Have you ever considered the link between alcohol and anxiety? You hear about countless people who head home at the end of a long day of work. They step through the door, greet their family, and start to get dinner ready. They pour themselves a glass of wine to soften the edge of their hard day.
What about when you go out for an evening with your friends? The idea of interacting makes some people nervous and alcohol soothes those feelings of discomfort. Besides, everyone else seems to have a drink in their hand so it only feels natural that you should, too.
There are also people with chronic anxiety disorders also use alcohol to relieve their symptoms. It offers a quick solution to a more in-depth and pervasive problem. When it takes away your overwhelming nervousness, though, you might not consider the long-term effects.
Alcohol helps millions of people across the United States unwind. Whether it’s a glass of wine with dinner, a cocktail while out for the night, or drinking to relieve more serious anxiety, it provides temporary comfort. This momentary relief might not be as helpful as you think it is, though. It works in the moment but there is a closer relationship between alcohol and anxiety than you imagine.
Alcohol and Anxiety: Does Drinking Offer Relief?
Drinking is a customary part of society in the United States. It’s almost as readily available as a glass of water wherever you go. It lightens the mood and helps people socialize more easily. More than half of the people surveyed by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reported having a drink in the last month alone.
It’s not bad to have a drink at the end of the day or if you go out for the evening. It depends on the reason you’re drinking, though, and on how much you drink. If you use it as a crutch to help you relax or socialize it might do more harm than good. Why is that?
Understanding Alcohol and Anxiety
The term anxiety describes feelings of anticipation, nervousness, tension, or worry. Feelings of anxiety come as a result of the over-anticipation of an event or situation that has yet to happen. Other times, people experience this overwhelming worry or anticipation for things that might not even happen.
People prefer a quick relief to their anxious feelings because it’s uncomfortable to sit with them. Since alcohol helps millions of normal drinkers relax, it seems like a logical solution. Alcohol is a depressant substance that impacts your body’s central nervous system. When many people drink, they feel more outgoing, less embarrassed, and in an overall good mood.
It allows for more free-flowing conversation at a dinner party. This makes going out dancing with friends feel less nerve-wracking. You might even find yourself with a microphone in your hand at the karaoke bar.
If your drinking remains casual and occasional, there isn’t much to worry about. For people with a predisposition to anxiety, though, it’s another story. Some people who mix alcohol and anxiety report increased feelings of worry following a night of drinking. When you start drinking to relieve your feelings of anxiety, you might find yourself stuck in a cycle of self-medication.
Alcohol and Anxiety: The Impact of Self-Medicating
Nearly everyone understands what anxiety is. Everyone experiences it at some time or another in varying degrees. Sometimes it’s a case of nerves before a presentation. For others it can be so serious that it causes them to live in a constant state of worry.
Not everyone realizes how debilitating actual anxiety disorders can be. When you live with an anxiety disorder, though, you understand how much it can affect your everyday life. Some find that alcohol provides a quick solution to their seemingly unstoppable worries.
Self-medicating is practice of using alcohol or drugs to combat anxiety or other mental health disorders. It starts as a way to manage symptoms that someone might not even recognize as a mental illness. After they find the alcohol relieves their overwhelming symptoms, they turn to it more and more often.
The majority of people who self-medicate don’t realize their developing dependence until it’s too late. More often than not, the drugs and alcohol boomerang on them and create a bigger problem than they had before. What started at first as only a mental illness is now a dual diagnosis problem: someone with both a mental illness and a substance use disorder.
Alternatives to Self-Medication
Once you’re trapped in a cycle of self-medication it feels like it’s impossible to escape. Trying to manage your symptoms without your solution ends up leading to worse symptoms. If you found yourself in this position, there is a way out.
Addiction treatment facilities that specialize in treating people with dual diagnosis understand where you’re coming from. First you need to address and overcome your substance dependence. Next you can face and learn to cope with your mental illness.