Grief, in any form, can be a massive weight on your shoulders. After all, having to process and manage the loss of a friend or loved one is difficult to even put into words. Grief is unique for everyone and typically varies in the time it takes to process the loss and move forward. It is not uncommon to suffer a wide array of emotional reactions when dealing with grief – from depression to anxiety and everything in between.
Even more common is falling into toxic habits like alcohol use to try to numb the pain and feel better. Unfortunately, this can lead to a vicious cycle of alcohol addiction that doesn’t actually help you overcome your grief.
Can Grief Cause Addiction?
According to recent studies, 37 percent of Americans have reported experiencing some form of significant grief due to the loss of someone close to them over the past three years. These individuals have had to find a way to manage these emotions in order to continue on with their lives.
Unfortunately, addiction is far too often the result of someone experiencing grief and having no real way to process their emotional experience in a safe and healthy manner. Self-medicating to drown out difficult feelings may seem like a viable option for someone living with the pain of loss. However, the temporary relief that substance use provides can quickly spiral into a full-blown addiction that destroys the mind and body.
Does Alcohol Make Grief Worse?
As previously stated, alcohol is often a form of self-medication for people experiencing grief. The flood of energy that drinking alcohol can provide is often a welcome relief against the depression or hopelessness experienced after a loss.
However, people who frequently use alcohol to self-medicate are typically more likely to also experience increased feelings of depression once the alcohol wears off. This is because excessive alcohol consumption negatively affects important mood-regulating chemicals in the brain. The more these chemicals are thrown out of homeostasis, the more your overall health will significantly deteriorate.
If you decide to keep drinking to manage your grief, the neurotransmitters in your brain will struggle to achieve a natural balance – this will result in an ongoing, and severely depressed state of being.
Can Grief Cause Alcohol Addiction?
The short answer to this question is yes, grief can cause alcohol addiction. Imagine using alcohol to not only manage your grief, but to also erase and mute any feelings associated with the pain you are feeling.
Initially, the effort may seem valid. Unfortunately, the fact is that alcohol can quickly attack everything within your body – from your heart to your brain – leaving you physically depreciated and emotionally unstable.
At this point, the only way to manage is to keep drinking more and more to maintain your composure and stave off the negative consequences of drinking too much. When you hit this level of consumption, your grief has triggered a diagnosable alcohol addiction.
What We Know about Grief and Alcohol
What studies and research have shown us about the connection between grief and alcohol is significant. Drinking alcohol in excess on a consistent basis can result in:
Depression of the brain and nervous system
Alcohol is a known central nervous system depressant. This is important to understand because alcohol effectively blocks stress hormones, or corticotropins. These are the chemicals your body releases to cope with difficult scenarios. When you consume too much alcohol, you deplete your cortisol levels, and this can cause your mood to go down while your irritability steadily increases.
Significant feelings of fatigue
Drinking in excess can make you feel sluggish. That is because your body is trying to repair itself from all the harmful effects your drinking has caused. It is commonly known as going through withdrawal. Over the course of time, fatigue has a way of driving your mood downward. This can prove extremely difficult to manage because you don’t have the ability to do the normal things you used to – like working out and spending time with friends.
Increased feelings of anxiety
One of the ways alcohol makes your grief worse is by causing you to also become anxious. It doesn’t typically happen from casual drinking, but, instead, from chronic alcohol consumption. What is important to understand is that alcohol stimulates the automatic nervous system. In turn, this can make you feel more animated and anxious because what goes up must come down; meaning, your mood will eventually decrease significantly.
There is Life-Changing Help That Can Address Both Your Grief and Addiction
A co-occurring disorder refers to a scenario in which you are dealing with both mental health issues and substance addiction. Focusing on one area or the other leaves a major part of the problem unresolved, which is no way to achieve sustained health and happiness.
That is why it is so important to find a treatment facility capable of treating both your emotional struggles and your substance use disorder to help you achieve long-term healing and recovery. This allows you to repair every area of your mind and body, leading you to greater success and a more effective method of sustained sobriety.
Holistic Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery
The cycle you’re caught up in doesn’t have to rule your life forever. You can face your grief and substance abuse head-on with individualized support at Ranch Creek Recovery.
Learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment program. You can also contact us today to get your questions answered and find out how to get your treatment started at our alcohol rehab center in Murrieta, CA.