We would be remiss not to touch on the topic of alcohol use and mental health during Alcohol Awareness Month. The link between the two is prominent and for many of us hits very close to home. Let’s take a deeper look at the effects of alcohol use on mental health.
Dual diagnosis is common when it comes to all substance abuse issues. Very rarely does one only have an issue with alcohol use without any other underlying issues. Mental health issues especially factor into alcohol use disorders with anxiety and depression being the two most common conditions.
Alcohol Use and Mental Health
Many of us begin to use alcohol to take the edge off of our depression or anxiety and, before we know it, we have developed a dependence or alcohol use disorder because of it. Alcohol use creates tolerance which forces us to drink more and more to get the desired results from the substance. Soon we’re down a rabbit hole we never intended to fall in to.
Alcohol Use and Depression
The irony of using alcohol to treat depression is that alcohol is, in fact, a depressant. The high from alcohol really only lasts about 20 minutes and following the release of dopamine we sink lower than we were before. In fact, alcohol use can permanently alter brain chemistry, creating a much bigger problem than we originally started with.
For many people, they cannot decide if alcohol led to depression or if depression led to drinking alcohol. I have yet to find someone who has ever declared that alcohol improved their depression or eradicated it. Instead, for many, the relationship between alcohol and depression has only caused more sorrow.
There is no doubt that alcohol and depression are linked and the bond between them is strong.
Alcohol Is A Depressant
Alcohol depresses arousal levels and reduces excitability. Not only can alcohol abuse significantly worsen the symptoms of depression, but it can also cause them to occur in the first place. I personally suffered from depression and anxiety since I was a child and was officially diagnosed with depression more than 17 years ago. This subject has interested me ever since.
Alcohol Use and Anxiety Disorders
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that those with anxiety disorders may find that alcohol can make their anxiety symptoms worse and they are two to three times more likely to have an alcohol addiction at some point in their lives than the general population.
I know that in my personal experience my anxiety actually increased after drinking causing a vicious cycle where I would drink more in order to relieve the anxiety that alcohol itself was causing.
Short Term Relief
Alcohol has the ability, in the very short term, to numb feelings of stress and anxiety. We often use alcohol to self-medicate, as a short-term fix for a stressful day or anxious feelings. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that a 2012 study suggests that alcohol can actually make you less capable of dealing with stress and anxiety.
Long Term Pain
The overall effect of alcohol use on mental health is to significantly increase stress, anxiety, and depression. In addition to the mental strain that alcohol creates on us, long term use also leads to physical ailments which increase stress, anxiety, and depression. It becomes the perfect recipe for disaster.
Learn more about not only alcohol use and mental health but also the science behind why we drink in the first place. Find out how you can break free and find happiness and relief from stress without turning to the bottle. Begin reading This Naked Mind for free today.