Physiologically, alcohol is horrible for an anxious or depressed brain.
The greatest trick the Dionysus ever played was, that the effects of alcohol, in the short term, really do well to make anxiety and depression to go away. The trade off of course is, that if your depression and anxiety is a chronic problem and your coping mechanism is alcohol, you are probably making your condition much much worse.
In university, I self medicated my anxiety and depression with alcohol. I am not an alcoholic, but I can recognize in hindsight that I abused alcohol to take away those symptoms. However, I had a lot of fun, made some amazing friends, and have bleary half memories of some fantastic evenings. During our early 20’s we are all trying our brain on for size, we are testing it against stress, we are preoccupied with chasing tail, and we drink too much. It’s kind of one of those things; growing up, we test our ability to run as fast as we can, we are tested on our IQs, we essentially spend our youths having tests and measures thrown at us. When we are freed from our parents and adolescence, we then have to test our livers, sexual organs and any number of other things our teachers and parents told us not to do.*
What I didn’t know was that over a longer period of time alcohol does a few things to the brain that actually makes depression and anxiety worse.
First, alcohol actually interrupts alpha-wave sleep, which is paramount to getting a proper rest. I think all of us remember when we didn’t really need sleep. Paper needs to be written by tomorrow at noon, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. The girl I am talking to may want to sleep with me, let keep the conversation going, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Road trip to Montreal for the weekend, J’ira dormir quand je suis mort. That is all well and good, but when you hit about 26, that attitude becomes, “fuck that, I’m going to bed.” When you have problems with sleep, anxiety and depression become increasingly difficult to manage.
The second thing alcohol does when used chronically is inhibit the seretonin production in the brain. For us who may be already naturally low on seretonin, this can spell huge problem. Sadly, human beings always will prefer the easy solution. It’s easy to get into a circle of life’s stresses causing anxiety being counteracted by alcohol and in turn depression and more anxiety which is made worse by the alcohol.
Third is that alcohol and the medication used to treat anxiety and depression is a bad mix. I am not going to get into the details of this since I think it’s been pretty well displayed by this…. http://pub.tv2.no/multimedia/TV2/archive/00169/anna_nicole_smith_169616g.jpg
What I am not saying in this post is drinking is evil. I still enjoy drinks once in a while, I mean I just wrote a 800 word piece on the wine industry. What I make a effort to do is to recognize that there is a relationship between alcohol, anxiety and depression. And that it can be a slippery slope when it comes to self medicating and pharmaceutical interactions.
*To feminists this is written from a guy’s point of view. If you take umbrage with this paragraph read it again and remember when you were 22 and you went down on that…nevermind.