As a sedative and a depressant, alcohol can technically reduce stress as it affects the central nervous system. But, the reality is that drinking alcohol, especially heavy drinking, can actually increase your anxiety. Plus, drinking alcohol can have added consequences if you’re already being treated for anxiety. Having a drink might seem like a good way to ease anxiety, but the cons far outweigh the pros.
At the Addiction Recovery Institute of America in Florida, our specialists are available to talk through our mental health treatment programs for anxiety, stress, and alcohol abuse.
How Alcohol and Stress Go Hand-in-Hand
Alcohol affects everyone differently. It can lift you up or put you into a deep depression. For some people, alcohol and stress are linked. Maybe you have a few drinks to deal with the everyday stresses of life and take your mind off of things. Or, perhaps you have a few drinks to boost your confidence in social settings or to relax.
Occasionally unwinding with alcohol isn’t necessarily dangerous. In fact, the effects of a few drinks can be similar to those of anti-anxiety medications. The problems arise when you start drinking too much alcohol and build up a tolerance to its destressing effects.
Abusing alcohol can also have significant physical and mental effects. Over time, drinking too much can lead to blackouts, memory loss, and severe health problems like liver damage and even brain damage. In the end, alcohol and stress can make these adverse effects worse.
Drinking to Deal with Anxiety
The sense of relaxation you feel when you drink is related to your blood alcohol content (BAC). A higher BAC can give you a temporary high, but depression can set in when your BAC lowers again. This rise and then fall of your BAC can actually make you more anxious than you were to begin with. Alcohol also changes the serotonin levels and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety, and you may feel more anxious after the effect of the alcohol wears off. This alcohol-induced anxiety after drinking can last for several hours or up to an entire day.
Using alcohol to cope with a social anxiety disorder can be dangerous. It’s common for people with a social anxiety disorder to drink alcohol to manage being overwhelmed in social situations. Doing this can lead to a dependence on alcohol during socializing. This actually makes anxiety symptoms worse, especially for long-term heavy drinkers. Increased anxiety is also a symptom of alcohol withdrawal, so if you’ve consumed alcohol in large amounts for a long time and suddenly stop drinking, your anxiety can worsen due to the withdrawal.
Signs you are drinking too much can include:
- The desire to drink alcohol when you are not drinking
- Spending significant amounts of time purchasing, drinking, and recovering from the effects of alcohol
- Drinking more alcohol to feel the effects you once did, meaning your tolerance for alcohol has increased
- Trying to reduce the frequency or amount you drink or trying to stop altogether, but failing and experiencing symptoms of withdrawal
- Engaging in risky behavior under the influence of alcohol, like driving or operating machinery
- Failing to live up to your work, family, and social obligations as a result of your alcohol use
Dual Diagnosis Treatment for Alcohol and Stress
If you are using alcohol to deal with stress, refraining from drinking is only one part of recovery at ARIA. We believe that mental health treatment is an essential component of treating the underlying causes of alcohol abuse. So, our team of trained therapists will use dual diagnosis treatment to help you heal from past trauma so that you don’t want to drink alcohol to ease your stress.
Contact ARIA Today to Learn More About Treatment Options for Alcohol and Stress
Seeking mental health treatment is your best course of action if you have drinking anxiety. Alcohol isn’t an anxiety treatment, and sometimes alcohol detox may be needed. At the Addiction Recovery Institute of America in Florida, we’ll help guide you to the right anxiety treatment program to heal the physical and psychological toll that alcohol and stress can produce.