Why Using Alcohol to Cope With Anxiety Does More Harm Than Good
If you’re feeling anxious, you’re not alone. Countless friends, family members, and neighbors regularly experience stress and anxiety. It’s embedded in our society, directly linked to the fast-paced nature of the United States. That Friday feeling of needing to escape your anxious and stressful work week is something many people experience.
Using alcohol to cope with anxiety is a practice deeply embedded within American culture. Happy hour with friends or co-workers can often become a weekly practice. Perhaps you like to relax at home with your favorite alcohol to try and keep those anxious feelings at bay.
While using alcohol as a means to relax might appear benign, it’s crucial to be aware that alcohol is a depressant. Resorting to binge drinking or using alcohol to manage anxiety can rapidly become a detrimental cycle. Even the habitual consumption of a cocktail can lead to adverse effects over time. This is because alcohol can paradoxically induce more anxiety in your system, rather than alleviating it. Regular alcohol use, especially as a coping mechanism, can escalate and contribute to a range of mental health issues, highlighting the importance of being mindful about alcohol consumption and its potential long-term impacts.
Who is Choosing Alcohol to Cope With Anxiety and Why?
As mentioned earlier, many people choose to drink to soothe their daily jitters. You may want to loosen up at a party and use alcohol to help ease your way in and out of conversations. If you’re
shy or introverted, you may be even more prone to using alcohol in social situations. Taking a deeper look into types of anxiety might help give a clearer picture of the anxiety and alcohol connection.
Below are some common types of anxiety disorders that may lead to you leaning on using alcohol as a coping mechanism.
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – You worry excessively about daily activities and routines. You physically feel anxiety and worry, and it’s challenging for you to handle it on your own.
- Panic Disorder (PD) – You develop PD with repeated episodes of panic attacks, which are physical manifestations of sudden fear and impending doom.
- Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) – You have difficulty with daily interactions that cause high anxiety levels. Feelings of self-consciousness and embarrassment arise because you fear being negatively judged by others.
And if you have Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) on top of an anxiety disorder, your risk of anxiety related to alcohol consumption is much higher. A common withdrawal symptom of alcohol is anxiety, so they go hand in hand. Alcohol may offer a short-term numbing effect that you reach for time and time again when feeling anxious. But it’s important to remember that the calming effect of alcohol is only temporary and leads to exacerbating anxiety symptoms.
Why Does Alcohol Cause More Anxiety?
Alcohol releases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), a feel-good hormone in the amygdala portion of the brain. This feeling of relaxation is quickly replaced when the dopamine levels dip, often causing more intense anxiety symptoms.
Experts have coined a phrase referring to the withdrawal symptoms following alcohol use. They call it “hangxiety.”
Symptoms of Hangxiety include:
- Feeling sluggish
- Extreme thirst
- Body aches
- Stomach pains
- Racing heart
If you are continuously using alcohol to cope with anxiety, your body will need more of the substance to feel the same effect. The more you use alcohol to ease your anxiety, the more you will continue reaching for it instead of finding the root cause of your condition.
Soon enough, you’ll be trapped in a vicious cycle chicken vs. egg cycle – the anxiety that leads to alcohol use, and the excessive alcohol use that leads to feelings of anxiousness.
Signs and Risks of Alcohol Addiction
You may wonder if your alcohol use to cope with anxiety is excessive. According to the CDC, excessive drinking can be a combination of binge drinking and heavy drinking. For men, binge drinking is having five or more drinks on one occasion or 15 or more in any given week. For women, it is four drinks during one event or eight drinks or more in one week.
You may have a problem with drinking if you experience any of the circumstances below:
- feel you need alcohol to be confident or relax
- neglect responsibilities
- lose relationships over alcohol use, but continue to do it
- drink alone or early in the day
- engage in dangerous behavior or have a DUI arrest
- get drunk when you didn’t plan to
- forget situations or what happened while drinking
- deny, hide alcohol, or become defensive when asked about drinking
Even if you consider yourself a functioning alcoholic, it can and will catch up with you. You are putting yourself and others in undesirable and risky situations. Examples of this might be blackouts, drunk driving, and erratic behavior.
There are also long-term risks to your body from alcohol use. Repeated abuse of alcohol leads to high blood pressure and memory loss. Alcohol use can lead to brain damage, cancer, and liver disease.
One of the most obvious signs of an alcohol dependency is when you continue drinking despite the adverse effects. If any of the situations above ring true for you seek alcohol treatment in San Diego or near your home.
Is an IOP for Alcohol Treatment in San Diego Right For Me?
Finding the correct treatment for alcohol dependency in San Diego starts with talking to your medical professional. Breaking the anxiety and alcohol cycle isn’t easy, but it is doable when you find a supportive program. Enrolling in our IOP in San Diego is an invaluable treatment option to help you gain back that quality of life you desire.
At BOLD Health, located in Encinitas, CA, we use a holistic approach to treating alcohol dependency. Our IOP in San Diego uses proven science-based treatment methods individualized to each patient. When you partner with us to break the chains of addiction, you’ll receive treatment based on your needs and history.
At our IOP in San Diego, you can get the help you need, but on your terms. If you’ve been avoiding getting help for your alcohol use and anxiety symptoms because you don’t want to enroll in an inpatient program, our IOP is the answer you’re looking for. Our intensive outpatient program (IOP) provides a safe haven with structure and support.
Individual therapy sessions with your clinician can help you work through your struggles and learn new coping skills. And group therapy sessions allow you to interact with peers experiencing
similar anxiety and alcohol dependency issues. And if you need medication management, we do that too.
If you are in southern California, take advantage of our alcohol treatment in San Diego. We can help you to regulate your alcohol dependency and address any pre-existing anxiety. Contact us today and take the first step to breaking out of your unhealthy anxiety and alcohol cycle.