Alcohol is the world’s most popular drug. Nine in ten adults admit to drinking it at one point in their life, a survey from a national institute reveals. While a person may think alcohol has a positive, calming effect on their anxiety, drinking to deal with stress, especially in excess, does more harm than good.
The connection between alcohol and anxiety creates a vicious circle for its users. Because alcohol causes the condition, a person may be tempted to consume more and more to deal with the soured symptoms, such as panic attacks and fear.
Alcohol and Anxiety – Dangerous Self-Medication
Anxiety disorders vary in severity and kind but generally share some general symptoms such as fear, panic, and uneasiness. These symptoms can completely overwhelm a person and cripple to the point where performing simple daily task presents a problem. It has to do a lot with how we process our surroundings and how it influences our emotions.
Sometimes, causes of stress (stressors) become too overwhelming, and negatively affect our health. Simply put, fear of workload, bankruptcy, social embarrassment, and even the fear of fear itself all act as potential stressors leading to a range of disorders stemming from stress response dysfunctioning of certain brain areas.
Does alcohol help anxiety? Unfortunately, we’ve been fed false stories of its positive effect on the condition. It has come to the point where it’s socially acceptable to have a drink or two to ‘unwind’ and calm our nerves. But it’s important to remember alcohol is a strong sedative and a central nervous system depressant. While moderate consumption can be beneficial to a wide range of conditions, those with anxiety and panic attacks should steer clear of it.
Take General Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD), for example. It is one of the most serious and widespread conditions in the US. Its pharmacological treatment is still poorly addressed, with only about 30% of the patients achieving full recovery. It has been proven many people with this condition turn to drinking as a method of self-medication. As a consequence, those affected by social anxiety and alcohol consumption then have to drink more to deal with the new side effects.
Also, when a person is prone to panic attacks or other related states, particular precaution has to be taken into account. Alcohol and panic attacks don’t mix together well and even a single drink is enough to trigger an episode.
Alcohol and Anxiety the Next Day
While drinking temporarily reduces the effects of stress, an alcohol-induced anxiety usually kicks back the following day.
Consequently, such person may wake up with a range of side effects after a night’s drinking, experiencing:
- Mood Swings
Because alcohol lowers our serotonin levels in the brain, a person may wake up feeling particularly ‘drained out’ which could cause feelings of anxiety.
- Lowered Blood Sugar
Consuming alcoholic drinks is also known to reduce blood sugar levels. This can make a person feel dizzy, weak, nervous, and confused – symptoms which are more than likely to trigger anxious feelings.
The morning after drinking, a person’s nervous system will be on alert, trying to fight off the sedative effects. It puts the person’s body into a hyperactive state which can lead to shaking, increased stimuli sensitivity, and sleep deprivation.
Another weakening property of anxiety and alcohol, dehydration can cause dizziness, nausea, fatigue, muscle weakness, and lightheadedness. While these symptoms don’t necessarily induce anxiety, they provide suitable grounds for its onset.
- Lack of Focus
One may be wake up in a hazy, confused state after a night of drinking. This can lead to a sense of disorientation, poor judgment, and mental ambiguity which cause increased stress.
- Increased Heart Rate
Having one too many drinks also increases the heart rate, which makes people more anxious. Some individuals can even mistake the increased heart rate for a heart attack, which can leave them wondering ‘what if’. This fear can fuel stress and panic attacks.
Alcohol Withdrawal and Anxiety
Can alcohol cause anxiety when a person tries to quit? If a person has been having a drink in great quantities for prolonged periods of time before, his or her anxiety may be increased when the habit stops.
This is mostly due to the side effects of alcohol withdrawal, which include:
- Profound Sweating
- Shaking/trembling hands
- Increased heart rate
- Nausea and vomiting
These symptoms can make it difficult to stay away from alcohol in those suffering from an anxiety disorder and panic attacks. The whole situation can present a difficult period of time for all affected, including the person’s family members and close friends. The hallucinations can be incredibly vivid while the seizures in some instances can be life-threatening.
Traditional Treatment Options
It is important to understand that, although alcohol can trigger anxious feelings, it is more likely that anxiety triggers excessive drinking. Research suggests people suffering from anxiousness and panic attacks are at a 30 percent higher risk of developing alcohol or drug abuse.
Therefore, a person needs to know how to stop anxiety after drinking alcohol. There is a wide range of treatment options available that can help people deal with stress and panic attacks in a healthy, abuse-free way. Group therapies and consultations work well.
Also, promoting a better outlook on life can be of massive help. For example, exercise has been shown to have a positive psychological effect on anxiety and panic attacks. It’s all about the way patients wee themselves from an outside perspective. Physical activity can help in improving one’s self-image and also works on a neurological level, increasing levels mood-enhancing endorphins.