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  • While making the change to quit drinking is a good choice, it can bring on alcohol withdrawal symptoms that include depression. Depression is one of the most common mental health issues that occur with an alcohol withdrawal syndrome.

    Dealing with depression while struggling with the other symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, like delirium tremens (DTs), can be challenging. Thankfully, there are ways to deal with withdrawal and depression that can encourage you to keep going and live an alcohol-free life.

    Why Does Quitting Alcohol Often Lead to Depression?

    Because alcohol is a depressant, it slows down your brain. When you’re binge-drinking or drinking heavily for a long time, the brain tries to compensate for that slowness by releasing more stimulating neurotransmitters. 

    With alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder, the overproduction of chemicals becomes the new normal and leads to alcohol dependence. 

    GABA Receptors

    More specifically, alcohol binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and increases the amount of GABA in the central nervous system. It also decreases the levels of glutamate in the brain. These reactions slow the brain considerably.

    When you stop drinking, your brain continues to produce those extra neurotransmitters, but the changes in the GABA receptors and glutamate reverse. The production of glutamate increases while the amount of GABA decreases and the brain begins to reset itself. 

    Withdrawal Symptoms

    This reset can cause unpleasant (and sometimes life-threatening) alcohol withdrawal symptoms like mood swings, sleep disturbances, high blood pressure, visual, tactile, and auditory hallucinations, DTs, an increased heart rate, and depression. 

    These symptoms tend to occur within 24-48 hours of your last drink.

    How To Deal With Depression During Alcohol Withdrawal

    While dealing with alcohol withdrawal and depression can seem insurmountable, there are plenty of things you can do to make it more manageable and easier to overcome.

    Practice Self-Care

    While taking care of yourself, eating well, and sleeping enough hours won’t fix everything, it can make you feel a little bit better about yourself. During episodes of depression, that can mean a lot. 

    Try to take some time to do things you enjoy like reading a book, spending time with friends, or taking a walk. Practicing self-care can relieve stress and make a big difference in how you feel.

    Find A Hobby

    Whether there’s an old hobby you quit because of excessive alcohol consumption or a new hobby you want to try, now is the perfect time to give it a shot. A new hobby ensures you aren’t sitting around thinking about drinking or stewing in your depressive thoughts.

    You can even have a friend try the new hobby with you to make it less likely you’ll quit. If you try something and it’s not for you, try something else.

    Ask for Help

    Depression is a serious mental illness and very difficult to deal with on your own. Don’t be afraid to ask for help either from friends and family, from a healthcare provider, or from a therapist. 

    Therapy can teach you how to cope with the hardest aspects of depression and severe alcohol withdrawal, giving you someone to talk to as issues pop up. A therapist can also help you discover the root causes of your depression and alcohol addiction.

    Help can also come in the form of support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous. The meetings can give you a place to go for support and comradery. There are bound to be others there who have experienced depression after quitting alcohol and know what you’re going through.

    Explore Treatment Options

    If you find that you can’t get a handle on your depression, explore inpatient or outpatient treatment options that help you with the management of alcohol withdrawal.

    The detox or detoxification process may include medical care and medications like benzodiazepines to reduce physical symptoms and other mild symptoms.

    While going through treatment, trained professionals may recommend you go on antidepressants, provide individual and group therapy, and give you coping skills to help you through the worst of the depression and other severe withdrawal symptoms.

    If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse, call our helpline today to learn about our addiction treatment options.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2022 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
    Medically Reviewed by
    Dr. Manish Mishra, MBBS
    on June 24, 2021
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