After a bout of binge drinking, you experience certain symptoms that are collectively called hangovers.

Most hangovers resolve on their own but some can last for up to 24 hours. Its symptoms typically begin after the level of alcohol in the blood has dropped to nil – meaning that after a night of heavy drinking, you will typically experience hangover symptoms in the morning.

If you are suffering from depression, the hangover symptoms are more severe, especially the low feeling and the feeling of guilt. In short, the depression worsens.

Hangover symptoms include:

  • Mood disturbances, such as depression and anxiety
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Physical malaise
  • Excessive thirst
  • Headaches and malaise
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Poor sleep
  • Decreased ability to concentrate
  • Rapid heartbeat

Why does alcohol induce and worsen depression?

Alcohol is a “great” drink and can make you feel better and help relieve your anxiety. Doing this once in a while and within limits is okay, but if you down a few drinks every time you are stressed out can lead to alcoholism.

This has tremendous side effects and can stress you out financially, and at work, and will create rifts between you and your family and friends.

Vis-à-vis depression, alcohol is like a slow poison. It is a vicious cycle. In small doses, alcohol gives you a sense of euphoria, but in higher doses, alcohol is a depressant. Depressed people, therefore, drink alcohol for emotional relief, and again, chronic alcoholism worsens depression.

Usually, depression sets in first before people turn to alcohol. One-third of depressed people have an alcohol problem.

It is seen more in women with depression than in men, and women are more likely than men to go overboard with the problem.

It is a serious problem even among teens and college students and should be addressed promptly by taking medical help.

Alcohol excess can cause depression and worsen an existing condition. Here is why:

1. Serotonin deficiency

Serotonin is a chemical produced by the nerve cells in the brain and regulates your mood. It elevates your mood and makes you feel better. Its low levels can cause feelings of depression and anxiety.

Alcohol causes an increase in the release of serotonin by your neurons, which results in an initially euphoric mood. However, later serotonin levels drop significantly lower than they were originally. Often, this leads to more drinking in a futile attempt to regain the initially heightened mood.

Regular drinking lowers the levels of serotonin and norepinephrine in your brain.

2. Alcohol lowers blood sugar

While moderate amounts of alcohol may increase blood sugar levels, excess alcohol can actually cause your blood sugar level to fall, sometimes to dangerously low levels, especially in people with type 1 diabetes.

Excess alcohol consumption causes insulin secretion to increase, which is responsible for this blood sugar fall.

This can cause giddiness, confusion, weakness, nervousness, and tremors. These symptoms can trigger the onset of anxiety.

3. Alcohol causes dehydration

Excess alcohol consumption decreases the production of anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), which is used by the body to reabsorb water. With low levels of ADH available, your body loses more fluid through increased urination, which leads to dehydration.

This has been known to cause nausea, giddiness, exhaustion, light-headedness, and muscular weakness. These symptoms cultivate a sense of anxiety.

4. Sleep disturbance

Alcohol does allow you to fall asleep more quickly and deeply, but it reduces the rapid eye movement (REM) phase of sleep. REM sleep occurs in cycles of about 90-120 minutes throughout the night. It is that part of sleep when you dream and your body restores and recoups.

Alcohol adversely affects this sleep pattern, which in turn will worsen the depression. Loss of REM sleep causes daytime drowsiness and poor concentration.

5. Other health issues

Alcohol causes other health problems and worsens any existing ones. Excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, digestive problems, and cancer. Chronic health problems are a common cause of depression.

6. The day after

Too much drinking does cause a hangover, which is associated with waking up with a headache, feeling ill, anxious, nervous, and guilty. This all adds to the worsening of your depression symptoms.

7. Alcohol and stress hormones

Chronic alcoholism raises the production and blood levels of the stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, making you more stressed over the long term.

Continuous stress becomes difficult to handle, which then depresses the brain and the nervous system. This can intensify your depression symptoms.

8. Folic acid deficiency

Alcoholism is a major cause of folic acid deficiency in the body. This can lead to faster aging of the brain and an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and depression.

Furthermore, low folic acid levels are linked to an inadequate response to antidepressants, and treatment with folic acid improves that response.

9. Genetic relationship between alcohol and depression

Alcohol activates a particular gene in your body, which can put you into depression. According to a study conducted by The Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism (COGA), there is an increased prevalence of depression among people who regularly consume alcohol in excess.

10. Alcoholic behavior

A chronic alcoholic invariably gets into frequent arguments with family or friends, has trouble at work, a weak memory, and has sexual problems.

Alcoholic behavior typically includes:

  • emotional, physical, and verbal abuse
  • regular fights or physical assaults
  • neglectful behavior

Constant problems like these worsen the existing symptoms and make the person more depressed. If you are suffering from depression, avoid alcohol altogether and seek prompt treatment.