The use of alcohol to help unwind after a stressful experience has become so normalized that many Americans see no issue with the practice. Alcohol serves to help users relax by depressing, or slowing down, the central nervous system which limits how many stressful thoughts a person can actively engage with, ignoring the true cause of anxiety.
When used for a long period of time, the brain and body start to develop dependencies on alcohol as they have adjusted how they function to accommodate the presence of an outside substance. Opting to use alcohol for anxiety instead of seeking out professional help is never advised and can be dangerous for your health.
Why Alcohol Doesn’t Cure Anxiety
There are substantial links between substance abuse and mental health issues. This is especially true for alcohol due to its availability and accepted use amongst most people. Teens and adults both are at risk of developing alcohol use disorder, or AUD, when self-medicating with alcohol to treat anxiety.
Alcohol enters the bloodstream extremely quickly meaning users will be able to experience the depressant effects much quicker than a healthier, prescription medication. When finding themselves in a social setting, many people who struggle with anxiety will lean into what others are doing in order to feel like they fit in or can “keep up”.
Alcohol’s depressant impact on the central nervous system can lower serotonin levels, the chemical that provides us with a sense of happiness. When serotonin levels drop, feelings of anxiety become even more prominent once the individual has sobered up. Not only does this cause extra psychological and emotional distress, but long-term alcohol use can lead to physical health issues including strokes, partial loss of cognitive function and even different cancers.
Not only does alcohol use actually cause more anxiety in users, it can even lead to bouts of depression. The mind and body can only handle so much going on at any given point and recovering from alcohol use is especially taxing. If someone is heavily relying on alcohol to fight off anxiety, the time they spend sober can be full of depressive episodes and feelings that they won’t be able to recover from.
There Is Always Help for Anxiety and Alcohol Abuse
There are hundreds of stories surrounding people who have been able to overcome their alcohol abuse and put an end to their anxiety because of that choice. The process of breaking the cycle of alcohol abuse consists of mental health and therapy sessions that gives each individual the time they need to figure out what’s truly fueling their consumption.
Group therapy sessions and other recreational activities are the perfect starting point for those wanting to end their drinking but have concerns about quitting all at once. Taking time to be around others and enjoy the time while sober sheds light on how someone can live a fulfilling life without alcohol. Parties, dinners and entire nights out on the town don’t require alcohol in order to be a fun and memorable experience.
You may be wondering, “If alcohol isn’t needed to feel better, why doesn’t everyone quit drinking?” which is a glaring issue facing public perception of alcohol use disorder. Since alcohol abuse to treat anxiety is often a long-term choice, breaking the dependencies created can have drastic side effects if not done properly. These withdrawal symptoms include:
- Increased heart rate
- Trouble accessing memory
- Issues holding conversation
- Profuse sweating
- Nausea and/or vomiting
When an individual has drunk heavily over many months or years, they may also experience a set of symptoms called delirium tremens, or DT. DT can lead to seizures, shallow breathing, hallucinations and a struggle to separate internal thoughts and reality. Thankfully only a small percentage of alcohol abuse cases end with DT.
If the time has come for you or someone you love to seek assistance with alcohol abuse, America’s Rehab Campus is here to answer any questions you may have. Our compassionate staff will work with you and your family to create a tailored treatment plan and handle the coordination of insurance so you can focus on healing. Please, don’t hesitate to reach out.