Feeling stressed is normal, but dealing with anxiety is different. When you add alcohol to the situation, it becomes almost like the story of the chicken and the egg. There is a connection between anxiety and alcohol abuse, but knowing which one leads to the other isn’t as clear. This is often the case with co-occurring conditions. Seeking the help of a dual diagnosis rehab in McLean, VA, can help. We also believe being informed about your situation dramatically helps.
What is the Cycle?
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, 20% of Americans experience anxiety in addition to substance abuse. Anxiety is both a reason for and a result of drinking. Relationship conflicts, health troubles, legal problems, or financial difficulties are all reasons people drink as well as reasons people feel anxious. And because the symptoms of alcohol abuse are similar to the symptoms of anxiety, it can be hard to tell where one issue ends, and another begins. A person will drink alcohol, which increases their anxiety and then to deal with that anxiety, they drink.
Why Drinking Alcohol Can Decrease Anxiety
Alcohol feels stress-reducing because it’s a sedative and a depressant. It can seem to take your mind off the things stressing you most. It might boost your mood, make you feel more relaxed, or mimic the effects of anti-anxiety medications. This explains the ‘Tension Reduction Hypothesis’: those who can’t cope with stress often depend on alcohol to reduce their tension. But, the more they drink, the more they need higher amounts to deal with higher levels of stress. Our addiction treatment specialists see this first hand.
How Drinking Alcohol Can Increase Anxiety
Higher amounts of drinking don’t lead to less anxiety; it causes more. You can see these changes on a physiological level:
- Because alcohol can lead to poor judgment, you may get anxious about what you did while you were drinking or if you believe alcohol is helping your anxiety, you may drink more than you would normally.
- A rise in blood-alcohol content gives temporary feelings of excitement. But alcohol changes levels of serotonin in the brain, which can worsen anxiety, especially after the alcohol wears off.
- As a diuretic, alcohol causes dehydration, which causes headaches and dizziness and can increase feelings of anxiety.
- Alcohol also increases your heart rate, making you feel more panicked and anxious.
- Increased anxiety is one of the main side-effects of withdrawal, so if you’re trying to quit, you can find yourself more anxious and feel the need to drink even more. Both anxiety and withdrawal cause sweating and nausea, so those symptoms can be especially heightened.
- Hangovers also cause symptoms that are similar to anxiety, making you feel even more anxious. Headaches and nausea being the two main ones.
When Drinking Alcohol Increases Anxiety
While you work to get help treating your alcohol abuse or anxiety, you can make lifestyle changes to learn to cope by practicing the following tips:
- Get regular sleep
- Limit your caffeine and alcohol intake
- Eat regular, healthy meals
- Practice breathing techniques or meditation
- Think positive thoughts to replace the negative ones
- Use techniques such as counting to 10
- Find a hobby to take your mind off of things
Treating Anxiety and Alcohol Abuse Together is Important
The more you rely on alcohol to help your anxiety, the more you create a dependence on alcohol to relieve the symptoms, which is why treating the two issues together can be vital to your recovery. Sometimes, alcoholism is the more immediate danger, but it’s important to address the underlying issue of anxiety so that you’re less likely to relapse.
It’s recommended to treat anxiety and alcohol abuse together if they co-occur. That’s why it’s so important to find a place like Sagebrush, where we work to help give you your life back by supporting you during your transition to a sober and less anxious lifestyle. Addiction doesn’t have to control your life. Contact Sagebrush Treatment at 866.488.1156 to learn how our drug rehab center can help you on your journey to recovery.