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Alcohol & Anxiety

How Alcohol Affects Anxiety

It is common perception that the consumption of alcohol reduces the symptoms of anxiety. However, even though alcohol might look good as an anxiety reducer on the surface, it is important to examine how alcohol actually affects anxiety on a long-term basis.

This article provides how alcohol actually impacts people who suffer from anxiety that may not be well known. It also provides you with solutions that actually work.

Short-Term Effects

Everyone is aware that alcohol does reduce nervousness at least slightly. For people who are dealing with stress and anxiety, and for people who suffer from one anxiety disorder or another, alcohol can often be the first method they try to eliminate the feelings of anxiousness.

In reality, alcohol can relieve anxiety on a short-term basis. First, it works fast to numb the central nervous system which means you will feel relaxed for a bit. Second, alcohol raises the chemical known as GABA or Gamma-aminobutyric acid that suppresses the anxious feelings. This is why alcohol works as an instant “anxiolytic” or anxiety reducer.

This is certainly fine if you need to lower your anxiety levels for a short time, but what happens later?

Long-Term Effects

It is important to understand the effects of regular alcohol use on stress and anxiety. Basically, it makes it harder to deal with anxiety in the long run. There are four reasons behind this conclusion.

1. Some research has indicated that drinking alcohol over an extended period of time causes the GABA-benzodiazepine or GBzR receptor to not work as well in the central nervous system.

2. This means that drinking alcohol for an extended amount of time actually lowers the anxiolytic properties in the brain, so you are not as able to deal with an anxiety disorder as you would be without the alcohol.

3. The withdrawal symptoms you experience when stopping the consumption of alcohol makes the anxiety levels higher.

4. Drinking alcohol over an extended period of time can trigger panic attacks and generalized anxiety. Other disorders, such as agoraphobia and social phobia, appear to develop prior to the use of alcohol.

What Happens if Alcohol Use Gets Out of Control?

The use of alcohol clearly makes it harder for you to deal with anxiety in the long run. However, there is another danger that is present for people who suffer from anxiety disorders. They can become dependent on alcohol.

People who use alcohol on a regular basis to reduce their anxiety symptoms, they will eventually become dependent on it. This means they will have to have it to function. If this describes you, then you have made alcohol your go-to anxiety remedy and you probably think nothing else will work. But this is not the truth.

Your life can be impacted by long-term alcohol use in many ways. You won’t be able to sleep as well, you might destroy relationships that are important to you, your employment could be terminated, and more. Even if none of these consequences happen, the threat of them happening can trigger even more anxious feelings. Then, as you get more anxious, you will need to drink more. And the cycle continues.

You also run the risk of being misdiagnosed if you drink too much alcohol. This is because the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are close in nature to the symptoms of anxiety.

Research shows that people who have anxiety disorders are significantly more apt to develop an alcoholic dependence than people who do not. In addition, anxiety is considered one of the major risk factors linked to alcoholism.

What Can You Do Instead?

You should never drink alcohol to try to eliminate your anxiety symptoms. If you suffer from anxiety, you need to make sure you monitor your alcohol intake closely. It is not necessary to quit drinking altogether in most cases, but you do have to be conscious of how much you are drinking and why.

There are many ways to help you deal with your anxiety and panic attacks. Some involve prescription drugs and others are natural. It is important you talk to your doctor about the method that is right for you.