By David Joel Miller.
Why drinking won’t make you happier.
Most people think that drinking makes you happier and for some few people who were already happy it seems to work that way.
But if you are depressed, drinking can leave you more depressed than before.
Seems like the depressed person just can’t get a break.
We associate alcohol with parties and fun times. A little will loosen you up, so we think. What it is in fact doing is relaxing parts of the brain. A little relaxation may be helpful but a lot leaves you falling down.
One reason alcohol is associated with fun times is its ability to “disinhibit” you. It shuts off the part of your brain that may be telling you not to do that. So under the influence and even one drink begins to exert an influence, you may do things that you would not do without that drink. You might make a joke, dance more uninhibitedly or participate in an activity that at other times you would not attempt.
What alcohol does not do is make you suddenly happy.
It is the activity you are engaged in that is producing the happiness. Alcohol is a depressant. It works its magic spell but shutting off parts of the brain. The depressed person, unable to cope with parts of life when sober, becomes less able to cope when drinking, not more so.
For the depressed drinking results in an increase in depression, not a reduction.
People with Major depression who drink are more likely to be disinhibited and do negative, bad things rather than to become happy.
The depressed person is more likely to attempt suicide while intoxicated. Some depression is the result of being angry at others and then taking the feelings out on yourself. If you are in a bad job or relationship we may blame ourselves for being trapped there rather than blame the other people. In this form of depression, we used to call this reactive depression; the depressed person when intoxicated is at increased risk to try to even the score with the person that has made them angry.
The depressed person is not likely to take only one drink.
If one is good for making you happy, so the reasoning goes, more should be better. The depressed person is at high risk to continue drinking until very drunk or even unconscious.
Unconsciousness, as we have seen in other posts, is not the same thing as sleeping. So people who use alcohol to cope with depression will find that they “come to” rather than wake up. In this state, the depressed person will be more depressed as well as hung over. The only cure for this is, in most minds, more alcohol. The cycle begins to accelerate.
There is a high rate of co-occurrence between excessive alcohol use, alcoholism and depression. Depressed people who drink are at extreme risk to develop alcoholism and chronic alcohol abusers become progressively more depressed.
Despite all the marketing efforts made to convince us that alcoholic beverages are stimulants and make people happy, the real truth is that alcohol is a depressant and any amount stresses the mind and body.
If you are depressed the last thing you should be doing is trying to drink your troubles away. If you are genuinely happy, the more you celebrate with alcohol the less happy you are likely to be.
For most alcoholics, the alcohol was early on their solution but the more they drank the more the alcoholic beverage became their problem.
Alcohol tends to be very addicting, particularly to those with mental health issues. Remember that the category “people with mental health issues” includes most of us at one time or another.
Drinking to regulate emotions is a very risky habit.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings, and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books