How Drinking May Be Affecting Your Anxiety

Updated on September 7, 2021 by Amber & The Team.

woman trying to calm her nerves with alcohol

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woman drinking wine trying to calm her anxiety

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Alcoholism is the most common addiction in the United States. There are many people who struggle with substance abuse as well as mental health issues. While many use alcohol as a way to cope with anxiousness or stress, alcohol is really doing more harm than good.

 

How Drinking May Be Affecting Your Anxiety

 

What is Alcoholism?

 

Alcoholism can sneak up on even those who may not believe they have a problem. From drinking socially to relying on alcohol to end the night, drinking patterns can escalate quickly.

Along with side effects such as lapses in judgment, decreased motor skills, and mood swings, anxiety can also be a negative side effect of alcohol abuse.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that 20% of those struggling with anxiety also engage in substance abuse. Anxiety affects personal, professional, and social lives, and can become worse with addiction.

Once you start drinking to cope with anxiety your brain will literally begin remapping its coping pathways and determine that it can only stop being anxious after it’s had a drink. Your brain will then send signals to your body to try and force you to drink (the shakes). This is what’s known as physical dependence on alcohol and can occur after continued drinking — even if you’re not drinking too much.

woman holding a glass of red wine

 

Anxiety & Alcohol

 

To dive even deeper — when you struggle with both alcohol dependence and anxiety, you have what’s referred to as a dual diagnosis. A dual diagnosis is extremely common among all types of substances and mental health disorders. Typically, though, you will want specialized alcoholism treatment options to overcome both issues simultaneously.

Alcohol is an only temporary relief for anxiety. Sort of like a band-aid, eventually you have to face your stressors (in this case, anxiety) without the numbing effect of alcohol.

In fact, alcohol can actually worsen anxiety. Your family and friends may begin to notice your alcohol use, increasing anxious feelings as you navigate the social tension. Depending on when/how often you drink, this can lead to job loss — causing financial anxiety.

 

 Journey to Recovery

 

Figuring out how to resolve both diagnoses can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to. Some of the best steps to take if alcohol is affecting your anxiety are:

  • Confide in a close friend or family to build your network of support and have someone to hold you accountable.
  • Consider taking a leave of absence from work to focus on your health.
  • Track your symptoms to determine how much you’re drinking and what’s triggering your drinking. This will help doctors better assist you on your journey.
  • Meet with your doctor, or call a treatment center, to determine the healthiest way to get better.
  • Determine your insurance benefits so you know what type of financial support you may have. Something as simple as typing “Cigna rehab facilities” into Google can put you on the right track.
  • Don’t give up! There are numerous options for treatment that can fit your needs and personality. Whether you’re asking “does rehab work“ or if your local AA meeting has promise, you need to start somewhere.

woman taking a deep breath

So, while the alcohol may give you a temporary feeling of relief, the effects are just that: temporary. Seeking help for anxiety or substance abuse is a great way to make a change for the better.

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