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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 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 sleep as well as you usually would.

Alcohol is a depressant

Alcohol's effect on your mood is temporary. You may even feel worse after drinking. This is because of the way 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 have depression. It can also be because of the problems that heavy drinking can cause.

Relying on alcohol

If you have depression you are more likely to be a heavy or dependent drinker.

One reason is that you may use alcohol as a medicine, to treat the symptoms of depression. Self-medicating may seem like an easy or only option. If this becomes your way of coping, you may come to rely on alcohol. You may need it to get through the day. This can lead to a dependence on alcohol.

If you have depression, you are 3 times more likely to become dependent on alcohol.

Changing your drinking

You might be depressed and drinking a lot. If you are and you give up alcohol, you will feel better within a few weeks. You will have more energy and a brighter mood.

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

If stopping drinking doesn't improve your depression within a few weeks, talk to your GP.

If you think that you will find it hard to stop drinking, speak to your GP.

Related topic

Drinking less alcohol

Other tips to tackle depression and lift your mood

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

Try to 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

If you need professional support to cope with depression, talk to your GP. A GP can give you information about support services or counselling. Sometimes a short course of medication can be helpful.

page last reviewed: 23/09/2018
next review due: 23/09/2021

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