Alcohol and Anxiety

When dealing with stressful days or nervous situations, you may be tempted to have a glass of wine or a beer to calm your nerves. However, drinking alcohol, especially heavily and over a long period of time, can actually increase your anxiety.

Drinking alcohol can have serious consequences if you’re being treated for anxiety. Having a drink might seem like a good way to ease anxiety, but you may be doing more harm than good.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a feeling of worry or fear about what may happen. Sweating, increased heart-rate and trembling are some of the physical symptoms.

Anxiety occasionally can be useful, for example it will help you stay alert in new situations such as a job interview. But if the effects persist it can make life difficult.

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How Alcohol affects Anxiety

Alcohol acts as a sedative, so it can help you feel more at ease at first, however these benefits are short-lived and it is not a good solution.

Alcohol  disrupts the balance of chemicals and processes in the brain. The relaxed feeling you experience when you have your first drink is due to the chemical changes alcohol causes in your brain. The alcohol starts to depress the part of the brain that we associate with inhibition.

Too much alcohol will also lead to hangovers which can cause symptoms that make you feel more anxious than you were, such as:

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • dehydration
  • nausea
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The Vicious Cycle

You may think a couple of drinks would help someone with anxiety to relax, but that’s not true. It may make them feel worse.

The cycle usually goes something like this;

  1. You drink alcohol
  2. You feel calm and more confident initially as the alcohol affects the brain
  3. You feel anxiety as a symptom of alcohol withdrawal as your body processes the alcohol
  4. You need another drink to combat this feeling

As the initial calm feelings fades you can feel anxious again as the effects wear off.  

Remember the more alcohol you drink, the greater your body’s tolerance will be. Over time you may need to drink more alcohol to feel the same effects

That’s not to say you can’t enjoy alcohol sensibly if you suffer from anxiety, but it’s important to understand it is not a solution.

Use the links below to find more help.

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