Why alcohol causes depression
It’s common knowledge that alcohol is not good for our health. A broad range of ailments and diseases are associated with booze, especially when it’s abused.
Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it depresses the nervous system. In small amounts, this triggers a relaxed mood, but longer-term, or in excess, it can lead to mental health issues. Here’s a look into why alcohol causes depression…
IMPACT ON THE BRAIN
First and foremost, alcohol disrupts the balance of chemicals in the brain, especially serotonin and dopamine. When serotonin and dopamine levels drop, so too does our mood.
HANGOVERS = LOW MOOD
The physical fallout of drinking is always gruelling. Tiredness, headache, sensitivity to light (caused by acetaldehyde, which makes the nervous system extra sensitive), dehydration… the perfect storm for depressive thoughts.
Binge drinking, or drinking large amounts over long periods of time, can have a lasting impact on neurotransmitters (chemical messengers), decreasing their effectiveness. Excessive long-term alcohol use also destroys brain cells and contracts brain tissue. A 2017 study found even moderate drinkers had three times the odds of hippocampal atrophy, a degeneration of brain cells linked to Alzheimer’s.
A vicious cycle often ensues with alcohol consumption. You’re not feeling good, so you go for a drink to escape your problems, which makes them worse. When boozing becomes a coping mechanism, it’s a slippery slope from the Tuesday Blues to longer-term depression.
Alcohol interrupts the function of GABA, a key neurotransmitter which regulates the nervous system and the body’s system of neurotransmitters. Excessive alcohol use can also lead to GABA withdrawal which causes a variety of mental health issues, including depression.
As the liver slowly breaks down alcohol, it can remain in your system for hours after a sesh. Getting to sleep can be difficult, and the quality and duration of sleep are also affected. Lack of sleep is a huge contributing factor to depression.
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