drinking alcohol for anxiety

Drinking Alcohol to Cope with Anxiety? We Explore the Actual Risks

Are you drinking alcohol to cope with your anxiety? Yes, in moments of stress and anxiety, seeking relief is a natural instinct. However, turning to alcohol as a coping mechanism can have consequences that far outweigh the temporary sense of calm it might provide. 

While alcohol temporarily alleviates anxiety, it’s essential to understand the risks associated with self-medication. Let’s explore the reasons why alcohol isn’t a sustainable solution for anxiety relief, and the potential hazards it poses to both your mental and physical well-being.

The Illusion of Temporary Relief

Alcohol’s initial effects can create an illusion of relief from anxiety. As the substance depresses the central nervous system, it may induce a temporary feeling of relaxation and reduced inhibition. However, this effect is short-lived, as alcohol’s impact on anxiety can be far more complex than it seems.

Heightened Anxiety After the Initial Effects

While alcohol might provide a brief respite from anxiety, its depressant effects wear off relatively quickly. As the body processes the alcohol, it can lead to a rebound effect where anxiety levels surge, often more intensely than before. And, once tolerance develops, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. 

Masking Underlying Issues

Drinking alcohol to manage anxiety masks the root causes of anxiety. Rather than addressing the sources of stress and seeking healthy coping mechanisms, you end up sweeping your concerns under the rug. This is why therapy is an essential part of the recovery process. It’s a chance to explore the deeper issues that have been driving the need for self-medication.

Cycle of Dependency

Using alcohol as a regular anxiety-relief method can lead to a dangerous cycle of dependency. Over time, you may need alcohol to manage even minor stresses, leading to physical and psychological addiction. Alcohol use disorders are progressive and require alcohol addiction treatment services. 

Worsening Mental Health

Prolonged alcohol use can exacerbate anxiety and even contribute to the development of anxiety disorders. This happens because chronic alcohol use affects brain chemistry and can lead to imbalances that cause heightened anxiety levels.

Physical and Health Risks

  • Negative Impact on Sleep. Alcohol might appear to help you fall asleep faster. However, it disrupts the sleep cycle and leads to poor-quality sleep and sleep disturbances. To manage anxiety, you need a good night’s rest. 
  • Impaired Judgment and Decision-Making. Alcohol impairs cognitive functions, affecting your judgment and decision-making skills. Therefore, using alcohol to cope with anxiety can lead to poor decisions and risky behaviors.
  • Physical Health Consequences. Chronic alcohol use can also lead to various health issues, including liver damage, cardiovascular problems, and compromised immune function. These health concerns can further contribute to stress and anxiety.
  • Social and Relationship Challenges. Relying on alcohol as a coping mechanism can strain relationships, as loved ones witness the negative effects that alcohol has on your mood, personality and emotions. 

Seeking Healthy Alternatives

Instead of using alcohol to manage anxiety, consider these healthy alternatives:

  • Exercise. Physical activity releases endorphins, which naturally alleviate stress and anxiety.
  • Mindfulness and Meditation. Practicing mindfulness techniques and meditation can provide a calming effect and help manage anxiety.
  • Therapy and Counseling. Professional therapy provides tools to manage anxiety, understand triggers, and develop healthy coping mechanisms.
  • Social Support. Engaging with friends, family or support groups can provide a valuable network for sharing concerns and seeking guidance.

Outpatient Alcohol Treatment Center in Agoura Hills, CA 

Alcohol might offer temporary relief from anxiety, but the long-term consequences can be detrimental to both your mental and physical health. Fortunately, you can break the cycle of using alcohol as a crutch by admitting your problem and seeking treatment through an alcohol rehab program. 

Awakenings Treatment Center is a holistic treatment facility that treats alcohol use disorders of all severities. Our outpatient program is flexible and convenient, allowing you to work on your recovery while staying closely connected to your family and home life. Contact us to learn more about starting your path to sobriety.