Using Alcohol To Unwind
In the beginning, drinking alcohol may help drinkers take their minds off their troubles. Some may use alcoholic beverages to loosen up and feel less shy, boost their mood, and make them relax. Alcohol shares similar effects to those of antianxiety medications because it is a central nervous system depressant and sedative.
The occasional drink to ease tension is not dangerous if your doctor approves. You must keep in mind, however, that drinking alcohol regularly means you will build up a tolerance for its effects. Over time, it will make stress and anxiety more challenging to cope with.
Individuals who drink excessive amounts of alcohol will also notice mental and physical consequences. Consuming too much alcohol over time will lead to a loss of memory, the potential for brain damage, liver damage, and blackouts. These issues will worsen your panic disorder and create more anxiety as you cope with the symptoms.
Alcohol And Anxiety The Vicious Circle
If you suffer from anxiety, you might think that a couple of drinks will help you relax.
In fact, alcohol can make an anxious person feel worse. Heres an example of a typical cycle:
- You drink alcohol
- You initially feel calm as the alcohol affects the brain
- You feel anxiety as a symptom of alcohol withdrawal as your body processes the alcohol
- You may want to drink again to try to relieve your anxiety
But this only starts the process from the beginning. As the initial calm feeling fades you can feel anxiety after stopping drinking alcohol build again as the effects wear off.
Remember the more alcohol you drink, the greater your tolerance will be. Over time you may need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects. Over-time this may negatively affect your mental health, resulting in heightened levels of anxiety and depression after drinking.
When To Seek Treatment For Alcohol Abuse And Anxiety
Medical experts recommend treating anxiety and substance abuse together, especially when they co-occur. There are rehabilitation facilities that offer treatment for alcohol abuse and anxiety. Treatment plans will be provided by most reputable rehab centers to address mental health and substance abuse issues. Treatment plans that address both disorders in tandem are often called dual diagnosis treatment.
Alcoholism treatment involves going through detoxification to remove the physical presence of alcohol from the patients body. Following detox, people often enter inpatient rehab. However, the specific level of care someone experiences can vary based on the severity of their addiction, their familys history with addiction and mental illness, and whether they have experienced rehab before.
If professional help is needed, its crucial to receive care that can address anxiety and substance use disorder together, as The Recovery Village can. With full-service centers located across the country, The Recovery Village can help you or someone you love develop the skills needed to cope with the symptoms of an anxiety disorder and begin lifelong recovery. Reach out to a representative today for more information.
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Social Anxiety And Alcohol
Everyone occasionally feels nervous or shy around strangers, but these natural feelings of apprehension can escalate to debilitating levels for people with social anxiety disorder. Because alcohol is easily accessible and can provide temporary relief from symptoms, many people with social anxiety use alcohol to feel more comfortable in social situations. This is perhaps why a social anxiety disorder and alcohol abuse often co-occur. Currently, about 20% of people with a social anxiety disorder also meet the criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Panic Attack
During a panic attack, feelings of anxiety are amplified as the mind is overloaded with worries and fears. This is terrifying for those experiencing it, and it becomes overwhelming to the point that the emotional panic is expressed through physical symptoms. These include:
- Shortness of breath or feeling like breathing is a struggle.
- A racing or pounding heart .
- A tingling or numbing sensation in the fingers or toes.
- Feeling very hot or very cold.
Everyone is different and may experience various combinations of the above, which are almost always accompanied by an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety. Many people also experience a fear that they are going to die.
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How To Address Hangxiety
Now that weve discussed the why behind hangxiety, lets get to the how. How does one get rid of hangxiety? To get rid of hangxiety the most important thing to remember is that drinking more will not make it better. When experiencing increased anxiety after drinking, its beneficial to:
As you continue on your journey, remember this: There is no shame in having used alcohol to cope with anxious feelings or to feel good. If youve felt anxious, embarrassed, worried, or regretful, know that so many others have too and you dont have to continue feeling this way. You deserve relief, and cutting back on alcohol can increase self-esteem, provide a clearer sense of self, and reduce overall anxiety. Seeking information is a meaningful step, and thats something to be proud of.
Disclaimer: Our articles and resources do not constitute clinical or licensed therapy or other health care services. If you need counseling or therapy services please contact a licensed provider. If this is a medical emergency, call 911.
Why Does Alcohol Reduce Anxiety
Theres some truth to the idea that alcohol can reduce stress. Alcohol is a sedative and a depressant that affects the central nervous system. At first, drinking can reduce fears and take your mind off of your troubles. It can help you feel less shy, give you a boost in mood, and make you feel generally relaxed.
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Why Does Hangxiety Happen
Not everyone experiences hangover anxietysome people just feel achy or have an upset stomachbut its a relatively common symptom of a hangover. The symptoms you experience after a night of heavy drinking tend to be milder versions of what clinical alcohol withdrawal looks like, explains Michael Bogenschutz, M.D., a professor in the Department of Psychiatry at NYU Grossman School of Medicine. So, the morning after a night of hard partying, you may feel sick to your stomach, nauseated, irritable, and anxious. Someone who drinks heavily oftenand then stopped suddenlywould experience more severe versions of those symptomsvomiting, diarrhea, maybe even a panic attack. In other words, hangover anxiety can be one of these subclinical symptoms of withdrawal. George F. Koob, Ph.D., director of theNational Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism agrees: I think of a hangover as, more or less, a mini-withdrawal from alcohol, and anxiety is one of the components, he tells SELF.
When you drink alcohol, dopamine neurons in areas of the brain associated with reward start firing more and more, explains Aparna Iyer, M.D., a psychiatrist and assistant professor at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. The problem is that dopamine rush is short-lived with alcohol, Dr. Iyer says. Thats part of why your mood and anxiety levels might be impacted for the worse later on.
Overcoming Anxiety From Stopping Alcohol
Quitting drinking is always a difficult task, even if you were more of a casual drinker than an alcoholic. Alcohol’s ability to replace normal stress coping causes it to interfere with your ability to respond in a healthy way with anxiety and stress, to the point where when you suffer from any anxiety it feels much more severe than it would if you hadn’t had alcohol. This can even affect those that never intentionally used alcohol to cope with stress.
There are many different strategies for dealing with anxiety and panic attacks that are not specific to those that have stopped drinking. But the following are important as ways to prevent alcohol from causing too much anxiety:
The key is to not try to replace the effects of alcohol – you don’t want something else that numbs your anxiety without helping you cope with it. What you’re trying to do is reduce the impact of what happens to your brain when you’re dealing with stress. These activities lessen the impact of stress and anxiety, and when you can weaken the effects of stress, you give your mind a better chance of regaining its own natural coping strength.
Those that quit drinking may suffer from anxiety. This anxiety may be the result of the chemical withdrawal, but is also often related to people using anxiety as a way to self-medicate for stress. Learning new and healthy coping tools and engaging in a long-term anxiety treatment plan is beneficial.
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Are You Having Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are a symptom of Panic Disorder and other anxiety disorders. Panic attacks are instances of intense fear usually characterized by their physical symptoms, rather than normal everyday worries, and peak within 10 minutes.
Panic attacks are immensely physical events, and many people that have panic attacks are hospitalized because they think they’re suffering from a heart attack. Those that suffer from panic attacks are, or become, overly sensitive to their body’s physical sensations. At any moment, they may feel something in their body that triggers a rush of anxiety which cascades into a full blown panic attack, which has a number of physical symptoms that can cause considerable health fears.
Panic attacks are often misunderstood because they are nearly impossible to control without treatment. The health triggers can be as simple as not feeling as though the person got a deep breath, or getting some slight discomfort in their chest. Once they notice this feeling, those with panic disorder are flooded with uncontrollable anxiety leading to a debilitating panic attack.
Panic attacks appear to be the one area that caffeine negatively affects. The reason for this has to do with how attuned the person is to the reactions caused by caffeine:
- Slight increase in heart rate.
- Excess energy.
- Occasional stomach discomfort or bloating.
Does Alcohol Cause Anxiety
Drinking changes the brain. After the euphoric effects of alcohol fade, serotonin levels drop. This causes people to feel anxious or depressed the day after heavy drinking.
Alcohol use reduces blood-sugar levels, causing people to experience irritability, dizziness and weakness. Drinking alcohol can also result in dehydration, fatigue, nausea and heart palpitations. Heart palpitations are a common outcome of anxiety.
Ways to reduce anxiety without drinking include:
- Limit use of caffeinated products
- Try to get six to eight hours of sleep each night
- Do not skip meals
- Engage in hobbies, such as listening to music, each day
- Undertake relaxation techniques, such as yoga
Drinking heavily can cause people to perform volatile actions that they would not normally engage in or may result in a blackout. This can induce stress the next morning especially for those who do not remember what happened the night before.
Long-term heavy drinkers are particularly vulnerable to developing an anxiety disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder. Heavy alcohol use can also lead to other mental health disorders, such as antisocial personality disorder and bulimia.
People who rely on alcohol to combat anxiety can develop alcoholism. People with alcohol addiction who suddenly stop drinking can experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as sweating, nausea and seizures. These effects can exacerbate their anxiety.
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Alcohol Alters Your Brain Chemistry
Our brains rely on a fine balance of chemicals and processes. Alcohol is a depressant. This means it distorts the chemical messaging processes in your brain, making it difficult to predict how you will feel and react to it.
While initially you may get a relaxed feeling after your first drink, over time it can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. Alcohol can lower serotonin and norepinephrine levels, both of which help regulate mood. Lower levels of these chemicals can make a depressed person more depressed.
When Proper Controls Are Used Some Studies Do Not Reveal High Rates Of Long
A recent report from the Collaborative Study on the Genetics of Alcoholism focused on 591 personally interviewed relatives of alcohol-dependent men and women . After controlling for potential alcohol-induced anxiety conditions in relatives, the lifetime risk for any major anxiety disorder in the male and female relatives of alcoholics was between 6.7 and 6.9 percent, rates not different from those expected in the general population. Neither male nor female relatives showed increased risks for obsessive-compulsive disorder, social phobia, panic disorder, and/or agoraphobia. A preliminary evaluation of the lifetime rates of major depressive disorders in 2,409 interviewed relatives of alcoholics revealed a rate of 17.5 percent, a figure that was almost identical to the rate observed in control families.
Similar results have been generated from some, but not all, studies of alcoholism in relatives of patients with severe anxiety disorders. For example, an evaluation of 1,047 adult relatives of 193 subjects with severe anxiety disorders revealed no increased risk of alcoholism among the relatives, with the exception of the relatives of those patients who had exceptionally early onsets of their psychiatric disorders . Nor did a review of several recent studies by Fyer and colleagues and Noyes and colleagues reveal high rates of alcoholism in relatives of people with social phobia or other anxiety disorders .
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It Can Negatively Affect Your Sleep
A good nights sleep restores our body and minds and is vital to minding your mental health. Because alcohol is a depressant it makes you sleepy at times but the sleep you get after drinking is of a much lower quality than the sleep you get when you are not drinking.
This is because alcohol can reduce the amount of Rapid Eye Movement sleep you get, leaving you feeling drowsy, low in energy and you may find it harder to concentrate the next day.
Is There A Connection Between Alcohol And Anxiety
Alcohol is a common form of self-medication for social anxiety, generalised anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. In fact, about 25% of people with panic disorder have a history of alcohol dependence.
Not only does anxiety lead to drinking, and drinking lead to anxiety, but the two trigger each other into a spiralling cycle. For example, anxiety makes a person start drinking, which worsens their anxiety, which leads them to drink more, and worsen their anxiety further.
Alcohol causes anxiety because it upsets hormones, brain function, and sleep. When the body and mind havent had the opportunity to rest, a person may feel on edge and irritable. If a person is also taking antidepressants, which is not uncommon for people with anxiety, the combination of the two worsens the condition and can trigger a severe panic attack.
Long-term alcohol abuse can not only induce panic attacks but can also lead to PTSD. This becomes even more true if a person has an anxiety or panic disorder. Alcohol not only contributes to anxiety but rewires the part of the brain responsible for coping with fear. Because of this, a person will hold on to fear-inducing associations longer, and will have a harder time recovering from trauma.
There is also evidence that chronic alcohol abuse can lead to lasting anxiety, even after a person becomes sober.
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