Anxiety is a common problem that everyone deals with from time to time. It is normal to feel nervous before an important interview, a first date or a performance on stage. This type of anxiety can be motivating and is not necessarily a problem that requires professional help.
Anxiety that becomes debilitating and interferes with daily life however, is something that needs to be addressed. Often people may not realize that their alcohol consumption is contributing greatly to their level of anxiety and damaging their mental health.
A person may have existing anxiety problems that become seriously exacerbated by their drinking habits or in some cases their drinking may cause mental health problems that were not an issue in the past. Alcohol has a profound effect on a person physically and emotionally and it is possible to develop complicated psychological problems that require special treatment when someone drinks heavily over a period of time.
Anxiety and Physiological Responses to Alcohol
Alcohol does not affect everyone the same way but certain people may be more vulnerable to developing problems with anxiety when they drink regularly. There a few different biological and psychological reasons that heavy alcohol consumption can cause anxiety.
Firstly, alcohol can have a significant effect on a person's mood because it can alter serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin is a feel good chemical in the brain that allows people to feel joy and happiness.
Drinking alcohol decreases serotonin in the brain which can quickly lead to feelings of anxiety and depression. Alcohol consumption at high levels can also cause a drop in blood sugar and dehydration which can both lead to dizziness, weakness and nervousness that serve to increase a person's level of anxiety.
Drinking affects the nervous system because the body automatically goes into a hyperactive state to fight off the sedative effects of the drug. This feeling of hyperactivity can cause sleep deprivation, tension and anxiety.
Heart rate and blood pressure is also affected by alcohol, both becoming more elevated the more that you drink. A rapid heart rate can trigger anxiety and fear. Many of these biological responses can lead to a feeling of being unwell and an increase in anxiety over time.
The Cycle of Self-Medication
Drinking heavily over time can lead to increased issues of mental health because people tend to self-medicate with alcohol. The more a person experiences feelings of anxiety, the more they will continue to drink in order to temporarily alleviate those emotions.
Alcohol's sedative effect may calm anxiety at the initial time of being intoxicated but the physical responses of the body and the mind will eventually worsen stress, nervousness and fear. Most people are not aware that alcohol is actually the cause of their anxiety, so they will continue to drink and fuel a cycle of addiction and distress.
Alcohol-induced anxiety can cause a state of fear and apprehension that disrupts a person's life and makes it difficult for them to function normally. If anxiety grows very severe, the person might begin experiencing panic attacks that can happen suddenly and without warning. All the negative effects that alcohol has on someone's physical and mental functioning can culminate into a serious disorder.
It is crucial for people with both anxiety and an alcohol problem to seek help for both issues and receive the kind of treatment that will address their dual disorder. Treatment can help ease their symptoms and keep them from turning to alcohol as a solution for their problems. For people that are vulnerable to anxiety problems, it is best for their health to abstain from alcohol consumption so that they do not worsen their mental health in the long run.