According to statistics gathered by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a little more than 86% of adults in the US have used alcohol at some point in their lives. Over 70% have had a drink within the last year, and 56% have had a drink in the last month.
Alcohol is almost always present at gatherings of all kinds – everything from weddings to sporting events. Although many people consume alcohol to improve their mood or relax, there’s another group of people who use drinking as a way of relieving anxiety. Unfortunately, this kind of self-medication can lead to a dangerous mental and psychical dependence and a worsening of anxiety symptoms.
The relationship between alcohol abuse and anxiety has long been established. Alcohol use disorder and anxiety disorders frequently co-occur, as people use alcohol for short-term anxiety reduction. However, using alcohol to treat the symptoms of anxiety can cause significantly more harm than good. When a person uses alcohol to treat their anxiety they become physically and mentally dependent. They may suffer from sever anxiety when they try to stop using alcohol and can often experience fatal withdrawal symptoms. Many individuals will also build a tolerance to alcohol and will need to consume larger quantities to treat their anxiety symptoms. It’s a vicious cycle that is easy to get caught in.
What is Anxiety?
According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 31% of adults in the US experience an anxiety disorder at some point in their lives. There are a few different types of anxiety, but the most common forms are:
- Generalized anxiety disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Panic disorder
- Specific phobias, such as agoraphobia (the fear of leaving the home)
If you are not sure if you or your loved one suffer from anxiety, you should consider the common behavioral clues. Here are some of the typical signs and symptoms of anxiety that distinguish the condition from normal worry:
- Continual feelings of nervousness, restlessness or just tense
- Feelings of impending danger or certain doom
- Hyperventilation, which is when a person breathes rapidly
- Difficulty with concentration, or not having the ability to focus on anything besides the present worry
- Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
- Upset stomach or another gastrointestinal issue
- Avoiding things that may trigger anxiety
Why Do People Use Alcohol to Treat Anxiety?
As a substance, alcohol is sedative in nature. It can cause people to experience calmness and ease in certain situations, while in other situations it can boost confidence and lower inhibitions. This is because of a boost in serotonin, the brain’s “feel good” hormone. Natural anxiety subsides when alcohol is consumed, but this benefit is fleeting.
Once serotonin drops down to its regular level, anxiety also returns. People then mistakenly start using alcohol to self-medicate, which ultimately leads to a higher tolerance and can result in alcohol use disorder. In most cases, regular anxiety levels become elevated with the added worry of alcohol withdrawal , and shame and guilt of decisions made while intoxicated..
How to Address Alcohol-Related Anxiety Issues
The first thing you need to do if you are using alcohol to self-medicate is to speak with a health professional about medical detox and inpatient alcohol treatment. If you are a heavy drinker or have been drinking regularly for an extended period, do not try to stop cold turkey without medical supervision. A potential side effect of alcohol withdrawal is delirium tremens, which can ultimately cause heart attack and death.. Once you are medically detoxed from alcohol your inpatient treatment center can begin to effectively treat the anxiety. A combination of therapy and medications can help people effectively manage their anxiety symptoms and lead a normal life.
If you have issues with alcohol and anxiety, you do not have to go it alone. Boca Detox Center specializes in safe, medically supervised alcohol detox as well as treating anxiety. There are different options available to assist you in the process – all you must do is be ready for change and reach out for a helping hand.