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Dangers of using alcohol for managing stress and anxiety

on 24 July 2018
Dangers of using alcohol for managing stress and anxiety

All of us deal with stress differently. While some prefer to go on vacation to get all of their stress out of their system, some would prefer spending weekend nights with their friends going to the local bar and having a few drinks. Because of this, many individuals claim drinking alcohol helps relieve their anxiety and stress levels.

However, many individuals make drinking a daily habit, which eventually leads to alcohol addiction. That is why there are various alcohol treatment facilities to help patients deal with their alcohol addiction. Such treatment facilities can help them get free from the grasp of alcoholism and help patients get back on their feet.

To the contrary, Dr. Kirtly Jones, VP of Education, the University of Utah, stated that drinking alcohol does help relieve stress but only on an occasional basis – at least in her own experience. Moreover, Dr. Jones also mentioned that women tend to drink alcoholic beverages as a stress reliever.

How Alcohol Can Affect Your Stress Levels

Medically, alcohol is considered a sedative, which is why most people feel less nervous when they drink. Moreover, there are different causes of stress which people attempt to drown by drinking alcohol.

However, too much alcohol can take a toll not only on our physical, mental, emotional, and psychological health, but also with our loved ones. Here are some alarming reasons how alcohol can increase your stress levels instead of the other way around:

Alcohol Can Actually Worsen Anxiety Levels

Alcohol can wreak havoc in your serotonin levels in your brain, which in turn can intensify your anxiety and stress levels after the alcohol has worked its way out of your system.

When you drink alcohol, it also increases your blood alcohol content level, which is why you experience that happy feeling as if you’re on a “high”.

On the contrary, a low blood alcohol content level can contribute to your feeling of anxiety and even depression. This is why many individuals experience being more anxious and stressed when they don’t have their regular dose of alcohol.

Too Much Drinking Alcohol Can Lead To Alcohol Dependence

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America revealed that about 15 million American adults have social anxiety disorder. People with such kind of disorder depend on alcohol to give them a boost to socially interact with others.

While alcohol can help relieve their social anxiety, around 20 percent of these people end up being dependent on alcohol use. These people with alcohol dependence have a hard time stopping their alcohol consumption and even drank at least five alcoholic drinks per day.

In effect, many individuals won’t last a day without having a swig of whiskey or vodka, which they believe the only way to make them calm.

Alcohol Can Make It Hard For You To Recover From Trauma

According to a study, too much alcohol consumption can hinder a person’s ability to recover from traumatic events such as car accidents, hijackings or domestic violence. In particular, heavy drinkers who have been that way for years are more susceptible to anxiety disorders, according to the study’s senior author Andrew Holmes, PhD.

Moreover, alcohol addiction can also affect your mood. Because alcohol can affect your serotonin levels, it can consequently cause mood swings that can lead to stress and the inability to recover from significant trauma.

Alcohol Problems Can Cause Health Problems, Too

Alcohol-induced stress can cause low blood sugar levels. This can cause confusion, dizziness and more intense feelings of nervousness, to name a few.

Moreover, alcohol-induced stress can also cause dehydration, lethargy, fatigue, and nausea. While these symptoms won’t primarily cause anxiety, such illnesses can still likely trigger anxiety and stress.

Alcohol Can Lead To Panic Disorder

Panic disorder is the worst case of anxiety. Those who have this disorder are more susceptible to sudden panic attacks, which can ruin a person’s overall quality of life. Among common symptoms of panic disorder include lack of emotional control; sudden and irrational feelings of fear; and having flashbacks of traumatic events that happened to the person.

What is Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome?

Alcohol addiction is a serious health issue that should be addressed immediately by entering alcohol treatment facilities. Given the above-mentioned implications of alcoholism, not only can it affect the person’s overall health, but also his or her overall quality of life.

However, withdrawing from alcohol addiction may not be that easy. For one, the person will most likely experience alcohol withdrawal syndrome (AWS). A person with AWS may experience both physical and emotional symptoms which can even be life-threatening.

Some common symptoms of alcohol withdrawal syndrome include feelings of anxiety, headache, heart palpitations, sweating and shivering, mood swings, insomnia, high blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting. However, some people may experience a severe type of AWS called delirium tremens.

DT can cause intense mood swings, and seizures, tactile, auditory, and visual hallucinations. If you have these symptoms, you should go to your nearest hospital immediately.


Treating Alcohol Addiction

There are many alcohol treatment facilities all over the world to help you get through alcohol addiction. While many treatment facilities offer a month-long program, it may not be sufficient to treat a person’s alcohol addiction, especially if they have been a heavy drinker for a long time.

That is why some alcohol treatment facilities offer long-term rehabilitation which can ensure beating alcohol dependency for good. These treatment facilities offer a detoxification program, counselling, life skills, and aftercare support which can help the patient recover faster and prevent relapses.

Dealing With Anxiety and Stress

It is important to realize that drinking alcohol is not really a recommended solution for anxiety. Rather, it can cause the anxiety and other health problems if taken in large doses.

On the contrary, drinking alcohol moderately may not be as bad as mentioned in the previous paragraphs. Nevertheless, one should be careful not to make consumption a daily habit, or risk suffering from its life-deterring consequences. While alcohol does have its own benefits, the risks mostly outweigh the perks.

Changing your lifestyle can also help in dealing with stress and anxiety that usually lead to alcohol addiction. Some simple steps you can do to relieve stress and anxiety and reduce your dependence to alcohol include:

  1. Sleep the right amount of sleep depending on your age. For most adults, 7 hours of sleep can be sufficient for a better overall health.

  1. Limit consumption of caffeine and alcohol, which can both contribute to a spike in anxiety levels that cause stress.

  1. Make it a habit to eat healthy foods such as vegetables, fruits, lean meat and poultry, depending on your usual diet.

  1. Incorporate physical exercises and relaxation techniques in your daily schedule.

  1. Explore new things such as a new hobby, travel in different places, listen to good and relaxing music – there are different ways to relieve your stress.
With that being said, it is better to consult a mental health specialist if you have symptoms of depression or other mental health issues. They will provide you a variety of treatment options to reduce your anxiety and deal with your stress levels.

[We would like to thank Patrick Bailey for this contribution]