Alcohol and Anxiety: A Bad Cocktail for the Mind
Alcohol is hard to avoid nowadays. It’s a very big part of modern life; that it’s hard to be aware of the many different ways we experience and are exposed to it. It’s not only in drinking alcohol that we come in contact with the drink. While watching any sort of entertainment, whether it’s a late night sitcom or a sports game, we find ourselves bombarded by different beer and liquor commercials.
Outside of television, beer and liquor commercials are spread all over magazines and newspapers. Billboards promoting a particular brand of liquor are plastered around our sports stadiums. In some states, beer and wine are sold in grocery stores and 24-hour convenience markets next to snacks and soft drinks.
Alcohol is also very present in a majority of our social celebrations. Champagne and wine is usually used to toast during weddings and birthdays. Family parties will occasional have a beer or any other alcoholic beverage for guests. New Year’s Eve is especially popular for alcohol drinkers, where many bars and parties feature a wide list of spiked drinks for their guests.
But alcohol can also be very destructive for a lot of people, most especially people for people who suffer from anxiety disorder. Unfortunately, a vast majority of anxiety disorder suffers turn to alcohol to alleviate the many symptoms they experience because of it. Alcohol anxiety has been something of a problem for those who have it, using alcohol to treat anxiety. However, people who start out mistake alcohol as a possible cure for their anxiety.
With all of these different customs and functions, alcohol presents a complex picture. It is important to remember that alcohol is a drug—a drug that can prove addictive and that alters the way your brain functions.
This article talks about how alcohol and anxiety can prove to be a very bad cocktail for the person drinking it.
Defining Alcohol and Anxiety
Before we discuss how anxiety and alcohol can affect a person, it’s very important to be able to understand what anxiety and alcohol is separately.
Anxiety disorders are normally defined as follows:
…The term anxiety covers four aspects of experiences an individual may have: mental apprehension, physical tension, physical symptoms and dissociative anxiety. Anxiety disorder is divided into generalized anxiety disorder, phobic disorder, and panic disorder; each has its own characteristics and symptoms and they require different treatment.”
Anxiety disorders are known to trigger panic (or in this case, panic attacks) in their sufferers. Some people panic because of the situation they are put in. Some panic if they find themselves trapped in a room where they cannot see the exit. For them safety means knowing where an “escape route” is, in case the panic starts. Others panic if trapped for a period of time such as having a doctor’s or dentist’s appointment. For these people, safety means avoiding these situations, or trying not to commit themselves to things. Some panic if they have to carry out stressful things alone. For them, safety means only doing things with a partner, trusted friend or relative. Read More
A majority of anxiety attack victims find themselves unable to attend crowded or council meetings. Committee and conference rooms with no easy avenue of escape can be quite overwhelming, particularly when victims have to leave the room in order to recover from acute panic attacks.
A good amount of anxiety attacks also occur when the victims are trapped in an area for a fixed amount of time. Victims of anxiety and panic attacks find themselves easily panic stricken during exam or testing periods where they are confined to a chair for a set amount of time (lasting from a few minutes to an hour). Victims often worry about losing control, and running or screaming out of sheer panic.
Though most victims of anxiety disorders find themselves panic stricken in crowded places, the complete opposite can also happen. Victims can find themselves overwhelmed by panic and anxiety by simply being alone. Times of solitude can trigger suffocating bouts of panic and anxiety. Sufferers of anxiety disorders have a difficult time when left alone. It is usual for them to require a partner or a companion when accomplishing even the most trivial of tasks.
Despite these scenarios of panic attacks, it’s hard to be able to pinpoint when exactly anxiety and panic attacks are bound to happen. The fact about anxiety disorders is that it can happy anytime, night or die, alone or in a crowd.
On the other hand alcohol is readily defined as:
An organic substance formed when a hydroxyl group is substituted for a hydrogen atom in a hydrocarbon. The type of alcohol used in alcoholic beverages, ethanol, derives from fermenting sugar with yeast. After alcohol is ingested, the body converts it to sugar-based fuel. Alcohol acts as a central nervous system depressant, and it may be part of solutions used as preservatives, antiseptics, or medications
Traditionally, alcohol is described as a colorless liquid made either through natural or synthetic means. It is done via fermenting specific carbohydrates into what we know as the alcohol used in beverages such as beer, wine, vodka, rum, brandy, scotch, tequila or any number of other drinks.
Although alcohol has many different uses and functions outside of beverages, for the purposes of this article, we’ll be sticking to those made for drinking.
The amount of alcohol a drink contains depends on many factors: the type of yeast used, the amount and type of sugar used, and the temperature during the process of fermentation.
Different combinations produce different beverages, which contain different concentrations of alcohol. Of the three basic types of alcoholic drinks—beer, wine, and liquor— each has a different alcohol content.
In general, the average batch of alcoholic contains anywhere between 3 to 6 percent alcohol.
Even though alcoholic beverages contain different amounts of alcohol, this does not mean that one is more dangerous or addictive than another. Distilled spirits are not somehow “worse” than beer or wine. You can become addicted to alcohol no matter how it is packaged.
The Effect of Mixing Alcohol and Anxiety
People drink for a variety of reasons. Many of them drink because it makes them happy and relaxed, sometimes, even, sociable. Sometimes alcohol excites people and encourages them to do things they wouldn’t do sober. That is where alcohol managed to get the name “liquid courage”
Unfortunately, alcohol is not a stimulant. It is a depressant, and it has a depressant effect on the brain’s functioning. Consumption of alcohol can injure brain tissue and interfere with the parts of the brain that control memories, emotions, and thinking, especially when taken in large doses.
Because alcohol is a depressant, it depresses specific parts of the brain, including those mechanisms that would normally inhibit certain responses. This is why alcohol can create the false impression of being a stimulant. Instead of sparking certain responses from the brain, it actually kills and impedes them. The part of the brain that normally would inhibit you from doing on thing, or another is actually shut down temporarily; giving you a false sense of courage.
That is why many sufferers of anxiety disorders fall back to alcoholism to alleviate their anxiety and panic attacks. Sometimes people forego actual medical treatment and use alcohol instead. However, alcohol can, in turn have very drastic effects on your life as a sufferer of anxiety disorder. Alcohol and panic attacks is another very destructive mix.
Alcohol has a depressant can easily aggravate the feelings of anxiety and panic, rather than soothe them. Panic attacks after drinking alcohol are fairly common amongst sufferers whose condition is very serious. Alcohol has a way of heightening negative sensations not through stimulating the mind, but by limiting a person’s rational response to something. Because of this, people of anxiety disorders can become worse than before they started drinking alcohol regularly.
A usual question is, “Can alcohol cause panic attacks?” The answer is not an outright yes. However, constant abuse of alcohol can lead to a bodily condition that can trigger panic attacks. Alcohol can be a cause of depression and anxiety in the same way that depression and anxiety can cause alcohol abuse.
The Dangers of Alcohol and Anxiety
Alcohol also poses other significant dangers in other ways. The depressant effects of alcohol can prompt others who aren’t able to cope with their feelings of depression and anxiety to consider something as drastic as suicide. It’s feelings like this that make people feel the worst of themselves when driven to drink for the wrong reasons. That is why it isn’t a surprise that a high number of suicide victims are sufferers of depression, anxiety and alcoholism.
Mixed with clinical anxiety disorder, alcohol can prove to be very dangerous. In more elaborate terms alcohol can create side effects that are not merely dangerous for the drinker, but for others around him or her. Most people who are struggling with anxiety disorder can find themselves gravitating to alcohol without feeling the pangs of its addictive tendencies.
Even though alcohol is a widely available beverage, legally sold and consumed by anyone over the age of 21, it is still a drug. It is a drug that can affect the way your body works now and how well it may function in the future. It can be addictive, and its abuse can prove dangerous both for the drinker and for others.
Technically, alcohol can alleviate a number of the effects of anxiety. However, the effects are short term and can prove to be harmful if left unchecked. It does sooth the feeling of helplessness and depression, in small doses. And can mimic a unreal feeling of courage and confidence. But after a while, alcohol can just as easily affect the drinker in the complete opposite way.
Alcohol can also be addictive and can result in dangerous physical side effects if a person consistently becomes drunk. Studies have also shown that consuming too much alcohol can lead to an irregular heartbeat and a lowering of blood sugar which will actually increase the symptoms of anxiety.
Worse yet, a person who self-treats their anxiety with alcohol will start to become dependent on this form of pseudo-medication. If you buy alcohol to temporarily escape your anxiety, then you are basically buying a prescription—a large dosage prescription without doctor authorization that could prove harmful.
Facts about Alcohol and Anxiety
In the end, alcohol and anxiety are a dangerous mix, especially when taken regularly and in large doses. Although people who suffer from anxiety disorder may feel that alcohol alleviates a lot of the effects of anxiety and panic, it may have very disruptive side effects in the future.
Just to give you a bit of perspective on how anxiety and alcohol go together, and how destructive that combination can be, here are a number of facts about alcohol and anxiety.
- Alcohol is the most widely consumed drug in the world, and is quite frankly, the highest abused drug amongst sufferers of anxiety disorder
- Close to half of all Americans above the age of fourteen are alcohol drinkers. One out of four of them struggle with anxiety and depression.
- Out of every ten people who commit suicide, it is documented that at least one of them had enough alcohol to be considered drunk.
- Of that percentage, half of those have been vocal about feelings of depression and anxiety.
- There is extensive documentation that people who do not drink alcohol regularly (or at all) confess to being happier, less depressed, and less anxious than those who are.
- More than half of all people who are admitted to rehab centers for alcohol abuse are diagnosed with clinical depression. A third of those are have been clinically diagnosed to be suffering from anxiety disorder as well.
- Medical research has shown that people with anxiety disorders have a significantly higher chance to become addicted to alcohol in far less time. Further research also shows that sufferers of anxiety disorder have a higher tendency for addiction.
Still, alcohol has its place amongst social occasions and gatherings. Unfortunately; alcohol can prove to be quite hazardous for people who aren’t able to hold their drink, especially for those who suffer from anxiety disorders. Alcohol and anxiety can prove to be a very dangerous cocktail indeed, and is best done in moderation, or avoided completely, if it can be helped.
There are other safer, natural remedies to anxiety outside of alcohol. And those have far reaching effects that can help you get better, and live a long, normal life.