Should people with depression avoid drinking alcohol?
Watching people on television indulge in a few glasses of wine is nothing new, especially when those people are wealthy women with a lot of time on their hands and a penchant for drama. But one reality TV star has recently opened up about how drinking affects her depression.
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Stephanie Hollman, star of The Real Housewives of Dallas, spoke to UsWeekly about her struggle with depression and how the few drinks she’ll sometimes enjoy have a tendency to put her in a “dark place.”
“[Depression has] changed my relationship on alcohol in that I get … I’m kind of scared of alcohol,” she said. “I’m very aware … like sometimes I’ll let loose and have fun, but I do it maybe once every six weeks even. On the show, I usually drink two or three glasses, but I kind of know my limits. And I will have fun, but the next day I will be depressed for no reason, for a good three days.”
Although Hollman erroneously characterizes alcohol as an “antidepressant” in the interview, she said that she knows now to avoid drinking if she already feels that she’s having another bout of depression.
And it’s probably a wise move.
“Alcohol is a depressant of the central nervous system that has the potential to do a number of different things, non-mood related and mood-related,” Dr. Jonathan Bertram, an addictions medicine physician at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, says. “From a mood standpoint, it can lower a person’s mood temporarily and in some cases, the side effects of a hangover or the prolonged effect of alcohol can exacerbate depression.”
However, he says, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all people living with depression need to cut out drinking alcohol altogether. There are two things to consider if you suffer from depression and have also developed a dependency on alcohol.
“In the short term, we usually recommend that a person goes to see their physician because there are clear risks to abruptly stopping alcohol use, including seizures and delirium tremens or DTs,” he says. “The long-term piece is a bit more of a grey area, and depends on whether the person can successfully address and approach the management of depression while drinking in a reduced way. It’s not a one-size-fits-all recommendation.”
One thing to consider, however, is how alcohol could mix with any antidepressants you might be on. Some medications are metabolized more specifically by the liver and if a person’s drinking has led to liver dysfunction, how they react to the medication could pose some difficulty.
“There are also symptomatic complications. We know that 10 to 15 per cent of people will feel more fatigued or low due to an antidepressant. That feeling will go away in the first couple of weeks, but drinking during that time could exacerbate it.”
Most importantly, he says, seek help if you feel that things are overwhelming and you can’t cope. And in the event that you’re experiencing both depression and a dependency on alcohol, address both issues.
“In many cases, a person will feel so guilty about their substance abuse that they’ll be willing to report on their depression but not on their alcohol use,” Bertram says. “But you can seek assessment and treatment for both together.”
If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.
The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.
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