How to Cope With Depression After Quitting Drinking Alcohol

Heavy drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcohol addiction can harm your health and well-being. Quitting drinking can let your body heal from the damage alcohol causes and let you live a healthier, more fulfilling lifestyle.

But some people find that they develop depression after quitting drinking. This can be a shock, especially for people who used to feel excited about a new, sober lifestyle. So, why is depression after quitting drinking so common? And how can you cope with it?

This guide will help you understand depression in recovery and give you tips to manage it. If you need substance abuse treatment or support at any stage of addiction recovery, contact the team of specialists at Arist Treatment Center to learn about your options.

What is Depression?

Depression is more than just feeling sad. Depression is a mental health condition that can impact every part of a person’s life. The symptoms of depression can vary from person to person and may change in intensity throughout the period of depression.

Some of the symptoms of depression include:

  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Persistent sadness
  • A feeling of emptiness
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Changes in appetite and weight
  • Sleep disruptions and insomnia, or sleeping too much
  • Feelings of guilt and shame
  • Difficulty with memory and concentration
  • Preoccupation with death
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Fatigue
  • Slowed thinking and movements

Having several of these symptoms may signify that a person requires treatment for depression.

What Can Cause Depression After Quitting Drinking?

Depression is common in recovery–but why? Depression is a complex condition, and it may be impossible to identify its cause. However, here are some possible reasons for developing depression after quitting drinking.

Pre-existing depression

Some people use alcohol to cope with depression. This is called self-medication, and it is a common root cause of alcohol abuse and addiction. When people stop drinking, they are forced to feel their depression without the dulling effects of alcohol. This can be overwhelming, but getting depression treatment can help people feel better and cope more effectively.

Relationship problems

Alcohol abuse and addiction can cause rifts between people and their loved ones. In recovery, people begin to repair their relationships–and this can be very challenging. As people start to think more clearly without the clouding effects of alcohol, they may realize how much they’ve hurt their loved ones and how much work there is to do to salvage these essential relationships. This can be overwhelming and lead to depression.

Life challenges

Everyday tasks can fall by the wayside when someone abuses alcohol, and the effects can pile up. When people get sober, they may realize they must address serious legal, financial, or social problems. They may feel unprepared to handle everyday tasks like cooking, cleaning, and paying bills. Life and its problems–big and small–come into focus in recovery and can lead to feeling overwhelmed and depressed.


Many people find they need to cut ties with many people they spent time with while drinking. But this can leave people feeling lonely in recovery. Without forming new, healthy relationships, people may be prone to depression after quitting drinking.


Drinking can take up a lot of time and energy. People with alcohol abuse or addiction may find that drinking becomes the center of their life and the focus of most of their time. In recovery, people may suddenly have a lot more time on their hands–and this doesn’t always feel like a gift. Some may feel bored and unstructured or lack a purpose in life, which can lead to depression.

Brain chemistry

Heavy drinking can alter how your brain produces Dopamine, a neurotransmitter involved in pleasure and reward. Depression can occur as a person’s brain is rebalanced and begins to function normally.

The Risks of Depression After Quitting Drinking

Depression is a severe condition that can become life-threatening without treatment. It’s important to know the risks of depression after quitting drinking and get the treatment you need to recover from it.

Depression in recovery can lead to relapse–drinking alcohol after a period of abstinence. A relapse can feel like a significant setback in your recovery and may make you feel discouraged about your chance of lifetime sobriety. A relapse in recovery is also more likely to result in an overdose, which can cause serious harm to your health.

Suicide is one of the most significant risks of depression. Those with depression and alcoholism are more likely to develop suicidal thoughts and behaviors than others, and about one in three people who completed suicide had alcohol in their system. People may feel intense despair and depression after quitting drinking, which can lead to suicidal thoughts and actions if left untreated.

How to Cope With Depression in Recovery

Treatment for depression and alcoholism works. The sooner you recognize depression after quitting drinking, the sooner you can get help.

Depression treatment includes several evidence-based and holistic therapies.


Antidepressant medications can reduce the frequency and intensity of your depression symptoms.


In therapy, you’ll work with a licensed practitioner to identify the root causes of your depression, process emotions, and set goals in recovery.

Support groups

Having the support of peers can help you gain new insights and perspectives about your depression. You may develop new, healthy relationships and feel less lonely.

Coping skills

You must learn new, healthy ways to manage your depression. This can include things like eating nutritiously, moving your body, improving communication skills, and finding a new purpose in your life.

Holistic therapies

Yoga, mindfulness, massage, and other holistic practices can help reduce your depression and help you feel better. These practices can help you reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and increase energy.

If you have depression after quitting drinking, seek treatment as soon as possible.

Find Help Now

Don’t wait to treat depression after quitting drinking. The sooner you get the treatment you need, the better the outcome. Reach out to the Arise Treatment Center specialists to explore your treatment options and find support at any stage of recovery. You are not alone. Call today to get started.


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