Depression and Alcoholism
Depression is a complex medical disorder and has been recognized since the days of Hippocrates. The disorder has been portrayed in movies, literature and the arts for many centuries. No one culture or ethnic group is immune from the ravages of depression. In the 1950s and 60s, depression was categorized into two types, endogenous and neurotic (reactive). Endogenous depression is caused by something inside the body, perhaps genetic or maybe just plain bad luck. Neurotic or reactive depression has a definitive external precipitating factor, such as the death of a spouse, friend, child or loss of a job. In the 1970s and 80s, the global impact of depression was fully realized and the focus of attention shifted from the cause of depression to its effects on the afflicted individuals and their treatment.
Today, most health care experts agree that irrespective of the classification, depressive disorder is a syndrome (group of symptoms) that reflects a sad mood over and above normal sorrow or grief. More specifically, the sadness of depression is characterized by a larger intensity and duration and by more intense symptoms and functional disabilities than is seen in normal.
Women are three times as prone to developing depression compared to men. As to why this is so is not known but many theories are postulated. Some believe that this is due to sex hormones; others claim that it is psychological or social but the bottom line is that men and women are biochemical different. Recent statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that close to 19 million Americans over the age of 18 suffer from major depression.
There is a lot of evidence that depression in some individuals with alcoholism may be related to excessive alcohol consumption, intoxication and/or withdrawal effects that mimic some depressive disorders. Although the link between depression and alcoholism is well established, the reason for this association is not understood. Some believe that perhaps both alcohol and depression may have similar etiology- possibly resulting from heavy alcohol drinking, or there may be an indirect connection which may be related to excess alcohol intake that may predispose on to depression. It is hoped that if an association between major depression and alcoholism can be established, this may provide health care professionals a better understanding of the two diagnosis and hopefully a improved treatment.
One of the largest study conducted in the USA revealed that there is a significant association between previous alcohol dependence and current or recent major depressive disorder. These researchers suggest that treatment of depression should not be withheld in recovering alcoholics because of the concern that the symptoms may represent prolonged intoxication or withdrawal effects. Treatment of recovering alcoholics may reduce the risk of relapse.
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