The Effects of Alcohol on Moods
Alcohol has long been used as a method of relaxation. Having a drink to unwind from a stressful day is a common practice in our culture. Anxiety seems to dissolve, at least temporarily, with a glass of wine or a beer. In small amounts, this may be effective. For a person susceptible to alcohol addiction or who has a mood disorder, it may not be wise.
It has long been noted that alcohol affects moods and moods have influenced the use of alcohol. Mood disorders include anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder. When alcoholism and mood disorders coexist, this is referred to as a dual disorder. However, it is important to recognize that just because a person is addicted to alcohol doesn't automatically mean she also suffers from a mental illness. Alcohol can cause mood disorder symptoms to worsen, and it can interfere with medications used to treat mood disorders, thus prolonging recovery.
Remember that alcohol has the ability to impair judgment. A person with a major depressive disorder who also drinks alcohol excessively is at risk for suicide. In fact, according to Dr. Esther Gwinnell and Christine Adamec in their book, The Encyclopedia of Addictions and Addictive Behaviors, the risk of suicide for both men and women has been reported to be thirty times higher in alcoholics than among the general population.
The manic symptoms of bipolar disorder can be triggered by alcohol use; on the other hand, a person might self-medicate the manic symptoms with the depressant effects of alcohol. A significant danger to be aware of is that alcohol can mask psychiatric disorders, particularly mood disorders. Depression, for example, may be mistakenly thought to be due to the effects of alcohol.
While it is true that alcohol is a depressant, only a skilled professional may be able to determine whether there is also an underlying major depressive disorder. The close interaction between alcohol addiction and mood disorders makes complete sense when one remembers that both are connected to certain neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, and so forth.