Having a drink to take the edge off has become synonymous with most social interactions and relaxing after a long day. While consuming a few drinks can make you feel a bit more relaxed and at ease, using this as a primary method to decrease feelings of stress and anxiety is not only a bad idea, but it’s also a way to exacerbate symptoms associated with an anxiety disorder.
Imagine training your brain to only relax when it is given alcohol with no other means of deescalating personal anxiety. This would create a scenario where alcohol would be the sole method of controlling your anxiety in every social situation. This can lead to a co-occurring disorder that disrupts your ability to manage your job and personal life.
Does Drinking Make Anxiety Worse?
Since alcohol is known to act as a sedative, many people find themselves often drinking to achieve a level of relaxation. While alcohol may make you feel more socially confident at a get-together or help you forget your worries for a short time, there is a sinister side effect associated with drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.
Initially, drinking may reduce your fears and take your mind off your troubles. It may even give you a boost in mood and have you feeling generally relaxed. However, once you start drinking, you can quickly build a tolerance to the de-stressing effects of alcohol.
This can subsequently make your anxiety and personal stress even more difficult to cope with as the flow of alcohol stops and your dopamine levels come back to normal. When those positive feelings go away, you’re left with feelings of excessive anxiety in their wake.
The hallmark of an anxiety disorder (which is persistent, overwhelming worry and fear) is directly related to an imbalance of chemicals in the brain, like dopamine. Drinking excessively can make anxiety disorders worse by further disrupting that balance, leaving you with no other option than to continue drinking to control your anxiety when it flares up.
How Drinking Affects Anxiety
Recent studies have shown that out of every five people with anxiety, at least one person stated they often use alcohol to cope with their personal feelings of stress in a variety of situations.
Anxiety itself is a disorder that preys on your central nervous system, accelerating the heart rate, increasing blood flow, and pushing your brain into overdrive. In cases of extreme anxiety that require medical assistance, doctors routinely prescribe benzodiazepines, as they are central nervous system depressants.
For someone self-medicating to manage their anxiety, the effects that make benzodiazepines useful with severe anxiety disorders are the same effects that many experience when drinking excessively. That’s because alcohol changes the level of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in your brain, which can temporarily reduce your stress but inevitably worsens your anxiety over time.
Conditions like alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours, or even for an entire day after drinking due to your body’s attempt to correct the neurological damage associated with excessive alcohol consumption. This is directly related to your body attempting to process the alcohol you’ve consumed and the sedative effects wearing off.
This is also when you can begin to experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms – like anxiety or agitation – and when a pre-existing anxiety disorder can severely flare-up. If you’re prone to social phobia, you might find yourself worrying about what you said or did the night before. If you suffer from generalized anxiety disorder, you may wake in the middle of night (as the alcohol wears off) and lie awake worrying and feeling stressed.
That is why it is imperative to understand that drinking alcohol as a means of controlling your anxiety is not only a bad decision, it is also a direct line to developing a debilitating alcohol addiction and co-occurring anxiety disorder.1
Anxiety After Drinking: How Long Does Anxiety After Drinking Last?
The anxiety you feel after drinking can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days – depending on the amount of alcohol you drink and the longevity of your addiction. The fact of the matter is that drinking excessively changes the chemical makeup of your brain, increasing feelings of anxiety in people who never had it and exacerbating those feelings in someone who has dealt with excessive anxiety in the past.
At this point, the only real way to actually address both issues in a safe and secure manner is to seek co-occurring addiction treatment. With the knowledge and expertise offered at a treatment center, you can identify healthier methods of addressing your anxiety, decrease your reliance on alcohol, and improve how you manage your anxiety day-to-day.2
Individualized, Holistic Co-Occurring Disorder Treatment at Ranch Creek Recovery
The self-perpetuating cycle you’re caught up in – of alcohol and anxiety – doesn’t have to rule your life forever. You can face your co-occurring hurdles head-on with professional help and individualized support at Ranch Creek Recovery.
Learn more about our dual diagnosis treatment program or contact us today to get your questions answered. We’re excited to tell you more about our all-encompassing approach to co-occurring disorder treatment.
Have questions? We’re here to help in any way we can. Contact us today.