Many people use alcohol responsibly, such as by having a glass of wine with dinner or meeting friends for a drink for a special occasion. In these situations, alcohol is considered socially acceptable and not a cause for concern. But it doesn’t take much for alcohol to become a problem. Even limited alcohol use can cause issues for some people, especially if they already struggle with mental health problems like anxiety.
If you are using alcohol to relax and unwind on a regular basis, it’s possible that something more is going on. In fact, alcohol can make your anxiety symptoms worse, prompting you to drink more to try to combat it. This can become a dangerous cycle that raises the risk for dependence and addiction.
Let’s look closer at the relationship between alcohol use and anxiety and how drinking can worsen mental health symptoms.
The Relationship Between Alcohol Use and Anxiety
There is a close relationship between alcohol use disorders and anxiety disorders. Research shows that alcohol addiction and anxiety disorders often occur together. There are two reasons for this.
First, people who are experiencing anxiety may drink to numb their feelings. And there is some truth to this, as alcohol does have sedative effects. A glass of wine or cocktail can take the edge off and provide temporary relief from your problems. Alcohol can also make social situations less stressful by boosting your mood and making you less shy.
However, relying on alcohol to reduce stress and improve social situations is likely to backfire. You can build a tolerance to the de-stressing effects of alcohol and make anxiety even more difficult to deal with. This brings us to our second point.
Even though alcohol has a sedative effect, it wears off after a few hours. This can leave you feeling even more anxious than before, especially if you don’t remember what you did or said. Regularly indulging in alcohol can also lead to physical dependence and damage to the body, creating more anxiety.
Why Does Alcohol Ease Anxiety at First and Then Stop?
Alcohol is a sedative and central nervous system depressant. The reason why you feel relaxed is because the alcohol enters the bloodstream and raises your blood alcohol level (BAC), leading to temporary feelings of excitement. However, as these levels fall, feelings of depression occur. This can cause you to feel even more anxious than before.
Alcohol also changes the levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain. As these levels drop when the alcohol wears off, you may feel more anxious. This type of anxiety can last for hours - even up to a full day. As a matter of fact, the anxiety you feel from a hangover actually has a name - hangiexty.
The longer alcohol is abused, the more problems it causes. It can interfere with a healthy mind and body, come in between your relationships, drain your bank account and lead to work performance issues. Without a doubt, these problems can create more anxiety in your life. Bottom line: Alcohol is not an anxiety treatment.
What are Healthier Ways to Manage Anxiety?
If you are at risk for an anxiety disorder or already struggle with one, it’s best to avoid alcohol. People who self-medicate with alcohol are more likely to develop unhealthy habits that lead to dependence and addiction. An outpatient drug rehab in Agoura can help you kick the habit and develop healthy coping strategies while working around your schedule.
Here are some healthier ways of getting your anxiety under control:
- Medication. There are many safe medications available to treat anxiety. Your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant or benzodiazepine. Some of these medications interfere with alcohol, so it’s important to know the risks of drinking.
- Sleep regularly and consistently. Most people need about 6-8 hours of sleep. Sleeping recharges your brain, improves your mood and helps you direct stress and anxiety elsewhere.
- Limit caffeine. Caffeine can increase your anxiety levels, so it’s best to limit or avoid it altogether. People with anxiety disorders are especially prone to these effects.
- Eat healthy meals. Research shows that processed foods, fried foods, refined cereals and high-fat products can make people feel more anxious and depressed. Focus on balanced meals that include whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables and fish.
- Practice relaxation techniques. Set aside time each day to focus on relaxation. This will keep you grounded and aware of your emotions. Examples of relaxation techniques include deep breathing, journaling and meditation.
- Engage in your favorite hobbies. Having hobbies prevents boredom and fulfills your daily routine. Find some activities that you enjoy and make time for them every day.
Do I Need Outpatient Rehab in Agoura?
An inpatient program is best for people who have severe alcohol problems, untreated mental illness and intense withdrawal effects, but most other alcohol problems can be treated at an outpatient rehab.
Awakenings Treatment Center in Agoura Hills, CA offers outpatient alcohol rehab for people who need help quitting drinking. Our programs are flexible and can accommodate busy schedules, making them ideal for families and working professionals.
By calling us today, we can do an assessment and determine if our program is right for you. But you can also determine if you need help by answering the questions below.
- Have you tried to quit drinking but couldn’t?
- Do you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking such as sleeplessness, anxiety, shaking, sweating or nausea?
- Do you continue to drink despite negative consequences?
- Have you lost things or people as a result of your drinking?
- Do you try to limit the number of drinks you have but can’t?
- Do you wait all day to have a drink? Or wake up and start your day off with a drink?
Start Your Alcohol Recovery Today
There are different levels of addiction, so it’s possible that you only have a mild problem right now. Getting help from an outpatient treatment center in Agoura will allow you to stop the addiction from getting worse, treat underlying anxiety and develop healthier coping mechanisms. To learn more about how our outpatient programs can help you, contact Awakenings Treatment Center today.