Sure, alcohol calms the nerves and reduces feelings of anxiety. But is the short-term relief worth the long-term risks?
It is a vicious cycle – you drink alcohol to soothe the nerves and reduce anxiety. But by drinking, the symptoms and panic attacks only got so much worse and more intense. People have this idea that drinking can effectively relieve the symptoms of anxiety. Yes, it works but briefly. You may feel calm as alcohol penetrates the brain. However, anxiety only returns full force as a symptom of alcohol withdrawal when the body processes the alcohol.
What is Anxiety?
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), ” Anxiety refers to the anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior”.
Anxiety is a strong emotion often characterized by feelings of tension and recurring intrusive thoughts. It is an intense, excessive, and persistent feeling of worry or fear about what’s going to happen. It can have physical symptoms, such as sweating, increased heart rate, difficulty concentrating, restlessness, trembling, sleep problems, irritability, and having unexplained pains like headaches, muscle aches, or stomachaches.
Occasionally having anxieties is hardly a cause for alarm. It is completely normal to feel anxious, nervous or fidgety when you’re about to do a job interview or an exam. However, too much anxiety can be paralyzing and this can be disruptive to our day-to-day lives.
How does drinking alcohol affect anxiety?
However, alcohol is a double-edged sword and is not always happy hour. It acts both as a sedative and a stimulant. It can make you feel bold, confident, happy and the life of the party.
But as good as this sounds, the benefits, and the so-called euphoria is short-lived.
Alcohol starts to depress the part of the brain that we associate with inhibition. It disrupts the balance of chemicals and processes in the brain. It changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters, which can worsen anxiety. Sure, you feel relaxed and de-stressed after a drink or two but after the pleasant highs wear off, anxiety and panic attacks kick in. You start to feel miserable, with the heavy feeling usually lasting from several hours to an entire day after drinking.
Not a Perfect Combination
According to the American Addiction Centers:
“Anxiety and alcohol use disorder are common co-occurring disorders that can cause serious distress and impair your daily functioning. Alcohol use disorder can exacerbate an existing anxiety disorder or may lead to new anxiety symptoms and vice versa, meaning that a pre-existing anxiety disorder can contribute to an alcohol use disorder”.
And the worst part is : the more alcohol you consume, the greater your tolerance will be. As you develop a higher alcohol threshold, you may need to drink more to feel the same pleasant effects. This long-term pattern of drinking will negatively affect mental health, leading to heightened levels of anxiety and depression. Being too dependent on alcohol to relax or mask anxiety problems may ultimately result in alcohol addiction.
Alcohol is an unhealthy, temporary Band-Aid solution to treat or reduce anxiety. There are a good number of safer, healthier ways of relieving the symptoms of anxiety and it’s a matter of finding the perfect treatment that will best suit your needs.
Heal@Home is a digital-based, online treatment platform that has been proven and tested to change your drinking habits for the best. It offers a harm reduction approach, where abstinence is not a requirement for getting treatment and is not necessarily the end goal.
Heal@Home provides individualized therapy and medication treatment for alcohol use disorder. Weekly therapy sessions, prescription medications and a great team of Certified Addiction Counselors, Nurses, and Case Managers make Heal@Home the best partner in the journey to recovery.