Alcohol has been used to enjoy social gatherings for as long as it has been created. However, the effects of alcohol have made it be used to cope with strong emotions, typically related to various mental disorders. This is unfortunate because long-term alcohol use can actually make symptoms of depression and anxiety worse. Instead of the fun that alcohol was being used for, it can turn into a dark spiral that gets out of control faster than you think. That one glass of wine or one beer you have to calm down and relax when feeling stress can become a vice that brings you more harm than good. The consequences of long-term alcohol abuse can make your anxiety worse. Understanding the connections between alcohol and anxiety and looking at how alcohol can make anxiety worse can serve as a motivator to get help and learn healthy coping strategies.
Calming the Nerves
While long-term alcohol abuse can lead to worsened anxiety, it can actually relax you in the early stages. This is because alcohol is a depressant as well as a sedative, meaning that it relaxes your nervous system. The effects of alcohol on your central nervous system have actually been compared to those of anti-anxiety medications, according to Healthline. This is because alcohol can calm you down, reduce fear, boost your mood, make you feel relaxed, and help you be less shy.
The reason that alcohol makes you feel relaxed is because of your blood alcohol content (BAC).
As your BAC rises, you will feel lighter and more energized. However, falls in BAC are associated with feelings of depression. This means that as the effects of alcohol wear off, you may even feel more anxious or depressed than you did before you started drinking.
While using alcohol to calm your nerves may work for a while, you may begin to realize that you need more to feel the same effects. This means that you are building a tolerance to alcohol and its effects, which causes your body to need more of the product to feel those same relaxing effects. This can cause your stress and anxiety to become more difficult to manage as you fall into the rabbit hole of alcoholism.
Can Anxiety Be Caused by Alcohol?
There is no direct link between alcohol and anxiety, but there have been studies that show how long-term use can lead to difficulties coping with trauma, depression, and other brain-altering conditions. The more you drink, the worse off you are in terms of coping with anxiety, which can lead to further anxiety. You are also at risk of developing various mental disorders and health problems from long-term alcohol abuse, putting you at greater risk for anxiety.
Alcohol can also be linked to anxiety due to its withdrawal symptoms. Detoxing from alcohol can be dangerous and often requires supervision because of the symptoms it causes. Higher anxiety levels are often caused by the effects of alcohol withdrawal. This anxiety can be made worse by the other symptoms of withdrawal as well, including hallucinations, increased heart rate, nausea, and more.
The Specifics of Worsened Anxiety and Alcohol
Anxiety can be worsened by alcohol because of the changes it causes in your body. The various levels of serotonin and other chemicals can cause surges of anxiety to occur in your brain. This is what causes you to feel anxious when your BAC level drops, as discussed above. This anxiety you feel after the effects of alcohol wear off can last anywhere between hours after drinking to the next day.
As you feel more anxious, you may begin to drink more. This can lead to alcohol abuse. The more anxious you feel, the more you drink. The more you drink, the more tolerant you become, causing you to drink more. The cycle is vicious and can lead to a dependence on alcohol, which can be detrimental to your physical, mental, and emotional health.
Drinking too much can lead to unpleasant consequences such as hangovers, which can only exacerbate your anxiety. Hangover symptoms can include dehydration, headaches, nausea, low blood sugar, and dizziness. Your anxiety can get worse the stronger these symptoms are, so it is best to try to avoid them altogether by not overdrinking.
Healthy Anxiety Treatments
Alcohol should not be used as a treatment for anxiety. The risks involved outweigh the pros of feeling less anxious for a short time. The best thing to do if you are suffering from extreme anxiety is to see a mental health professional and get diagnosed so you can begin receiving treatment. Treatments for anxiety include medication, cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), speaking with a therapist, partaking in support groups, and more. The type of anxiety you have will determine which form of treatment is best for you, which is why speaking to a professional is recommended.
Coping with extreme anxiety can be difficult. In this day and age, more and more people seem to be turning to alcohol to solve their problems and cope with the symptoms of their anxiety. While this may work for a little while, alcohol abuse can lead to further symptoms of anxiety as well as other unpleasant mental and physical symptoms. These can lead to your anxiety worsening, causing you to need more alcohol to cope. The cycle between anxiety and alcoholism is vicious and difficult to get out of. However, you can receive treatment for your anxiety and alcoholism to give you the best chance at recovery. You should make sure you are engaging in proper treatments, though. At Northstar Transitions, we strive to heal our clients totally and completely. If you are suffering from anxiety and alcohol abuse, call us today at (303) 558-6400. We can get you back to a happy and healthy life.