You might have a drink to take the edge off after a difficult day with the kids or to prepare for an overwhelming social event. Maybe you reward yourself with a night out drinking once a week. And while neither of these situations may be a problem at first, it can quickly become one when drinking becomes an escape from persistent feelings of anxiety. In this case, you risk getting caught in a vicious cycle between alcohol and anxiety that requires you to have a drink to keep unpleasant feelings at bay.
Alcohol might minimize feelings of stress or the symptoms of your social anxiety disorder temporarily. But the rebound effect from drinking too much can increase the baseline of your anxiety symptoms. As a result, you’ll continue to seek out your next drink or risk feeling too anxious to function. But once you’re stuck in this cycle, what can you do?
Below you’ll learn more about the complicated relationship between alcohol and anxiety and where you can get help to treat them simultaneously. Whether you’ve been using alcohol to remedy symptoms of anxiety for years or see a new connection between the two, you can get professional help from a mental health and addiction treatment center.
Does Drinking Alcohol Affect Anxiety Symptoms?
Chronic alcohol use physiologically alters the brain. For instance, if you suffer from panic attacks, drinking can induce panic because of the effects alcohol has on GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid). This neurotransmitter produces feelings of calmness and relaxation that typically reduce symptoms of anxiety. However, heavy drinking can cause GABA levels to deplete, which in turn increases feelings of tension and panic.
If you’re struggling with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), alcohol and anxiety might appear to be a matching pair. Drinking makes you feel calmer and happier because your inhibitions are lowered. You might even feel like you’ve put an end to the unending cycle of anxiety and depressive episodes. But these feelings are temporary. And over time, you may struggle to feel calm or relaxed without alcohol.
Using alcohol as a crutch will only lead to a heightened sense of anxiety and depression, making you feel flat and unmotivated. These feelings will increase your need to drink to mask returned fear and worry, worsening both your anxiety and alcohol dependency.
The Connection Between Alcohol and Anxiety
Alcohol is one of the most commonly used addictive substances in the United States. This is due in part to the fact that alcohol is readily available in most stores and is frequently the focal point of social events. Drinking alcohol is synonymous with marking any occasion, making it difficult for those who are struggling with addiction or prefer not to drink to refuse a drink without having to defend their choice.
Unfortunately, alcohol and anxiety don’t mix well. You may have heard the term “hangxiety;” it’s a combination of the words “hangover” and “anxiety,” in reference to the anxious feelings that accompany a hangover. These unpleasant and negative emotions are the result of heavy drinking. Many adults considered to be shy struggle with this post-drinking anxiety.
If you don’t have an alcohol dependence, you might be able to power through the day by rehydrating and resting. However, dependency magnifies these symptoms to an unbearable level. You are physically and mentally unable to function without another drink and will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Depending on how much you drink daily, these symptoms could potentially be life-threatening. These painful symptoms that take over the brain and body make it difficult and sometimes dangerous to put the bottle down.
There isn’t a sole factor that makes the connection between alcohol and anxiety so common. However, some common factors have been found among adults who use alcohol to self-medicate. Such factors include:
- Genetic history of substance abuse and/or anxiety disorders
- Personal history of mental health issues
- Abuse or trauma
Knowing about these factors can help you understand how your alcohol dependence and anxiety disorder may have developed. In turn, this knowledge can make it easier to get alcohol and anxiety treatment.
When to Get Help for Your Struggles with Alcohol and Anxiety
There are different definitions of alcoholism depending on who you ask. This can make it difficult for individuals to recognize their drinking habits as a form of alcoholism if they believe they have their drinking under control or can stop whenever they want. Despite the terminology you choose to use, you can identify unhealthy drinking habits according to their impact on self-control, relationships, home and work life, and overall mental health.
Since adults with anxiety disorders already have a higher risk of alcohol abuse, you may have a harder time breaking the habit before it gets out of control. But if you find yourself thinking about your next drink or are unable to control your alcohol consumption every time you start to feel anxious, your relationship with alcohol is no longer healthy. If you think your battle with alcohol and anxiety is taking over your life, it’s time to consider getting professional help.
Alcohol and Anxiety Treatment
You may not fully understand the complex relationship between alcohol and anxiety in your life and that’s okay. At The Willough at Naples, you will work with mental health professionals and addiction specialists to get to the underlying cause of your symptoms. Our dual diagnosis program does just that. But before you start, the first step to recovery is detoxification.
When you detox from alcohol, you stop drinking so your body can eliminate all of the toxins from the alcohol. This process looks slightly different from patient to patient, depending on the amount of alcohol that was regularly consumed. As mentioned, quitting cold turkey from drinking can have dangerous side effects. However, with the 24/7 supervision and care of a treatment center, you can safely detox while getting help to manage your anxiety symptoms.
After detox, the mental and emotional part of recovery begins. This is done through comprehensive dual diagnosis treatment. Contrary to standard addiction programs, a dual diagnosis program will consider the relationship between your anxiety disorder and your alcohol use disorder. This allows them to be treated simultaneously for recovery to be the most effective.
From here, you can benefit from therapy modalities such as:
These supportive therapy approaches ensure that you heal at your own pace. With the support of the center’s staff, you will discover the tools to live a happy, sober life.
Get Anxiety Treatment in Naples, Florida
Alcohol and anxiety don’t have to run your life any longer. The Willough at Naples is a residential treatment center for adults struggling with co-occurring disorders. Our skilled and professional team uses evidence-based therapeutic methods to help any adult ready to improve their mental wellness.
If you have any questions about how we help patients overcome addiction and find new ways to cope with their anxiety disorder, call us at 800-722-0100. Or if you’re more comfortable, send us an inquiry online by completing a confidential contact form. Our admissions team will give you the information you need to make the next step in your recovery. Get the help you deserve today.