When people are feeling down, it’s common to turn to alcohol for relief. But while drinking can temporarily help alleviate stress and anxiety, it also disrupts a person’s natural brain chemistry. This can cause depression the next day, even for those who don’t have a diagnosis of the condition.
When you drink, your body absorbs a chemical called ethanol. This is produced when grains, fruits, or vegetables are fermented and changes the way your brain processes information. It can affect your emotions, movement, vision, and hearing. Alcohol can also trigger feelings of sadness, anger, and anxiety, which can contribute to depression.
The immediate impact of drinking is usually positive, due to a flood of “feel-good” neurochemicals, such as dopamine, GABA, and endorphins. These are released by the brain and nervous system to elevate mood and promote relaxation. However, when you drink heavily or frequently, these chemicals aren’t balanced, which can lead to depression the next day.
Additionally, lowered inhibitions can lead to risky behaviors, such as getting into a fight or making rash decisions. If you have depression and use alcohol as a coping mechanism, you may benefit from treatment with a therapist who specializes in co-occurring disorders.
If you’re concerned about how much you’re drinking, it can be helpful to start by recording your intake. You can also try to drink slowly, eat before drinking, and alternate each alcoholic beverage with water. Additionally, focusing on productive activities, such as exercising, reading, or watching cute animal videos, can offer a healthy distraction from negative thoughts and feelings.