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anxiety and addiction
January 24, 2022

Does Alcohol Relieve Anxiety?

Though some people may dismiss your anxious thoughts by saying things like “Stop being such a worrywart,” anxiety is a diagnosable mental health disorder that causes heightened levels of fear. If symptoms like nervousness, irritability and trouble sleeping are disrupting your daily life, you may be willing to try almost anything to find relief. Many people believe drinking will help them relax or fall asleep. However, if you are living with anxiety, the cycle of substance abuse could be making your mood worse.

What Is Anxiety?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines five types of anxiety disorders people can experience, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder

It’s possible to have more than one anxiety disorder simultaneously. For instance, generalized anxiety and social anxiety may overlap. In severe circumstances, anxiety can be debilitating, particularly when it causes specific phobias that may leave you trapped by ongoing panic and fears.  

What’s the Connection Between Alcohol and Anxiety?

Drinking may provide a short-lived relief from your anxiety symptoms by lowering the inhibitions and causing a sense of euphoria. However, alcohol brings a constellation of worsening physical, mental and emotional health issues, including triggering anxiety and leading to addiction. Research from the National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates those who are living with anxiety are twice as likely to suffer from substance abuse as the general population. 

Relying on alcohol to manage anxiety symptoms can often backfire by intensifying mood disorders like PTSD or OCD, reinforcing the urge to drink more to feel normal. Habitual, heavy drinking also causes your brain to release more cortisol, known as the “stress hormone.” Cortisol regulates your body’s innate fight-or-flight response to perceived threats, but it tends to be more abundant in people with anxiety, causing chronic stress, insomnia and inescapable feelings of dread. Therefore, there’s a direct correlation between alcohol and high anxiety, especially for people who drink to excess. You can experience these effects while you’re intoxicated and during alcohol withdrawal.

Do You Have a Dual Diagnosis?

Anxious people who rely on alcohol to self-medicate are essentially running away from the problem, instead of addressing its root causes with evidence-based methods like therapy. Eventually, reaching for alcohol as a coping mechanism will worsen your anxiety and perpetuate a vicious cycle of addiction.  

Alcohol use disorders and high anxiety coincide so frequently that it can be challenging to determine where one issue ends and the other begins. In the mental health community, intertwined problems like this are known as dual diagnoses, and successfully treating them requires a combined approach.

Find Lasting Recovery at Beach House

Anxiety and substance use disorders can cause denial about your symptoms’ severity and make you unaware of how your behavior adversely affects people who care about you. Living with this dual diagnosis is challenging, but treatment can help you get relief. At Beach House, we have created a tranquil beachfront retreat where you can make a fresh start. Our expert team of qualified clinicians and mental health specialists provide customized treatment plans to teach our clients healthy coping skills.

We believe everyone who comes through our doors deserves compassion and love. It’s possible to have a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life without alcohol, and we’re here to show you how. To learn more about our complete continuum of care and long-term residential treatment in Florida, please contact us today.

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