Five Reasons Alcohol Increases Anxiety (and how to avoid it!)

If you have ever had a long night filled with drinking, you’ve probably experienced some form of hangxiety the next day. It’s true – alcohol increases anxiety. There are a few reasons this happens and luckily there are also ways you can avoid it or at least minimize the effects of it.

alcohol increases anxiety

Five Ways Alcohol Increases Anxiety

More than likely there are more than five ways alcohol increases anxiety, but we’re going to cover the most common reasons here. If you find that your anxiety is becoming unmanageable, please consult with a physician or mental health expert. No one should live controlled by anxiety.

Chemistry

Chemistry plays a huge role in why your anxiety skyrockets after drinking. And we’re not talking about the sexy chemistry a drink or two can bring on. This is all about brain chemistry. Alcohol really screws with it! Alcohol depletes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which worsens anxiety for many people. Even worse? You may actually feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last long after your drinks have worn off!

DO – Limit how often and how much you drink if you experience alcohol-induced anxiety.
DON’T – Have a drink the next morning or the next day to take the edge off. You’re further disrupting the chemical levels your body is trying to restore.

You’re Not The Doctor

No matter how many episodes of House or Grey’s Anatomy you have watched, you’re not the doctor. Using alcohol to self-medicate for anxiety issues you’re already dealing with is not a good idea. And if you are already on anxiety or depression medication – you shouldn’t be drinking on it. As mentioned before, alcohol disrupts the balance of chemicals in the brain so self-medicating with it is a bad idea and drinking on anxiety meds is not only dangerous but also doesn’t allow the medication to work correctly.

DO – Talk to a professional if your anxiety is affecting day-to-day life.
DON’T – Use alcohol as medicine. Treating anxiety and depression with a depressant doesn’t work. Not to mention, as you build up a tolerance to alcohol you need more and more of it in order to feel any calming effects from it. Until it stops working and you now need to treat both your alcohol use disorder and the anxiety.

Learn More of The Science Behind How Alcohol Increases Anxiety

This Naked Mind takes a science-based and compassion-led approach to help people change their relationships with alcohol. Discover the science behind how alcohol and anxiety are linked when you read the book for yourself. Download the first 40 pages for free now!

Hangover Hell

Hangovers don’t just feel like hell. They are also hell on your anxiety. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, dehydration, low blood sugar – all of these symptoms just exacerbate anxiety. When our body is depleted both mentally and physically, anxiety has a tendency to run wild. Hangovers are brutal and can really contribute to not only anxiety but even alcohol-induced panic attacks for those who get overwhelmed by the physical effects of a hangover.

DO – Try to replenish your body as much and as quickly as possible if you are experiencing a hangover. Dehydration is the most important condition to treat first as it directly contributes to the other symptoms. If you’re a regular drinker, there is a good chance that you are chronically dehydrated so a binge or bender can really hurt your body physically.
DON’T – Try using hair of the dog or other “home remedies” that involve drinking more to relieve your symptoms. You’re just pouring fuel on the fire.

Sweet Dreams

Sleep deprivation worsens both anxiety and depression symptoms. Chronic sleep deprivation can even cause hallucinations and other psychoses. Needing a good night’s rest isn’t just a line our moms fed us to get some rest themselves. Our bodies need sleep in order to repair themselves and keep us functioning our best. Alcohol screws that up by not allowing us to enter REM or deep sleep. You may sleep longer but your sleep is broken, light sleep that just leaves you dragging.

DO – Avoid drinking to excess and close to bedtime. If you’re choosing to drink, do it mindfully and stay aware of how much you’re drinking and the effect it will have on your sleep.
DON’T – Avoid drinking regularly. Routine sleep deprivation is as bad on the body as routine drinking is and mixing the two is just plain dangerous.

Impaired Judgment

Alcohol is really great at helping us make really poor choices. In my personal experience, some of my greatest anxiety came from not remembering the night before. What did I say? What did I do? Who noticed how drunk I was? Did I embarrass myself? Jeopardize any relationships? Put my job on the line? For a substance that is supposed to let loose and help us have fun, it sure does leave a lot of destruction in its wake!

DO – Avoid drinking if the potential exists for a life-changing impact. You do not want to lose a relationship, your job, your family, or your life over alcohol. The fallout from something like that will definitely increase your anxiety!
DON’T – Do not try to set limits or rules if your intention is to control your drinking at an important event. Alcohol impairs our decision-making ability so while sober you says, “Just one drink or two,” intoxicated you says – “One more won’t hurt!” It is never, ever just one more.