A man who drinks more than 5 alcoholic beverages in a two hour period or a woman who drinks more than four is considered to be binge drinking. Drinking that amount of alcohol is not all that unusual for people at parties and it might seem like harmless fun.
Binge drinking, however, can turn into a recurring pattern and even develop into a form of addiction over time. If you have a tendency to binge drink you might not consider yourself an alcoholic, but your drinking habits can take a toll on your health both physically and mentally.
There are a few reasons why binge drinking becomes a habit and ultimately a cycle that is difficult to break.
1. Social Pressure and Acceptance- One of the biggest reasons that people begin binge drinking and continue to do so is because it is the norm in their particular social group. Friends might convince you to drink heavily or you might do so because everyone around you is binging at a party.
In order to fit in and feel confident as a part of a group you will probably behave the same way as those in your social. The need for acceptance can drive many people to drink frequently and never question their behavior even after experiencing negative consequences.
2. Drinking as an Escape- Although binge drinking may begin as simply a way to socialize with friends it can quickly turn into an escape from stress or emotional problems. Drinking heavily is an easy way to numb unhappy feelings and binging can turn into a cycle of escaping problems.
Too much alcohol can trigger pain and guilt in the aftermath which leads to more binging to fight feelings of depression. Even people who don't drink everyday can become psychologically dependent on alcohol to deal with stress and anxiety.
3. Tolerance and Increased Drinking- The first time you binge on alcohol, it may only take a few drinks to feel the effects. Over time you will need more and more alcohol to experience the same high that you did initially as you develop a tolerance.
Even non-alcoholics can quickly develop a tolerance to alcohol and begin to increase their level of drinking every time they go out. Binge episodes may also occur closer together over time.
You may be able to go months without binging initially but eventually the cycle develops into a monthly or weekly habit as your tolerance and dependency grows.
4. Chemical Dependency- In addition to tolerance there are also chemical and biological reasons why binge drinking becomes a cycle throughout life. When you binge on alcohol the brain releases the chemical dopamine which makes you feel good.
Drinking brings this rush of feel good chemicals which we can begin to crave more and more whenever we experience low levels of dopamine or serotonin. As you binge drink you will find yourself seeking the pleasure of alcohol more frequently because you have developed a chemical dependency.
5. Mental Health Issues- Alcohol consumption and issues of mental health are closely connected in a number of ways. At times, problems like depression and anxiety are the underlying reason why a person begins binge drinking.
Conversely, heavy drinking can actually lead to psychological problems because of the intense ups and downs of hangovers and withdrawal symptoms. People with mental health problems will find it much more difficult to quit binge drinking because they rely on alcohol to improve their mood and emotional state.
When depression and anxiety are present, binging can quickly escalate into a form of alcoholism that will take special treatment to recover from.