Mental Health Query: Can Alcohol Help With My Anxiety?

When trying to manage challenging days or when you feel anxious in situations, you might be inclined to drink alcohol for a glass or two of your favorite liquor to relax.

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Yes, alcohol helps with anxiety disorders or panic attacks, but drinking alcohol, particularly heavily and for the long term, not only aggravates the situation you are in but also worsens your uncomfortable feelings of anxiety.

Drinking beer or any alcoholic beverage, for that matter, may have severe complications, especially if you are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and being treated for it. You might feel that drinking initially feels good, but you are actually doing more harm than you can imagine.

Unwinding With Alcohol

There is little truth to the concept that alcohol can decrease mental health stress levels. It is a depressant and a sedative that impacts the brain and the whole nervous system. Initially, drinking beer or wine reduces nervousness and anxiety, and it can take your thoughts off of your problems. It can also help you feel less ashamed. It provides some form of a mood boost, making you feel calmer and more relaxed most of the time. In fact, the effects of chronic alcohol use disorders can be likened to that of antianxiety medications.

Sometimes, unwinding with beer or wine isn’t really unsafe if your physician allows you to. But when you start heavy drinking, you can easily create a tolerance to the relaxing effects of alcohol. This makes stress and anxiety even tougher to deal with. Too much a drink of an alcohol also has visible mental and physical consequences. In the longer term, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol may result in loss of memory, blackouts, body issues, and even central nervous system or brain damage. These problems can add to the anxiety as you struggle to manage the symptoms.

The calming and relaxing effect you get from drinking can often be credited to the amount of alcohol in your blood or the BAC. An increase in BAC levels results in temporary feelings of pleasure. Still, feelings of sadness are felt as BAC levels being to rise and then lower down to its normal levels, making you feel more nervous and anxious than you were previously.

How can alcohol contributes to your mental health needs while being a depressant and a sedative that impacts the brain and the whole nervous system?
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How Alcohol Aggravates Anxiety

Alcohol modifies your serotonin levels and other chemicals in the brain, which can aggravate anxiety after drinking. In fact, you might sense that you are getting more anxious after the alcohol in the body disappears. And alcohol-induced anxiety can persist for several hours, worst if it lingers the whole day. Running to alcohol to deal with your anxiety disorder can be life-threatening. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports that almost 7% of Americans suffer from this anxiety type.

With social anxiety, you might feel that you can’t bear public events or other social situations. It’s not uncommon for people with an social anxiety disorder to consume alcohol to be capable of interacting socially. However doing this regularly can lead to alcohol dependence, which can ultimately worsen your anxiety symptoms. Additionally, there are 20% of individuals with a social anxiety disorder also has alcohol dependence.

Aside from the desire to drink to feel relaxed when socializing, other indications of dependence are:

  • Drinking large amounts of alcohol four or more days in a week
  • Needing to drink to ‘wake up’ in the morning
  • Incapacity to stop the drinking habits
  • Needing to drink on almost all occasions

Consuming too much alcohol can also result in the worst hangovers, and a hangover can lead to symptoms that will make you feel more nervous and fearful than before. You may experience dizziness, headaches, dehydration, and nausea, along with anxiety.

Anxiety Caused By Alcohol

The long-standing effects of alcohol misuse and abuse can range from health conditions to mental illness and other mental health conditions. Studies have revealed that alcoholics find it hard to heal from traumatic situations that can literally alter brain activity.

Long-term alcohol drinkers may be inclined to develop anxiety, but there is no proof that drinking moderately will result in panic disorder or anxiety. Increasing anxiety is also an indication of withdrawal symptoms from chronic alcohol consumption. If you have been drinking too much regularly and then abruptly stop drinking, you will feel your anxiety worsening through the side effects of alcohol withdrawal, which may include sweating, shaking hands, increased heart rate, nausea, and hallucinations, among others.

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Alcohol Does Not Cure Anxiety

Drinking moderately is clearly not the same for all ages and genders and the said benefits can be a myth. In America, the term moderate means drinking two glasses or bottles a day for men and one glass or bottle a day. Older adults digest alcohol quicker, so you should restrict yourself to only one alcoholic beverage a day if you belong to this group. Ask your physician if drinking moderately is appropriate for you. But note that just because you are drinking less amount daily, that doesn’t mean you are exempted from getting symptoms of anxiety and alcohol disorder. Usually, people who are drinking alcohol often struggle with anxiety disorder or social anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. They’ll need to find healthy coping mechanisms for stress management.

Though there may be a few benefits of drinking alcohol, the risks almost always outweigh them. These include obesity, liver failure, depression, and heart disease.

Conclusion

Alcohol has differing effects on everyone. It can make you feel happy after a stressful and depressing day, or it can make you feel useless and down. Discuss these issues with your doctor or a mental health professional and make sure that drinking alcohol is not harmful to you.

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