Alcohol consumption is normalised here in the UK, even to the point where it’s used as a coping strategy. For some individuals, drinking alcohol can promote positive effects, such as relaxation and social engagement. However, for those with anxiety, this mix can be lethal.
Anxiety is a mental health illness surrounding extreme worry, panic and concern. While the average person can digest worry and work through the ‘fight or flight’ response process with ease, someone with anxiety can find it difficult to think rationally, make decisions and switch off such worry.
Now consider the impacts that excessive drinking can have on the brain, on perceptions and on internal chemical release. While on the surface, drinking alcohol may seem to alleviate the symptoms of anxiety, under the surface, those symptoms can intensify, where even greater vulnerabilities can materialise.
It may feel normal to reach for alcohol in the event of a panic attack or mental health crisis, down to the escapism that it can offer.
After all, it is a known depressant that impacts the central nervous system, including responses and fear levels. Yet, in truth, such behaviour can promote denial, can hide the severity of crises, and can make anxiety harder to live with, as the worries of alcoholism also amount.
Here’s some insight into the dangerous relationship between drinking and anxiety, along with how to treat both with our guidance at Ocean Recovery.
What is anxiety?
Classed as a commonly diagnosed mental health issue, anxiety can be found in many different forms, from social anxiety to panic disorders and too generalised anxiety.
While there are different forms, where symptoms, triggers and severities differ, all fall under the same characteristics where excessive worry is experienced.
As we’ve shared above, the average person can usually digest and move on from worry. However, for someone who’s suffering from anxiety, it can be challenging to move on, as ingrained worry is present, even if reassurance has been voiced.
Symptoms of anxiety include irritability, paranoia, insomnia, increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rates, irrational thinking, and low moods.
While symptoms can differ and can impact individuals differently, an uncontrollable level of nervous energy is usually experienced at a consistent rate through an anxiety disorder.
Through such symptoms, it’s easy to see why many individuals believe that drinking will improve the symptoms of anxiety, to promote relaxation and stabilisation. However, drinking and anxiety are a complex, dangerous mix that shouldn’t be used as a coping strategy.
Consuming alcohol through the symptoms of anxiety
As anxiety can be difficult to live with, especially through chronic and consistent symptoms, many individuals do turn to alcohol as a coping strategy.
Its positive effects are initially encountered, standing as a depressant. Here, drinking and anxiety come across as a harmless mix, as alcohol consumption can offer escapism from negative thoughts and irritability.
However, through utilising this coping strategy, users are in fact aggravating their symptoms of anxiety, along with increasing the risk of many dangers.
From the dangers linked to drinking and anxiety meds to denial to the threat of developing an alcohol addiction, those with anxiety are regularly recommended to avoid addictive substances for such reasons.
Yet, for some, the positive effects of drinking are initially attractive, which if enabled, will, unfortunately, amount to such dangers, subconsciously.
The dangerous relationship between drinking and anxiety
There’s a two-way relationship between drinking and anxiety, where excessive alcohol abuse can develop the symptoms of anxiety, and where heightened anxiety levels can influence alcoholism.
Firstly, excessive abuse of alcohol, especially on a long-term basis can amount to psychological vulnerabilities, which resemble those of individuals with pre-existing mental health issues.
Through ongoing consumption, which does impact overall health down to the toxicity of alcohol, there is a high correlation between the unhealthy habit of drinking and anxiety. This correlation is known to advance into a dual diagnosis if uncontrolled, where the vicious cycle of both addiction and mental health issues can entwine.
On the other end of the relationship, living with an anxiety disorder can drive many individuals to abuse alcohol. While this will be an unknowing activity, where they will intend to suppress their symptoms of anxiety, the dangerous characteristics of alcohol will soon present themselves.
Down to the relief that alcohol can provide the mind, many individuals will develop a dependence on drinking excessively, to curb the challenges linked to mental health issues.
Yet, through such a process, they are in fact causing greater problems, from developing alcoholism, to increasing the risk of extreme worry down to the negativity of addiction.
Drinking excessively, without mental vulnerabilities can result in depression, organ failure, reduced quality of life, psychological impairment and irreversible trauma. Now combine such results with the tests of anxiety, and it’s easy to see the dangerous relationship between drinking and anxiety.
The challenging part of this is, is that those who abuse alcohol, while suffering from anxiety will likely live, in denial, believing that such decisions will benefit their mental health. When sadly, this isn’t the reality, posing a risk of a dual diagnosis.
How to treat anxiety and alcohol abuse
Instead of turning to alcohol to treat anxiety, there are proactive, safe and confidential ways to stabilise your mental health, while curbing any addictive tendencies you may have.
For individuals suffering from anxiety, a wide range of treatments can be promoted to balance the mind, to offer perspective and to manage symptoms. Prescription medications, cognitive behavioural therapy and stress management are a few options to treat anxiety.
For individuals abusing alcohol, who have yet to develop mental health issues, a comprehensive form of rehab can be completed to withdraw and recover from alcoholism.
For those with connections between drinking and anxiety, dual diagnosis treatment is available to suppress and manage both brain illnesses. A mix of treatments will be promoted to tackle symptoms, to promote relapse prevention, to provide positive coping strategies, and to offer educational efforts.
Unfortunately, down to the harmless image of alcohol, many individuals mix drinking and anxiety, believing that their effects will rank as average.
However, for someone living with anxiety, the presence of alcohol can increase worry, can cause further mental damage, and can develop the risk of dual conditions. If you’re suffering through anxiety, through alcoholism or through a mix of both, we at Ocean Recovery can help you.
“Often it’s the deepest pain which empowers you to grow into your highest self” – Karen Salmansohn
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