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Alcohol and depression

Alcohol can cause depression or make it worse.

Alcohol may make you feel less anxious or down while you are drinking. But when the effects of the alcohol wear off you can feel worse than you did before.

Using alcohol to try to cope with depression

If you feel depressed, alcohol can make you feel better for a few hours.

It can make you feel relaxed and change your mood. It can numb difficult feelings for a time and may help you to fall asleep. But you won't get the quality of sleep you would get if you were not drinking.

Alcohol is a depressant

The enjoyable effect of alcohol is temporary.

You may even feel worse after drinking. This is because alcohol changes your brain chemistry. This is why you often feel down or anxious the morning after a night's drinking.

If you drink a lot you are more likely to struggle with depressed feelings. These feelings may encourage you to drink more to cope. This can then become a cycle.


Self-medicating is using alcohol as a medicine to cope with depression. 

If you do this, you may be at risk of deepening the feelings of depression.  You may also rely on alcohol more.

If this becomes your way of coping, it can lead to a dependence on alcohol.

If you have depression, you are more likely to drink heavily.

Changing your drinking

While stopping drinking will not remove all the causes of low mood, it will remove one. This will allow you to have a chance at dealing with the others.

Even cutting down should improve your symptoms. The more you drink, the worse the symptoms get.

If you stop drinking and it does not improve your symptoms within a few weeks, there may be other causes.

Talk to your GP or local health professional if you think that you will find it hard to stop drinking.

If you are worried about your alcohol use, take our alcohol test to find out what type of drinker you are.

Related topic

Tips for drinking less

Other tips to tackle depression and lift your mood

Taking little steps to boost your mental health can help you to feel better

Tell someone you trust how you feel. It can be a great relief to share your feelings. If you feel more comfortable talking in private, there are helplines you can call.

Contact the Samaritans on freephone 116 123 or email

A GP can give you information about support services or counselling. Sometimes a short course of medication can be helpful.

Related topic

Looking after your mental health

page last reviewed: 08/11/2019
next review due: 08/11/2022

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