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Alcohol Withdrawal Depression

There isn’t any doubt that people who suffer from an alcohol use disorder feel a lot better after they stop. There are several recovery stories demonstrating how incredible life may feel when someone has placed their addiction to alcohol behind them. That being said, it’s important to note that there’s frequently an extremely difficult phase an alcoholic undergoes before they start to feel better. This occurs directly after cessation, typically within less than one day since their last drink. It’s called Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.

Individuals who’ve only been using alcohol for a brief time, or who’ve only consumed small amounts of alcohol, might not experience the most unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. Some will only suffer a “crash” or a hangover right after intoxication wears off, which they might “sleep off” during the weekend. For the infrequent or limited drinkers that typically only drink for a limited period of time, they may be lucky and have the ability to stop and not undergo the worst of what alcohol withdrawal has to offer.

Those who drink for longer periods of time, or binge drink in increasingly high amounts over a briefer time period, will frequently go through a span of feeling unwell as if you have a horrible bout of the flu. While there are multiple physical symptoms of withdrawal associated with using alcohol, this post concentrates on the emotional aspect of withdrawal. This is a common withdrawal symptom with alcohol as well as drug withdrawal. As a matter of fact, those emotional withdrawal symptoms are also known to happen with behavioral addictions as well, in which no physical substance is taken.


Depression

Depressive symptoms that people suffer during withdrawal are generally explained as ‘worse than day-to-day sadness’, and might share elements with clinical depression, though it typically does not last as long. The ones who’ve just quit drinking occasionally define it as a hopeless, empty state, in which they feel ‘the opposite of the positive feelings they felt while they were drinking’. It may be accompanied by a lack of enthusiasm for life or lack or energy and, particularly if drinking were a central focus, may feel a bit frightening. Kind of like your life ahead is empty without the excitement of getting drunk.

Individuals undergoing alcohol withdrawal oftentimes experience feelings of hopelessness, doom, and low self-worth. They might frequently cry, have a hard time focusing, and have erratic sleeping and eating schedules. It’s recommended that if possible, someone planning to go through withdrawal should prepare to offset the depression by utilizing substance-free ways to feel happier, like spending more time outdoors, getting exercise and taking naps. Supportive, trustworthy individuals, who will not upset or trigger you are great to have around as well. Low-key entertainment like binge-watching your favorite comedy shows—so long as they are not triggering—and good practices of self care may help to ease this difficult time.

It might be great to remind oneself that these feelings actually are a normal part of this process. Keep in mind, withdrawal depression is usually temporary, and lasts for the first couple of days after you quit drinking.

Besides the biological changes that take place inside the brain during withdrawal, part of why that happens is the body swinging back from the euphoria and excitement of your addictive drug or behavior, as it tries to find homeostasis. One other part is the natural feeling of disappointment, a let down, and loss that some always feel when something that once felt right or good goes south and must be left behind. Imagine it as a grieving process; it isn’t that unhealthy, as those feelings of sadness are going to eventually assist you in coming to terms with your choice, and it’ll pass.

If your depressive feelings make you feel like you cannot cope, visit your healthcare provider. Speaking with a therapist also can help, as they’ll know several ways of helping people overcome depressive feelings, and having someone who takes your feelings seriously and understands will ease your emotional turmoil.

If your depressive feelings continue, you might be suffering a substance-induced mood disorder, or might have a pre-existing mood disorder which was concealed by your drug use. Studies in recovery have proven that. Either way, your therapist or doctor may help get you the right treatment.


Related Symptoms to Depression

Anxiety

In addition, anxiety may appear worse during withdrawal than what you might experience on an average day. Often, it shares more similarities with someone suffering from anxiety disorders but it may not last as long. Like depression, some feelings of anxiety during withdrawal should be expected. If you drank or took a drug to relax, your body is going to adjust during withdrawal and you’ll feel more tense. Additionally, folks who’ve been using alcohol or drugs to self-medicate might be scared of what will happen without their typical method of coping.

Mood Swings

It isn’t uncommon for those undergoing withdrawal to have rapid mood fluctuations. One moment, you may feel tired, without any energy, and like life isn’t worth living, and the next moment, you might feel as if you must get out because something tragic is about to happen.

That back-and-forth may be extremely draining, for you and for the ones around you; therefore, it’s vital that you keep in mind that life is worth living, that life is going to get a lot better once you’ve quit and that there’s nothing to fear with placing your addiction behind you.

Fatigue

Fatigue also is a common depressive symptom and after-effect of anxiety. In addition, you’ll feel tired from the many emotions and thoughts which may overwhelm you when you do not have the comfort of drug or alcohol intoxication. With time and rest, those feelings of fatigue are going to pass.

Facing anxiety and depression during withdrawal might be extremely challenging. It’s difficult for almost everyone, both emotionally and physically. But, once you’re on the other side, you will not regret it, you have the remainder of your life ahead that is going to be free of the downside of drugs or alcohol.

Sources

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/clinical-depression/faq-20057770
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/alcohol/art-20044551
  3. https://www.alcoholrehabguide.org/resources/dual-diagnosis/alcohol-and-depression/
  4. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000764.htm
  5. https://greatist.com/grow/how-to-be-happy-long-term#1
  6. https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-self-care-is-and-what-it-isnt-2/
  7. https://www.verywellmind.com/how-can-i-feel-better-during-drug-or-alcohol-withdrawal-4160020#depression
  8. https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/addiction/alcohol-withdrawal-symptoms-treatments#1
  9. https://www.psycom.net/depression-substance-abuse
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2528232/
  11. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-antidepressant-diet/201603/alcohol-withdrawal-mood-swings-might-eating-carbs-help
  12. https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/fatigue

 

Brooks V.
Brooks V.
Brooks has been a freelance journalist for the better part of two decades, as well as spending a decade as a crisis intervention counselor. Through his own work and researching the work of others throughout the many facets of the detox, crisis intervention, and mental health worlds he has been able to tell the stories of those worlds in an effort to help addicts and those with mental illnesses understand and navigate them.