Depressed anxious man on a plane.

Alcohol And Anxiety: What Is The Link?

The relationship between alcohol and anxiety is two-sided. On the one hand, a lot of people take alcohol when trying to figure out how to reduce anxiety. Everyone feels anxiety at various points of their lives to varying levels, but it’s much more than a temporary situation for many people. For some of these people, anxiety and drinking go hand in hand as they seek to deal with longer periods or more intense levels of anxiety than the average person.

Alcohol anxiety disorder has a negative impact on the general well-being and function of an individual. It could affect the way that the person relates to people, potentially ruining existing relationships and making it difficult to form new ones.

Does alcohol help with anxiety? For many people, alcohol is a “way out” because of it’s depressant and sedative effect, but figuring out how to combat anxiety is a lot more than downing glasses of alcohol. Alcohol in the system helps to form increased levels of relaxation – albeit temporarily – and in fact, anxiety and alcohol are a bad combination long term.

Can alcohol cause anxiety? The fact that alcohol abuse can be the reason for anxiety too is one that many people do not know or take into consideration. When you use alcohol to deal with your anxiety, it is possible to develop another type of anxiety disorder – alcohol-induced anxiety. In the long run, this will only worsen the effects of the initial anxiety disorder that you may have been dealing with.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America traced alcohol abuse and dependence to 20% of all social anxiety disorder cases. This proves that alcohol causes anxiety. It also confirms the fact that while alcohol can be effective for dealing with anxiety over a very short period of time (a couple of hours), depression after drinking is a real problem. This applies to drinking alcohol in both moderate and large quantities, and the post-consumption effects on anxiety levels can last for a whole day. The only answer for how to stop anxiety after drinking alcohol would be to drink the barest minimum of the substance.

On a molecular level, alcohol also has negative effects on the brain. Consuming the substance in large quantities can rewire the brain, making it more prone to the development of anxiety after drinking. Constant abuse of alcohol will also lead to dependence up to a point where one begins to feel physical withdrawal symptoms if it is not consumed for a while. These symptoms range from mild to severe. Sweating, nausea, trembling and an increased heart rate are some of the withdrawal symptoms that an alcoholic may experience in these cases.

Summarily, consuming alcohol while figuring out how to reduce anxiety problems is an inadvisable route to take. While it may suffice as a quick fix to alleviating anxiety issues for a very short period, the dangers of the substance to the brain long-term make it worthless. Alternatively, there are many more effective and less risky ways to treat anxiety disorders.

Self Treatment

Doctors may recommend some forms of self-treatment if the individual is experiencing short or mild cases of alcohol anxiety. Techniques of self-treatment that may be recommended include:

  • Exercise – Regular exercise helps to keep the mind busy, such that negative thoughts are few and far between. The physical results of regular exercise will also have a positive effect on self-image, consequently triggering other positive emotions.
  • Relaxation – Relaxation techniques such as yoga, breathing exercises, meditation, and long baths can help keep the mind calm and reduce anxiety
  • Stress management – Keeping tasks to a reasonable number can help manage stress levels too. When tasks pile up, it can be a cause for anxiety.
  • Support – Having a support network of close friends or family that one can talk to often can help when dealing with alcohol anxiety. This way, feelings are not bottled up and there is a lesser risk of the situation developing into a larger problem.

Therapy

Cognitive behavioral therapy session can be very effective in managing the abuse of alcohol and anxiety disorders. For this, one would have to visit a rehabilitation center where qualified health care professionals can explain the process and the right course of treatment.

Medications

Medication such as tricyclics, anti-depressants, and benzodiazepines help in treating alcohol-induced anxiety by managing the physical and mental symptoms of the condition. They are also very effective for other types of anxiety disorders.