Understanding the Connection Between Alcohol & Anxiety

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Stressed woman looking unhappy.People drink alcohol for a whole host of reasons: to be social, to take the edge off, to relax. Whether having a few beers while watching the game or enjoying cocktails with friends, alcohol is a big part of our pastimes. However, many people don’t realize that alcohol consumption can play a role in anxiety.

How Alcohol Impacts Brain Chemistry

Alcohol affects our brain chemistry, impacting the chemical messengers that send signals throughout the body to control mood, behavior and though processes. These chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters, include serotonin, which helps promote a feeling of wellbeing and happiness. Alcohol can reduce the levels of serotonin, which can cause anxiety or worsen anxiety for those suffering from an anxiety disorder.

When Drinking to Feel Good Backfires

People with anxiety disorders may rely on alcohol as a way to self-medicate, in order to feel more at ease. In the short-term, a few drinks can help someone feel relaxed, but using alcohol to cope with stress or manage anxiety will take a toll on mental health.

Alcohol provides a very short-term solution to anxiety, with the costs of drinking outweighing the perceived benefits.

Not only can alcohol interfere with serotonin, it can also elevate heart rate and blood pressure, which can prolong feelings of tension and anxiety. And long term alcohol use can raise adrenaline levels in the body, which can also cause anxiety.

A Temporary Fix

Turning to alcohol to calm anxious feelings may not be a habit you want to encourage. In the short term, the source of anxiety may be dampened by drinking, but when the alcohol wears off, the anxiety will still be there. People suffering from anxiety are best-served by developing coping skills to manage their anxiety or seeking treatment to get the mental health support they deserve.