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Alcohol and Anxiety

Anxiety is the general term for several disorders which cause nervousness, worrying, and apprehension. These disorders are more serious than the normal stress a person undergoes when facing new experiences, interviews, and exams. Anxiety can changes a person’s personality and interrupt his or her daily activities.

There are many types of anxiety disorders. The most common are generalized anxiety disorder, phobias, separation anxiety disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, and social anxiety disorder.

Anxiety changes the brain’s chemistry, causing the afflicted person to think and feel negatively, thereby making it harder for them to seek and accept help. With no clear way for them to escape their thoughts, people with anxiety tend to suffer almost continuously. This adds to their already negative mindset and causes a nearly endless negative feedback loop. Thus, many tend to turn to alcohol as their weapon of choice to battle anxiety.

Although alcohol can help temporarily, it has the potential to make the condition much worse in the long run. Experts say that the stress, depression, and anxiety levels in these people will return at a higher degree than before after only a few hours. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it further disrupts the balance of the brain. As the sufferer’s system gets used to alcohol, he or she will need to consume a higher amount more frequently to continue suppressing their symptoms.

If a depressed or anxious person continues to drink regularly, then he or she is at serious risk for permanent damage to their neurotransmitters – structures in the brain that are required to maintain good mental health. Over time, their levels of serotonin will also lower, leading to erratic mood swings. These problems only serve to cause more severe feelings of depression and anxiety. Even moderate amounts of alcohol are said to impose very bad results.

How do you know that you have a problem?

  • If you drink alcohol four or more times per week
  • If you have five or more drinks containing alcohol in a day
  • If you need a drink of alcohol to start the day
  • If you can’t stop drinking once you start
  • If you feel shame or regret after drinking
  • If a loved one or doctor shows concern over your alcohol consumption
  • If you are having problems sleeping
  • If you are feeling lethargic and tired a majority of the time
  • If you feel low or depressed
  • If you feel anxious in conditions that you didn’t feel anxious in before

If you have a pre-existing anxiety condition and display some or all of these symptoms, then you may have a drinking problem that is sure to make your anxiety worse.

You may tell yourself that you don’t have a problem, or that your alcohol consumption is worth not facing your anxiety. However, without proper treatment, the condition can only get worse. The only way to truly escape your anxiety is to seek help from a loved one and/or from a health care professional.

How to give up alcohol as your weapon for fighting anxiety:

  • Exercise regularly. The act of exercising helps to release dopamine and other “feel good” chemicals into the brain, which can reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
  • Use methods of relaxation such as yoga, meditation, or less traditional means such as participating in an activity you love or hanging out with supportive friends instead of using alcohol to relax.
  • Use breathing techniques to suppress your anxiety whenever you feel anxious.
  • Tell your worries to someone you trust and get them out of your mind. You will feel much better when you do so, and hearing supportive words and advice can help to dispel that particular worry.
  • When you feel like drinking, always remind yourself that it will only increase your problems.

Alcohol causes you lose your inhibitions and make rash decisions. Combined with increasingly negative thoughts, this could lead to irreversible choices that you wouldn’t make while sober – choices such as self-harm or suicide. If you are struggling with an emotional disorder, do not try to self-medicate with alcohol. Instead, seek the help of a health care professional who can equip you with the proper weapons to help in your fight against anxiety.

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