Generalized Anxiety Disorder And Panic Disorder
Studies have shown a different trend of alcohol use in people who are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder or panic disorder. For many people with these mental health conditions, unhealthy drinking behaviors begin around the same time as symptoms of the disorder.
Researchers are not sure what the connection means. It’s possible that the initial symptoms of anxiety and panic are related to alcohol withdrawal. It could also be that alcohol use provides a mechanism for these disorders to develop.
People with generalized anxiety or panic disorder are more likely to develop unhealthy drinking behaviors around the same time that they start having symptoms of their anxiety-related mental health condition.
Is It Common To Feel Anxiety After Drinking
Not everyone experiences the dreadful feeling of anxiety after having a few drinks. Whether or not youll be anxious after drinking depends on a lot of factors, like how many drinks you have, how much food and water you consumed throughout the day, and if you have an anxiety disorder.
The higher a persons blood alcohol level, the more likely they will experience some withdrawal symptoms and hence feel anxious, says David Yusko, a psychologist and co-founder of the Center for Anxiety and Behavior Therapy. Hangovers are withdrawal symptoms from alcohol.
Do All Types Of Alcohol Cause Anxiety
There are no specific studies that suggest that one type of alcohol can affect anxiety levels more than other types of alcohol. While some people may believe that wine and beer may cause less anxiety than hard liquor due to its alcohol content, this is not true. Its not necessarily the type of alcohol you drink that can affect your levels of anxiety, but rather anxiety is related to the amount and frequency of alcohol use.
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It Messes With Your Brain
Booze can make you feel liberated and joyful, but too much can have the opposite affect on your mood and disposition. Alcohol interferes with the chemicals, or neurotransmitters, in the brain, says Ashley Loeb Blassingame, a certified alcohol and drug counselor and the co-founder of Lionrock, an online substance abuse recovery program.
More pointedly, alcohol can affect our serotonin levels, which are responsible for feelings of happiness and pleasure. “As the alcohol wears off, anxiety increases because the body is responding to it being sedated and, as a result, tries to find equilibrium,” Blassingame says. “The hyperactivity, created by a chemical reaction to being sedated, leads to increased feelings of anxiety and uneasiness.”
‘blacking Out’ Can Be Stressful
Furthermore, if you drink heavily, you could experience what some people call a ‘blackout’ where they don’t recall the events of the evening prior. It’s reasonable that you would feel out-of-sorts the next day and worry about having a period of time where you can’t remember anything, says Hanna Stensby, LMFT, a licensed marriage and family therapist.
“It makes sense that you would feel a sense of panic as you try to piece together what your actions were,” Stensby says. “Not knowing what occurred or with who can leave you feeling anxious for a good reason.”
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Curing Anxiety With Alcohol
Here is a paradox to consider: I consume alcohol to cope with my anxiety, but discovered later that quitting alcohol cured my anxiety. These thoughts are penned and shared across the internet, forums, and even social media.
Anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder often occur together. Using alcohol to take the edge off is a common approach for those experiencing situational anxiety. In the realm of science, its known as the tension reduction hypothesis. Basically, the theory suggests that alcohol can be used to self-medicate and defend the brain against anxiety symptoms.
Initially, drinking alcohol may help someone to relax. It can definitely make social situations more comfortable to deal with, and problems seem less daunting.
The initial effects of alcohol include:
- Improved mood
- Fewer inhibitions
- Boost in self-confidence
However, positive feelings are usually short-lived and carry risks. These risks may become yet another source of anxiety-riddled fears. For one, alcohol can seriously undermine a persons logic and reasoning, leading many to engage in precarious and even dangerous situations. It opens up to the possibility of things going awry, sparking the onset of fight or flight responses, which is the signature of anxiety played on a loop.
You might drink to relax, but it actually has the opposite effect. Anxiety-related emotions and fears are heightened with continued alcohol consumption. Alternatively, alcohol use disorder can trigger an anxiety disorder.
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She said: We don’t panic when we have positive emotions, we wouldnt ring our friends and tell them we are excited.
But we do get panicked about feeling low mood or depression. But really, it’s just another emotion we experience as humans.
The idea of mindfulness is not to make it more than it is, and to realise it can’t hurt you and youll move on – but thats easier said than done.
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Is Your Drinking Costing You More Than Money
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Addressing Anxiety While Managing Your Drinking
Lets take a closer look at these neurotransmitters. Dopamine acts on the pleasure centers of the brain. Its released in the brain after consuming alcohol, which causes a euphoric feeling immediately after drinking. Over time and with continued use, the brain begins to associate drinking alcohol with pleasure. If this association is strong enough, dopamine may be released when even just thinking of alcohol. Then, after drinking, even more dopamine is released. If youve wondered, why do I crave alcohol? this dopamine interaction is a key driver of cravings.
In addition to dopamine, serotonin also affects our mood. More specifically, decreased levels of serotonin can lead to depression. This is why people with depression often take serotonin reuptake inhibitors such as Zoloft and Prozac to increase their levels of circulating serotonin. SSRIs can improve mood and resolve depressive symptoms. Because serotonin is a mood stabilizing neurotransmitter, decreased levels can lead to anxiety. While excessive alcohol use can lead to a surge in serotonin, a sharp decline follows. This decline when sobering up contributes to hangxiety. Regardless of how often you drink, whether thats binge drinking, daily drinking, or other types of drinking habits, youre susceptible to this common serotonin interaction.
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What Do People Get Hangovers
What causes hangxiety? And is there a way to prevent such feelings after a night of drinking? Let us investigate first why alcohol gives people a hangover. More often than not, a crazy night out with friends ends in a crazy miserable morning. Even when people enjoy their evening, they can still hate their hangover. The morning after, people may claim that they will never drink again or ask themselves why they would consume something that would make them feel so sick.
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, there are several factors that contribute to hangovers. When alcohol is consumed, the human body, mostly the liver, metabolizes alcohol. In the midst of this alcohol metabolization, the body releases the chemical acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is toxic and causes inflammation throughout the body, especially in the gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, liver, and of course, the brain. Inflammation is the cause of all sorts of illnesses, and it is likely the culprit of a hangover too.
Avoiding Hangover Anxiety Is About More Than Just Drinking Less
The obvious answer to avoiding hangovers in the first place is to drink less, which is easier said than done for some people. Whats super important is awareness of your personal tolerancenot only regarding how much is your limit, but what kinds of alcohol tend to send you over the edge or leave you feeling worse emotionally.
This may mean, for some people, you avoid mixing drinks and stick to one thing all night, or you avoid hard liquor, Hafeez suggests. You also want to tune into how you’re pacing yourself when you drink, and consume water with your alcoholic beverages to stay in control.
Along with self-regulation, try to practice mindfulness as you drink. Have a convo with yourself in which you predict how you will feel the next day, both physically and emotionally, and go from there. Chances are you dont want to feel wired, grouchy, or sad the next day, and if you remind yourself of this as you’re imbibing, you may be more likely to go slow and not overdo it.
Doing a dry January or other abstinence period may also be a helpful experiment if you find that you feel better mentally, or less groggy, anxious, or that you sleep better without drinking, it may be worth reducing your alcohol intake.
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Social Anxiety Disorder And Agoraphobia
For example, a person with social anxiety might be afraid of going to a party where there will be many people they do not know. Even simply thinking about attending the gathering might cause them a great deal of anticipatory anxiety.
When these symptoms become overwhelming, the person might have an alcoholic drink to try to calm down. They might also consume alcohol at the gathering to feel more relaxed or less inhibited around others.
While alcohol might feel like a solution in the short term, this drinking behavior comes with many problems. When people use alcohol to relieve symptoms of a mental health condition, it can quickly become a “crutch.”
If they continue to use alcohol to help them feel more relaxed or at ease, they might eventually feel the need to avoid any social situations where they would be unable to drink.
Long-term alcohol use also often leads to tolerance, which is when a person needs to drink more to get the effect they want.
For example, a person might have started out feeling more relaxed after having just one glass of wine. As time goes on, however, they might find they need two, three, or more glasses of alcohol to get the same feeling.
Alcohol Affects Dopamine & Serotonin
When people initially consume alcohol, certain neurotransmitters increase in the brain, including serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters are known as happiness chemicals, so their initial increase can lead to the desirable short-term effects associated with alcohol. However, with excessive alcohol use over time, normal serotonin and dopamine levels decrease. This decrease in circulating serotonin and dopamine can also lead to feelings of anxiety.
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Clear Your Schedule If You Can
Do whatever you can to relieve yourself of high stakes activities for the day, suggested Fong. If you have something that isnt critical but takes up energy and calories, try to push that to later. But if you have something you absolutely have to go to, its better to do that sooner rather than later, he said. So many people plow through the day as a punishment for drinking, and thats the mindset that makes people more anxious. If you arent well, you arent going to do your job well, and worse, youre going to make yourself more anxious about meeting your obligations.
Alcohol Was A Quick Fix To My Stressnot A Solution
When I was drinking I thought about drinking a lot: When can I have drink? What should I drink? How much is too much? What did I drink last night? What did I say last night? Why do I feel so bad this morning?
I was experiencing a huge amount of internal conflict about drinking. I wanted to be drinking less, yet whenever I turned down a drink I felt deprived. Id come to believe alcohol was vital for having a good time, relaxing, and even for addressing bouts of anxiety. When I drank less I felt miserable, and when I drank more I felt miserable.
Alcohol had the ability, in the very short term, to numb feelings of stress and anxiety. I often used alcohol to self-medicate, as a short-term fix for a stressful day or anxious feelings. In fact, a 2012 study suggests that alcohol can actually makes you less capable of dealing with stress and anxiety.
I now understand that the overall effect of alcohol on my body was to significantly increase stress, anxiety, and depression. There are studies that back this up, but for me nothing is more powerful than my own experience. It’s like a lot of things in life: the quick fix often makes things worse, while investing in yourself over the long term is an enduring way to find peace and happiness.
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What Causes Anxiety And Depression After Drinking
Its not uncommon to feel depressed or anxious after drinking. Alcohol is a depressant. The initial happiness turns into fatigue and emotional imbalance.
Drinking triggers a release of dopamine. This activates the reward center in your brain. However, as your BAC rises, depressive symptoms start to set in.
Heavy drinking doesn’t always cause anxiety or depression the next day. This is more common in people who already suffer from these disorders.
For many, alcohol can help mask symptoms of depression or anxiety. However, once the alcohol wears off, the symptoms return. Often they are stronger than before.
People may drink again the following day to reduce the symptoms. This can create a terrible cycle. It may increase your risk of alcoholism.
Also, alcohol raises blood pressure. This can escalate anxiety and depression.
Alcohol Withdrawal And Anxiety
Of course, alcohol withdrawal itself can also cause anxiety and panic attacks. Withdrawal anxiety is complicated, but it essentially comes from the way your mind experiences the stress of losing out on alcohol. So much goes on in your brain that it alters your brain’s chemicals and causes a host of physical changes that can lead to anxiety.
Interestingly, some doctors use anxiety medications to help people withdraw from alcohol when its been determined medically necessary due to the withdrawal effects of abruptly quitting alcohol. These medications – known as benzodiazepines – act on similar receptors, and can reduce the effects of withdrawal while simultaneously making it a bit easier to quit alcohol because you can wean off of the benzodiazepines in a way that is more difficult than with alcohol.
Quitting alcohol can also lead to long term anxiety from extended withdrawal symptoms, known as protracted withdrawal. This type of anxiety should be controlled with proper coping tips and recommendations from your doctor.
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