The Relationship Between Anxiety and Alcohol

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Alcohol

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Alcohol

Many people use alcohol to handle their anxiety, but little do they know it could be making it worse. This is the relationship between anxiety and alcohol.

Keyword(s): anxiety and alcohol

How do you unwind after a long, stressful day at work? 

Maybe you go to a bar with your friends or sit in front of the TV and crack open a beer. You might even pour yourself a shot of whiskey and nurse it over an evening. 

All of these activities have one thing in common. Drinking alcohol to relax or unwind has become a popular way of dealing with feelings of stress and anxiety. 

However, if you're prone to anxiety or suffer from an anxiety disorder, drinking alcohol can actually make your anxiety much worse. Find out why as we explore the complicated relationship between anxiety and alcohol below. 

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety has become a term used casually to refer to worry or stress. For some, anxiety might be a fleeting experience, but for others, anxiety is a long-term crippling neurological disorder

Anxiety can take many forms. These range from social anxiety to specific phobias or panic disorders. Anxiety disorders are characterized as such when they impact one's ability to perform daily tasks and live a fulfilling life.

The symptoms of these disorders vary, but they can be both mental and physical. Mental symptoms can include excessive worrying without a specific cause or an intense phobia of something specific. The physical symptoms can be highly unpleasant, ranging from sweating and chest pain to trembling and a racing heart. 

Anxiety and Alcohol Abuse: The Basics 

Dealing with anxiety can be highly unpleasant. So if you're supposed to relax, surely one or two drinks should help? This is a dangerous misconception. Alcohol can both worsen existing anxiety and bring about anxiety disorders over time. And using alcohol to overcome feelings of anxiety can lead to alcoholism. 

Alcohol is an addictive drug, and using it to lessen feelings of anxiety will only help in the short term. If you suffer from social anxiety and rely on alcohol to destress in social situations, there's a good chance you'll develop a dependency. This is because your tolerance will increase, requiring you to drink more and more to maintain that feeling of ease that comes with being tipsy or drunk. 

If you're one to calm your nerves with a drink, keep in mind that alcohol only provides temporary relief from symptoms of anxiety. Symptoms of anxiety will often be worse after a period of heavy drinking. Alcohol and anxiety attacks are also strongly linked. 

Anxiety and Alcohol: The Science 

The effects of alcohol on anxiety can be better understood by understanding the chemicals in our brain. Alcohol might temporarily relieve feelings of anxiety, but ultimately the negative effects come down to the science. Anxiety is a disorder affecting the neurotransmitters in your brain, including serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine.

Alcohol acts on these same neurotransmitters, increasing their levels. When the brain attempts to stabilize these levels after a period of heavy drinking, the balance is thrown off further. 

Dealing with Anxiety and Alcohol

It's important to note that a successful treatment plan should also tackle the underlying cause of the anxiety that is causing you to drink and not just the drinking itself. 

Joining a support group for addiction, replacing drinking with another habit, and attending regular therapy can help overcome both alcoholism and the anxiety that is causing it.

Get Help Today!

Anxiety and alcohol are a dangerous combination. Excessive anxiety can lead to excessive drinking in an attempt to cope with negative feelings. This, in turn, can worsen feelings of anxiety in the long term. 

If you're caught in the anxiety, alcoholism spiral, getting sober is the first step to overcoming your difficulties and stopping the loop in its tracks. For support in taking this important step, get in touch today!