even more pronounced. It seems like the obvious/easy choice to make you feel better. But it's the worst thing you can put in your body. As you say, it just makes things worse!

      Thanks for your comment.


    • gmaoli profile image

      Gianandrea Maoli 

      6 years ago from South Carolina

      Might Mom, this was a rather brave subject for you to write about. I'm sure it wasn't easy re-living those moments of having issues with drinking, but I'm glad you shared them and gave some perspective on it. I knew someone who tried to use alcohol as a way to forget about his pressures and sorrows and it just made him more bitter. Thanks for sharing this with us and best wishes!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      6 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Stephhicks! Good to see you. Self-medicating -- sounds like you know the territory here. Thanks for your kind words. MM

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      6 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Really great article - timely, yet year-round, people need to consider the depressive effects of alcohol in self-medicating depression or other symptoms. Great! Rated up!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks for the spot-on comment, Nandu Green.

      Drinking destroys lives. Depression destroys lives.

      They are a bad, bad combination in the wrong hands (or I guess I should say in the wrong, seratonin-deficient brain).

      Blessings, MM

    • Nandu Green profile image

      Marlene Affeld 

      7 years ago from Mountain View, Hawaii USA

      Great information. Drinking and depression destroys lives. Thanks for sharing.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi GGT,

      Glad you found the courage to take care of YOU. Social support from people who drink. Isn't that an oxymoron?

      I've found much better support with my ex-drinking friends who escaped with their lives. Also a way of life that enables me to manage (not control) my emotions.

      Anyway, friend. Thanks for your comment. Cheers, MM

    • GoGreenTips profile image

      Greg Johnson 

      7 years ago from Indianapolis

      Great Hub! Great personal touch! As someone that suffered from similar dilemmas as you that this is true. I found the biggest problem with quitting drinking was the social aspects of it. I had lots of friends, family that drank during these times, and the encouragement to drink was there. I needed social support, needed friend during my depression, and the social support I got was with people that drank. Unfortunately they had little acceptance when you try to quit. i found it eventually best to completely withdraw from my drinking buddies and start over...

      Well great hub!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks, Cags

      Glad you are not one of those who erroneously believes a few extra Scotches will lift seasonal depression. Should have known!

      Harry McG -- I will go check out your hub. Cannabis is another issue altogether. I have mixed feelings about it.

      Will be interested to hear your take. MM

    • HarryMcG profile image


      7 years ago from Queensland

      Great hub. Alcohol and drugs don't mix with depression at all as I discussed in my hub on cannabis and schizophrenia.

    • Cagsil profile image


      7 years ago from USA or America

      Hey Mighty Mom, I figured I would check out what you recently wrote, just to see what you were talking about today? LOL! It's been known for years, upon years, that alcohol is an antidepressant and anyone who didn't know was only doing themselves a disservice. Jumping into alcohol during this time year is about average for the average person, simply because this time of year is about celebrating. Between Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve, drinking is usually what many people are doing.

      I do battle depression from time to time, but I don't use alcohol to make it go away. But, then again, I also don't drink when I am depressed, because I know alcohol is an depressant. And you would be correct in your hub that many Primary Care Physicians(PCPs) do offer people some sort of assistance during this time of year. Last time I checked, approximately 75% of American were being treated for some sort of depression. Those who were not using prescription medicine to treat their issues were in fact using illegal drugs to combat their depression. I read a survey done a couple of years ago and I found it to be depressing, in and of, itself.(pun intended) :) Great Hub! Voted Up!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you, Leah Helensdottr. Surely you are way too young to be having these dilemmas:-). (Like your avatar, btw). MM

    • Leah Helensdottr profile image

      Leah Helensdottr 

      7 years ago from Colorado

      What an excellent hub--well written and with a very personal touch. This could really make a difference to someone struggling with the problem of excessive drinking and/or drinking while taking antidepressants. Voted up, useful, and interesting.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Doesn't worsen my depression to be corrected. But your comment does nothing to help people who genuinely have the problem of depression except possibly mislead them to a literal definition of a word that could, in fact, keep them further in denial.

      The average person thinks of "coincidence" as a chance occurrence, "just happening to happen" at the same time.

      In that sense of the word, there is NO coincidence (happy or otherwise) between the insidious relationship between depression and alcohol.

    • profile image

      coincidence and correlation 

      7 years ago

      Actually, what you are discussing is both a correlation AND a coincidence. "Coincidence" just means that two things happen around the same time--they "co-incide."

      Hopefully it doesn't worsen your depression to be corrected!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you PeanutButterWine.

      Peanut Butter is still one of my favorite foods. Wine has been out of my life for going on 8 years. And that's AOK!

      Thanks for commenting. Glad I can be helpful with my experience. MM

    • PeanutButterWine profile image


      7 years ago from North Vancouver, B.C. Canada

      depression and alcoholism; they do seem to feed off one another! I am really enjoying reading your hubs on the subjects of both depression and addiction. Very eye opening especially as have someone close to me who suffers from these debilitating conditions. Its nice to get some understanding and perspective from your writing. Thank you!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Right. Depression is just a hysterical women's concern.

    • sjain101 profile image


      7 years ago from Delhi

      Guys don't take the hub seriously. Draw your lines for drinking during the festive season. You'll do great.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      I thought you were kidding around, bud.

      Thank goodness.

      You don't want me to get all 5150 on your ass.

      Don't think I wouldn't do it, either.

      I take mentions of suicide very seriously.

    • howtojunkies profile image


      7 years ago

      hahahaha!! im just kidding i just figure out that its almost christmas and even if we are down i think we should just cheep up sometimes lol! dont worry mighty mom haha got ya! im just joking around tnx for your concern though ^_o

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA


      I don't know you so can't tell if you are being facetious or serious. If serious, then I am very concerned. Very concerned.

      Suicide is an all too common occurrence during the holidays.

      Don't even get me started on the real ugly side of antidepressants mixed with other substances (including weed) or prescribed to young people.

      Or suicide among alcoholics.

      It's UGLY.

      I've known way too many people who killed themselves or a family member did -- not to mention the many, many suicide attempts in my life (not me, thank God).

      I cannot even joke about that so please, please tell me you are NOT at risk here. MM

    • howtojunkies profile image


      7 years ago

      you forgot a answer poll to your question poll in

      How do you treat depression Which of these is the best remedy for feeling blue during the holidays.... you forgot to write the "Kill myself" answer poll. ^_^

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA -- exactly. We can't change what anyone else does we can only change OUR reaction to their behavior!CarltheCriti -- so you've seen what I mean. The person on the inside usually cannot see it, tho. Self-medication with alcohol is what our body/brain tells us to do, mostly because it's so widely available and "socially acceptable."

      howtojunkies -- nice hubber name. Alcohol does offer a temporary relief which is why we keep trying it again and again and again. But it doesn't help the underlying depression at all.

      Thanks all for sharing your perspectives here. MM

    • howtojunkies profile image


      7 years ago

      you're right im feeling the same when im feeling depressed i drink then it goes from depression to spirit lifted and after the alcohol worn off it worsen!! you're good!

    • CarltheCritic1291 profile image


      7 years ago

      I have an alcoholic relative, and it's really bad when he got depressed or was under stress. Great Hub as always. Voted Up, Useful, and Interesting.

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      Seeing other people drunk was depressing. So I stopped drinking completely.

    • carcro profile image

      Paul Cronin 

      7 years ago from Winnipeg

      Really good advise. I enjoy a drink as much as anyone, but I also know that one or two is enough. I get a real low from alcohol if I have more than that. Thanks for the info, voted up!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Yeah, it sucks that way, doesn't it?

      Thanks for commenting, rasta1. MM

    • rasta1 profile image

      Marvin Parke 

      7 years ago from Jamaica

      alcohol definitely reinforces depression.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hi Lisa,

      Just a very quick scan of the research goes right there -- to the lowered inhibitions/lowered impulse control.

      I wrote this a a very, very basic "top level" kind of "oh, duh" wake up. I think it would be prudent to delve in to the next levels and explain the WHY. Kids, especially.

      Of course, KIDS and ANTIDEPRESSANTS DON"T MIX is an essential hub as well. Don't even get me started on that one!

      Anyway, thank you so much for your sage comment.


    • Lisa HW profile image

      Lisa HW 

      7 years ago from Massachusetts

      MM, needless to say, an important Hub. Years ago I did a special for a newspaper about teen suicide. Every expert I interviewed said the same thing: that drinking lowers inhibitions, and sometimes that "frees up" a person to act on suicidal impulse when, without drinking, that same person might not have been "uninhibited enough" to actually attempt (and/or accomplish) suicide.


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