How Alcohol-Related Liver Damage Can Increase Anxiety and Depression

Liver disease is challenging on its own, but mental health concerns may also develop in someone with alcoholism. People who suffer from liver disease need appropriate treatment, such as changes to diet and personal behavior, but they also need mental health counseling to deal with anxiety and depression.

Liver Disease and Alcohol Consumption

People who abuse alcohol at high rates can develop serious health problems. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is an acute condition that leads to death if not treated. ALD may develop when people reach a certain level of alcohol consumption, four drinks a day for a man and two for a woman. Some form of liver injury occurs for nearly every person who drinks four (two for women) or more alcoholic beverages a day. According to Johns Hopkins,ALD presents itself in at least one of three patterns:

  • Fatty liver—abnormal fat accumulation in the liver’s structural cells
  • Alcoholic hepatitis—liver inflammation due to alcohol’s toxic effects
  • Cirrhosis—destroyed liver cells and fibrotic connective tissue

These effects are dangerous and require instant treatment.

Cirrhosis and Liver Disease Symptoms

According to Johns Hopkins alcohol is linked to 100,000 deaths annually, and 20 percent of the deaths are due to cirrhosis. ALD symptoms include the following problems:

  • Nausea
  • Dry retching
  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Right upper quadrant pain
  • Prominent vascular spider veins
  • Liver enlargement and tenderness

If you have these problems, seek help immediately.

How Alcoholic Liver Disease Affects Depression and Anxiety

Depression and anxiety commonly co-occur with alcohol abuse. The physical symptoms of ALD can aggravate mental health concerns, particularly when people have a liver transplant. In a 1983 study, 66 percent of people with ALD reported a current or past psychiatric illness, compared to 23 percent of the group without ALD. Published in the November 1983 issue of British Medical Journal, the research showed psychiatric illnesses such as depression and anxiety were more common for those with ALD.

Treating Depression and Anxiety Along with Liver Disease

Researchers continue to study the connection between liver disease and mental illnesses such as depression. Due to the connection between ALD and co-occurring mental conditions, medical professionals should routinely screen for these conditions. Treatment for ALD includes complete sobriety from alcohol as well as dietary changes like a diet high in protein and calories.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse, Depression and Anxiety

The physical symptoms of alcoholic liver disease can worsen depression and anxiety. If you or a loved one need support to stop drinking, especially as treatment for ALD, reach out to our counselors today. They’re available 24 hours a day at a toll-free helpline. Our treatment programs address the physical and mental reasons behind addiction. Do not wait, call us today for advice.

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