Alcohol and anxiety have a complicated relationship. It can help moderate anxiety in some people when used in moderation, and it can also trigger severe panic attacks in others. Excessive alcohol use can create anxiety in someone without a history of it as well. Understanding the relationship between alcohol and anxiety is important if you have any anxiety disorders.
Many people believe that alcohol can cure anxiety, but this isn’t exactly true. Alcohol and anxiety don’t mix very well. If you have a mild case of anxiety, such as nervousness before a big date, then a drink or two might take off that edge. Those of us with anxiety disorders, however, have to be careful. Alcohol can have several effects on anxiety disorders.
Some people with even mild anxiety disorders find that even small amounts of alcohol trigger panic attacks. The attack combined with the dis-inhibition can make alcohol and anxiety very poor companions. People should only mix alcohol and anxiety disorders with care. Preferably, a trusted friend or loved one should be present in case there is a bad reaction.
Another danger of combining alcohol and anxiety is that it is a depressant. While you might feel an initial “high” alcohol actually causes some of the same chemical changes that anxiety and depression do. Your anxiety disorder can be worsened if you consume alcohol regularly. For those who don’t drink often, binge drinking can create even more significant problems.
There are several medical reactions to explain why alcohol and anxiety shouldn’t be combined. A simple reason is that consuming alcohol leads to a drop in blood sugar later. This can cause various problems, and anxiety is only one of them. Another concern is that alcohol lowers the levels of serotonin in the brain. As anxiety is often a result of low serotonin, alcohol obviously can make this worse.
Alcochol and anxiety are also a problem because sometimes it takes concentration and good decisions to handle anxiety. If you’re in the beginning stages of a panic attack, you have to be able to recognize it and keep yourself safe. If you use affirmations, meditation, breathing exercises, or other methods to get through an attack, it will be hard to concentrate under the effects of alcohol.
Perhaps the biggest concern with alcohol and anxiety is the risk of addiction. Alcohol helps many people to relax and forget their anxieties. Especially for people with a personal or family history of addictions, alcohol and anxiety can be a dangerous cycle. Alcohol seems to ease anxiety, so you drink it more and more often. Over time, the effect is less noticeable so you drink more. All along, while you think that the alcohol is helping, it actually makes the anxiety worse.
While alcohol and anxiety aren’t always compatible, most people with anxiety can safely drink in reasonable amounts. Of course, you have to be careful. If you’re taking any medications, talk to your doctor or pharmacist to make sure that it is safe to drink. Alcohol and anxiety medications may produce unpleasant side effects when combined.
Alcohol and anxiety tend to feed off of one another. Drinking makes anxiety worse, so you drink more to cope with the anxiety. This leads to health problems and addiction. Be aware of the dangers and monitor your use of alcohol. If you think that you might have a problem, don’t be afraid to ask for help. While most people are able to safely drink alcohol, anxiety can make addiction more likely and more complicated.