Does Depression Lead to Alcoholism?

September 13, 2023 Martyn Armstrong

Depression and alcohol have always been interconnected throughout my life. I always felt that I avoided dealing with my mental health issues because it would end the illusion that I was a heavy drinker but not an alcoholic. In addition to questioning whether I was an alcoholic, another subject arose -- Is drinking every day causing my depression, or is my depression the driving force behind it all?

What Came First -- Alcoholism or Depression?

In my last blog post, I mentioned the chicken and the egg of alcoholism and mental illness -- Which one came first?

I'm confident that undiagnosed mental conditions significantly drove my escalation from heavy drinking to daily drinking. That said, I would also add that substance abuse, in any form, is like adding fuel to the flames of depression.

It's all well and good me saying that nearly 10 years after my dual diagnosis. But how does this help someone going through a similar situation?

Let's begin with the ultimate question -- Are you an alcoholic?

Question 1: Am I an Alcoholic?

Chances are that if you're reading this blog post, you're asking this very question -- "Am I an alcoholic?"

This is a difficult question to face. For many, the stigma of being labeled an alcoholic still prevents them from seeking help. The fear of change can be overwhelming, and the reality of dealing with the consequences of abusing alcohol becomes apparent.

Admitting you're an alcoholic is life-changing, but the stigma is largely fear-based. While everyone's situation is different, how supportive people are might surprise you, especially those closest to you.

From my experience, I've rarely seen someone who needs to ask that question have a different answer to this question. I can only name a few people who have received addiction treatment and keep drinking or taking drugs.

That's my experience, though -- We might walk similar paths in life, but our feet tread different sections of that road.

Question 2: Does Depression Lead to Alcoholism?

There are many studies into the link between depression and alcoholism, which suggests depression can lead to alcoholism.1

However, this is far too simplistic to the point of verging on an excuse. And I want to be firm here -- Minimizing problem drinking won't help you in the long run.

I constantly needed to discover the reasons for my alcoholism in early recovery. The questions around whether it was solely down to mental health issues versus my contributing towards my mental illness swirled.

In truth, I wanted to have my cake and eat it. I needed conclusive proof that depression was the root cause of my alcoholism. But another part of me didn't want to take responsibility for being an alcoholic. My motivation was flawed from the outset. Unconsciously or not, I was trying to leave the blame for my addiction and past actions solely at the door of depression.

And that makes the question of whether depression leads to alcoholism a moot point because the question itself is loaded. The truth to most things lies in the grey area between two definitive poles.

Yes, depression and other mental health conditions can lead to alcoholism.

No, depression doesn't always or often lead to alcoholism.

The truth sits between the two.

Another 24 Hours of Sobriety Matters the Most

It's tempting to delve into the rabbit hole of whether depression is causing you to abuse alcohol. Unfortunately, you may soon discover it's a bottomless hole and an unanswerable question.

After nine-plus alcohol-free years, the only conclusion I've reached is there is no one conclusive truth or answer.

I know this might be frustrating to read, especially if you're in the early stages of recovery from alcoholism or addiction. But, if you're anything like me, these frustrations will ease over time. You might stop seeking reasons and catalysts for depression and alcoholism and focus on the importance of another 24 hours of sobriety.

For me, that's the only thing that matters. -- Another day without alcohol.

Thanks for reading -- Remember to be kind to yourself, utilize your support system, and reach out to others.


  1. Kuria, M. W., Ndetei, D. M., Obot, I. S., Khasakhala, L., Bagaka, B. M., Mbugua, M., & Kamau, J. W. (2012). The Association between Alcohol Dependence and Depression before and after Treatment for Alcohol Dependence. ISRN Psychiatry (Online), 2012, 1–6.

APA Reference
Armstrong, M. (2023, September 13). Does Depression Lead to Alcoholism?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 25 from

Author: Martyn Armstrong

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