Alcohol and depression

Alcohol and depression have a complex relationship.

At first, when you drink alcohol, you’re likely to feel good. You may feel relaxed, confident, and even more social. Alcohol stimulates the release of ‘happy hormones’ such as dopamine and serotonin.

If alcohol can make you ‘feel good’, why is alcohol known as a depressant?

Depressant substances do not necessarily make a person depressed. Instead, they affect the central nervous system, slowing down the brain and body’s messages to each other.  

When you have symptoms of depression, you’re likely to experience feelings of worthlessness, sadness, and guilt. You could feel exhausted, have low motivation and lose interest in stuff you enjoyed doing before.

People experiencing these symptoms want to be able to cope. For some, drinking is the simplest way to cope with something they don’t know how or don’t want to handle. Drinking alcohol serves as a form of self-soothing and numbing to avoid or manage difficult emotions. While this may seem helpful in the short term, it can actually make things way tougher.

When depression and alcohol are involved, the research gets pretty gloomy. Alcohol can drastically alter the levels of neurotransmitters in your brain, further impacting mood, energy levels, sleep, memory, and concentration. Yup, drinking changes the chemical makeup in your brain. People who frequently drink are more likely to experience episodes of depression and may drink more to feel better, leading to a cycle of addiction. Alcohol can also hinder decision-making and increase risky behaviours, aggression, damage to relationships, self-harm, and suicide attempts in people who are already going through a really challenging time.

What can you do when you want to reach for a drink due to feeling low or depressed?

Instead of deciding to stop drinking completely or even going dry in July (a worthy cause, nonetheless!), checking your other coping skills could perhaps be the first step. Do distractions such as walking or exercising, watching Netflix, gaming, or listening to music work as an alternative for now? Next, consider whether you can reach out to friends or family members for company or comfort. If you need guidance addressing the underlying reasons and additional coping strategies, contact your local GP or therapist for further support.

Additional resources



Written by Michelle Hartnett

Social Worker


Recent Posts

How can I help my teen with their mental health

  Are you worried about their mental health? Do you find yourself asking them what's going on, how their day was, letting them know that they can tell you anything and get NOTHING in return? Do you find yourself saying things like ‘’Just tell me what's wrong? ‘’,...

Self-harm is not attention seeking behaviour.

Is someone who self-harms being dramatic or attention seeking? The idea of non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI), often referred to as self-harm can stir up a range of feelings. It's often poorly understood and can leave people feeling angry or frustrated when they see...

Infant Mental Health

Infant Mental Health Awareness Week is an opportunity and reminder to discuss the importance of babies’ mental health, as well as some of the issues that affect it.  What is infant mental health? Infant mental health describes a baby’s capacity to experience,...

What is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disability that affects how Autistic people experience the world around them. Autistic people are born autistic and will be Autistic their whole lives. Some people are diagnosed with Autism following an assessment process, but you can be...

Supporting Gender Diverse and Sexuality Diverse Young People.

Getting Pronouns Right and much more. Society is becoming more aware of gender diversity and sexuality diversity, and more people are beginning to understand the impact that gender stereotypes and exclusive language/actions can have on gender and sexuality diverse...

Top 9 questions to ask your therapist

Things to ask your therapist during your first therapy session Doing some research and planning before your session can help give you a sense of calm and help you work out if the therapist is going to be a good fit for you and your goals/ needs for therapy.  Finding...