Alcohol, mental health and co-occurring disorders

It’s not unusual to have alcohol dependence and co-occuring mental health problems. For example, you could have depression, general anxiety or social anxiety disorder, to name but a few, and an alcohol dependence or substance misuse disorder.  This is what is understood as co-occurring disorders.


Some people with an untreated mental health disorder start using alcohol as a way to self-medicate. Others develop the symptoms of a mental health disorder only after alcohol misuse. This suggests that excessive alcohol use can trigger or make the symptoms of a mental health disorder worse1,2.


Co-occurring disorders

The relationship between alcohol use and mental health problems is rather complex. Co-occurring disorders affect and interact with each other. When a mental health problem is left untreated, the drinking problem usually gets worse as well. And it also goes the other way around; when an alcohol problem increases, it can make mental health problems worse3.

Help is available

If you experience a drinking problem and/or a mental health problem, it is important to talk to a healthcare professional. There are treatments, support options and self-help strategies that can help you overcome co-occurring disorders.  Contact us by using our Request a Call Back Form or emailing us at

Cutting back improved my sleep and wallet!

Dry January

Thousands of people are into their second week off booze for the month of January.  This is the annual ritual of skipping all alcohol for 30 days to improve your health.  But what happens if you manage to nail Dry January, then decide to keep going – for another two years?

Less stress, improved sleep

A New York designer did just that, and the results were genuinely surprising.  One of the big things that disappeared from his life? Gossip. There were also some other clear, big wins for both his body and his wallet: he says he saved $1,000 a month, his sleep quality improved, and he felt less stressed.  Living in New York, Tobias says it’s normal to have 1-2 drinks every day and found that by cutting out the occasional cocktail, he managed to accrue $1000 more in his bank account.

More cash

“Assume that I have 2–3 cocktails every other day (which are $10 each without tip), including some wine bottles every month for at home, I can easily spend $1000,” he added.  While his cash-flow increased, so did his sleep quality as Tobias afforded skipping that post-work beer for an improved night’s kip.  Irish Independent, 5 January, 2017.  

Nutrition plays a key role in mental health

It has long been known that optimal health depends upon…adequate nutrition. For more than a decade, research into nutrition has been playing a key role in mental health.  Essential vitamins and minerals are vital inputs for many processes in every cell in our bodies, so when one nutrient is deficient, it can cause problems in multiple body systems and lead to disease.

For example, if iron is low in your body, it will affect a whole range of metabolic processes. This can cause problems because two important neurotransmitters, serotonin and melatonin, can no longer be produced. Serotonin helps to keep our mood even and melatonin helps us to sleep restfully. This explains, in part, why iron deficiency leads to symptoms like feeling weak and tired, feeling grumpy, having headaches, and having a hard time concentrating or thinking. So you can see how a single nutrient deficiency can have a large effect on many systems of the body.

Some of the vital nutrients for the brain include proteins for healthy neurotransmitters and complex carbohydrates for brain power.  Vitamin B is good for eliminating stress and for boosting brain function, intelligence, memory and mood.  Vitamin C and magnesium are good for improving sleep, concentration, focus and mood.  The list is endless but suffice to say that nutrition researchers give compelling evidence for the critical role of nutrition in mental health and why this knowledge will revolutionize the way our society treats mental health.

Exercising outdoors is better for you!

Yes, it’s true – recent scientific research confirms our own experience, that there are more benefits to physical and mental wellbeing from exercising in a natural environment!  Included in the scientific review were studies that made a comparison with the benefits of outdoor exercise initiatives with those performed indoors.  Most of the studies reviewed confirmed that exercising in the natural environment improved mental wellbeing and was linked to increased energy, greater feelings of revitalisation and positive engagement, along with decreases in confusion, tension, depression and anger. Individuals also reported greater satisfaction and enjoyment with outdoor exercise and reported they were more likely to exercise again in the future.

This analysis has revealed some encouraging effects on self reported mental wellbeing right after exercise in a natural environment, in contrast to those reported right after indoor exercise indoor. This review supports the positive effects of programmes that include innovative interventions by practitioners who incorporate outdoor exercising as part of holistic treatments for those experiencing depression and similar mental conditions.  As the population continues to migrate towards urban environments, increasing efforts are necessary to reconnect individuals with nature by means of programmes such as ours to counteract the negative results of modern living.