Tips for Working Through Alcohol Withdrawal AnxietyAnna Ciulla
Alcohol and anxiety can go hand-in-hand. Anxiety can persuade us to have a drink to reduce stress, calm nerves, unwind, deal with high-pressure social or family situations, relax, or simply forget. For many people, anxiety spurred by life’s difficulties is what brought them to drink in the first place. But it’s a vicious cycle. Heavy drinking can lead to higher bouts of anxiety, which prompts the alcoholic to drink even more to remedy the feeling. When a person decides to cut back or stop drinking altogether, withdrawal can bring forth the exact feeling they used alcohol to cope with; only this time, it’s tenfold. In which case, when this newfound anxiety arrives, what are some tips alcoholics can utilize to work through it that, of course, do not involve drinking? Read on.
When going through withdrawal, recovering addicts may experience any number of physical or mental symptoms, including: Mood swings Depression Erratic sleep patterns or insomnia Headaches Nausea Irritability Sometimes, panic attacks can occur. Symptoms include: Racing heartbeat or heart palpitation Shaking, trembling Tightness in chest Lightheadedness Upset stomach Tightening in throat Numbness in extremities Hazy reality Fear of death Fear of going insane For many people, these panic attacks quickly fade, and they can get on with their lives. For others, panic attacks reoccur, coming on without warning. If this is the case, they may be diagnosed with a panic disorder. Of course, having a panic disorder atop withdrawals increases the difficulty of the situation. But worry not—this is not an impossible problem to fix and alcohol isn’t the solution.
When withdrawing from alcohol or any other addictive substance, it is recommended to treat the mental disorder as well. Although they are related, and often coupled, both the anxiety and the alcoholism must be addressed in isolation. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, often in a group setting, is commonly advised. If the situation is a co-occurring disorder, then healthcare professionals might even recommend medicine (under supervision). To address the anxiety brought about purely from withdrawal, with no underlying condition feeding it, know that it will pass. While it may feel extreme, anxiety in any form usually does. There are some simple remedies that will help reduce stress, mitigate anxiety, and induce a healthy sleeping cycle.
Drink lots of healthy fluids. Dehydration is always a symptom of alcohol withdrawal, in which case it’s paramount that you stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and electrolytes. Supplement drinks with magnesium (a natural anxiety-fighter). Don’t keep your substance withdrawal to yourself. Communicate about the issues you’re facing. If you’re having extreme anxiety, tell your loved ones as they’ll be there to help. Holding it in will only increase the feeling. Withdrawal expires. We’re not trying to preach or raise the old adage ‘this too shall pass’ on a banner, we’re speaking from science here. Withdrawals pass. The body detoxes and things return to normal. While it may seem intense and all-encompassing, in time it will wane.
Try writing. Not only is writing a great exercise to release feelings of insecurity, anxiousness, and depression, but it can pass the time when withdrawal symptoms are at their strongest. If there’s any art form you enjoy (music, drawing, painting, etc.) then get back on the horse. Your soul needs a workout and in doing so, you’ll alleviate some of your anxiety. Exercise. This one is huge. Your body needs to sweat and learn to operate without the presence of alcohol. Start running. Set a schedule for yourself. Do whatever you can to release endorphins and regulate your body’s processes.
Revaluate your diet. Nutrition is sometimes overlooked when detoxing from alcohol, but a healthy diet can rapidly decrease the psychological symptoms of anxiety and depression. Adequate protein and vitamins will help support the proper functioning of the brain and bolster mood-regulating chemicals like serotonin and dopamine. Nutrients that may have been suppressed during the drinking days should be replenished, and can be found in these foods:
- Vitamin B: eggs, nuts, leafy greens, beans, milk.
- Vitamin A: fish, milk, carrots
- Vitamin E: almonds, vegetable oils
- Vitamin K: olive oil, leafy greens
- Vitamin D: fortified milk, fatty fish
Alcohol is not a cure for anxiety, it’s fuel for it. During withdrawal, it’s 100% normal to experience anxiety. Know that it will pass—and, of course, by reinventing your lifestyle you can make the process infinitely easier. If you happen to be dealing with a co-occurring disorder, then seek professional help as they’ll be able to treat each illness individually. Despite the circumstances, if you are trying to cope with anxiety from alcohol withdrawals, then reach out to the experts. At the very least, they’re going to have some good words of encouragement and some tips on how to mitigate the feelings. You’re not alone and you’re going to get through this. Stay hydrated, active, and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.