Alcohol and AnxietyPublished on July 24th, 2015
Many people wonder why they often will face anxiety after drinking alcohol. They don’t quite understand how closely related the two can be. Some may try to sooth their anxiety with alcohol, drinking more and more to find comfort. Others may drink for other reasons only to be overwhelmed by anxiety when stopping the use of alcohol. Either way, alcohol and anxiety are issues that many people face daily.
To Truly Understand Anxiety
It is not uncommon for people to turn to alcohol as a way to self medicate, soothing their anxiety and finding relief from a stressful day or to relax in a nervous situation. Picking up a beer, glass of wine or a mixed drink may help to calm your nerves. However, alcohol is not a medication. In fact drinking alcohol, especially over a long period of time and heavily can cause your anxiety to worsen.
There are also many dangers associated with self medicating with alcohol, with serious consequences for those people who are being medically treated for anxiety. While at the moment that drink may help to calm your nerves, seeming like a good idea, but you could be doing more harm than good in the long run.
Unwinding With Alcohol
Alcohol works as both a sedative and a depressant, directly affecting the nervous system. This is why there is some truth behind the belief that alcohol reduces stress and anxiety.
With your first drink you may feel a release from the fears you face, the troubles on your mind. You may feel more outgoing if you are a naturally shy person. You may feel a boost in your mood, making you feel relaxed and happy. All these feelings are quite similar to those produced by prescription anxiety medications.
Drinking alcohol on occasion to unwind isn’t necessarily a problem, especially if you Doctor clears you medically and there are not drug interactions that could put you in harms way. The problem many people face with using alcohol as a way to unwind is once they start drinking they develop a tolerance to the anti-anxiety effects of alcohol. This can make it more difficult to deal with anxiety and stress without alcohol, potentially leading to a dependency as you search for a way to cope.
Anxiety After Drinking
When suffering from an anxiety condition, alcohol use can be a bit concerning. This is because alcohol alters the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, potentially worsening your anxiety. Some people report feeling more anxious when intoxicated by alcohol, only finding mild relief when the effects of alcohol ware off. This is known to be alcohol-induced anxiety, which can last for hours, even for an entire day after drinking.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), about 7 percent of Americans suffer from social anxiety. A person suffering from this form of anxiety may find social settings unbearable. Many choose to use alcohol as a way to cope with social anxiety, potentially worsening their anxiety, causing a dependence to alcohol when in social settings, putting themselves in danger of numerous health risks. It is estimated by the ADAA that 20 percent of patients with social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol dependence.
Signs of Alcohol Dependency
Other than the need for alcohol to socialize, other signs of Alcohol Dependency include:
- Drinking heavily four or more days per week
- Requiring a drink at every get-together
- Inability to stop drinking despite knowledge of its harmful effects
- Drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in one day
- Needing a drink to get going in the morning
- Planning out ones next drink, constantly talking about drinking
Heavy consumption of alcohol can often lead to hangovers, another leading cause for anxiety. Symptoms of hangovers can make you feel more anxious than you did before drinking, they may include but are not limited to:
- low blood glucose (sugar)
Does Alcohol Cause Anxiety?
Alcohol abuse can lead to numerous health conditions, most commonly mental health disorders. It is believed that heavy drinking can often lead to anxiety, or worsening of anxiety in those who already suffer from this condition.
Recent research from the University of North Carolina School of Medicine states that many alcoholics find it difficult to recover from traumatic events. This is assumed to be due to regular alcohol abuse causing changes in the brain. The findings from this research makes it a great concern that those who heavily drink alcohol may be predisposed to developing an anxiety disorder.
There is currently no evidence that moderate use of alcohol and anxiety are directly related.
You Shouldn’t Treat Anxiety With Alcohol
Regardless to which can first, the anxiety disorder or heavy drinking, you should never self medicate to cope with any mental health disorder. Even moderate drinking differs with genders and age groups, commonly being refereed to as two drinks a day for adult men, and one for women. Research shows that older adults metabolize alcohol faster, limiting this age group to one alcoholic drink per day. Before moderately drinking alcohol, contact your doctor to determine if this is a safe option for you and to ensure there will be no drug interactions with any medications you may be taking.
The Risks Often Outweigh the Reward
While you may find momentary relief for anxiety, alcohol can lead to numerous health conditions, some of which can be fatal:
- liver disease
- cardiovascular damage
Everyone is Affected Differently
Everyone is affected differently by alcohol. Some may feel an uplift in mood after an unpleasant day. Others may feel immediate sedative effects, leaving them completely relaxed.
If you have a low tolerance for drinking, anxious or aggressive tendencies or a mental health disorder you should not drink alcohol.
Alcohol will never be a true source of anxiety treatment. If you feel overwhelmed by anxiety, in search of a form of treatment, contact your Doctor immediately. Never turn to a bottle of alcohol for relief, seek help from a mental health professional and get to the root cause of the problem without covering it up in such a dangerous way.
If you are concerned you may have a problem with alcohol and anxiety, contact your Doctor immediately.
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