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Alcohol Addiction, Depression and Dual Diagnosis: Understanding the Connection

Last Updated: January 26, 2024

Editorial Policy | Research Policy

What Is Depression?

Depression is a serious medical condition. It’s more than just feeling sad or blue for a few days. It’s a constant state of feeling down that can last for weeks or longer.

People with depression may lose interest in activities they once loved. They might feel hopeless, tired or empty inside. It’s a heavy burden that can affect every part of your life.

It’s a real condition that requires treatment. And with the right help, people with depression can feel better.

There are different kinds of depression included in the list of depressive disorders. The most common depressive disorders include:

  • Major depressive disorder: This includes symptoms of depression that last longer than two weeks and interfere with everyday life.
  • Persistent depressive disorder (dysthymia): This condition involves less severe symptoms of major depressive disorder, but they last longer—usually longer than two years. 
  • Postpartum depression: Postpartum depression occurs when a woman is pregnant or after delivery. 
  • Seasonal affective disorder (SAD): These depressive symptoms come and go depending on the season. 

Risk Factors for Developing Depression

There are some indicators that may determine whether someone is more likely to develop a depressive disorder. These include:

  • Family history: If a close family member has had depression, you may be at higher risk.
  • Personal history of mental health disorders: If you’ve had certain mental health disorders, like anxiety, you’re more likely to develop depression.
  • Traumatic or stressful events: Experiences like losing a loved one, being in an abusive relationship or having financial problems can trigger depression.
  • Physical illness: Certain medical conditions, like chronic illness, insomnia, chronic pain or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), can increase your risk.
  • Substance use: Alcohol or drug misuse often co-occurs with depression.
  • Biological factors: Certain changes in the brain’s structure or function may contribute to depression.
  • Personality: Traits like low self-esteem or being overly dependent on others can make you more prone to depression.
  • Gender: Women are diagnosed with depression more often than men, possibly due to hormonal changes and increased stress from societal roles.
  • Age: Older adults may face unique challenges that increase their risk of depression, including losing loved ones and declining health.

Signs and Symptoms of Depression

Knowing the signs of depression is important. It’s the first step in getting the help you need. Some common symptoms include:

  • Feeling sad or hopeless for most of the day
  • Loss of interest in things you previously enjoyed
  • Sleep changes, either too much or not enough
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling worthless, like you’re a failure or have let others down

Having one or more of these symptoms may mean you are experiencing depression. The criteria for diagnosis of major depression include:

  • Five or more depressive symptoms for more than two weeks
  • Having a depressed mood or loss of interest in daily activities
  • Experiencing symptoms that interfere with everyday life
  • An absence of manic or hypomanic behaviors

If you notice these signs in yourself or someone else, it’s important to seek help.

The Link Between Alcohol Addiction and Depression

Alcohol addiction and depression often go hand in hand. Some people drink to escape feelings of sadness, which can lead to addiction. This common cycle can lead to a dual diagnosis.

Those diagnosed with alcohol use disorder are 3.7 times more likely to also have a diagnosis of major depressive disorder. Out of those who were in treatment for alcohol use disorder, 33% also met the diagnostic criteria for major depressive disorder. 

A dual diagnosis means someone has two separate but connected illnesses. If you have an alcohol addiction and depression, you have a dual diagnosis. 

Many people aren’t aware they have a dual diagnosis. Knowing about this can help you understand why overcoming these problems alone is hard. You’re not weak or flawed; you’re dealing with complex, interlinked issues.

How Alcohol Abuse Can Worsen Depression

Alcohol may seem like it helps with depression. It might make you feel better for a little while. But in reality, it often makes things worse.

Alcohol is a depressant. This means it can increase feelings of sadness or fatigue. Over time, this can make your depression worse.

Drinking to cope with depression can also lead to addiction. This can add another layer of difficulty to your life. That’s why it’s important to seek help for both issues.

Why Seek Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Depression and Alcoholism

When you have a dual diagnosis, you need special care. Treating just one condition may not bring lasting change. Without addressing both, you might find yourself in a loop of negative feelings and actions. There are a few reasons why dual diagnosis can help:

  • Better understanding: Dual diagnosis treatment can help you see how your problems contribute to one another. 
  • Effective, evidence-based treatment: By tackling both issues simultaneously, you can escape the cycle of addiction and depression with greater success.
  • Long-term recovery: With this treatment, you’ll receive tools for managing both conditions. This makes you more likely to lead a healthier and happier life in the long run.

The Importance of Seeking Help at a Rehab Facility

A good rehab facility has professionals who understand co-occurring disorders. They can provide you with adequate care and support you wouldn’t get on your own. You’re not alone in this journey, and the experts at The Recovery Village Atlanta are there to guide you.

In rehab, you’ll meet others facing similar struggles. This sense of community can make a big difference. You’ll learn from each other’s experiences and build lasting support networks.

Don’t let fear of judgment hold you back. You’re taking a brave step toward better health. Remember—reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Start Dual Diagnosis Treatment Today at The Recovery Village Atlanta

It’s never too late to seek help. If you’re dealing with alcohol addiction and depression, consider a dual diagnosis program. It could be the key to unlocking a healthier, more fulfilled life.

  • Don’t delay: The sooner you seek help, the sooner you can start healing.
  • Reach out: Contact a Recovery Advocate at The Recovery Village Atlanta today.
  • Hold on: Remember, recovery is a journey, not a race.

Dual diagnosis treatment can be complex, so choosing a facility equipped to treat it is important. The Recovery Village Atlanta features a dual diagnosis treatment option that addresses the various symptoms and diagnoses at the same time.

This program includes:

Remember, no one is perfect. We all face challenges. The important thing is to reach out for help when we need it. You are not alone. With the right support, you can overcome these hurdles and build a better future.


National Institute of Mental Health. “Depression” April 2023. Accessed August 7, 2023. 

National Institute of Mental Health. “Depression” 2021. Accessed August 16, 2023.

O’Connor EA, Whitlock EP, Gaynes B, et al. “Screening for Depression in Adults and Older Adults in Primary Care: An Updated Systematic Review” Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality December 2009. Accessed August 16, 2023.

McHugh RK, Weiss RD. “Alcohol Use Disorder and Depressive Disorders.” January 1, 2019. Accessed August 16, 2023.