How Alcohol Makes Anxiety Much Worse

Acute Anxiety (image by Wes Washington)

Acute Anxiety (image by Wes Washington)

Using Alcohol to Treat Anxiety is Commonplace

In this article I will explain How Alcohol Makes Anxiety Much Worse. The idea of having a drink to ‘steady your nerves’ has probably been around for thousands of years. Alcohol can seem to lessen the symptoms of anxiety in the short-term, and so long as it is a coping strategy you only turn to on very rare occasions, it probably won’t lead to too many problems. The reality is though that alcohol is not an effective treatment for anxiety, and it if it becomes a habit, it is likely to make your symptoms significantly worse.

8 Ways Alcohol Makes Anxiety Worse

• Alcohol can be used as a way to ignore the underlying issues that are driving the anxiety (e.g. rather than trying to fix our relationship problems, we may decide to go to the bar every night instead)

• Alcohol interferes with neurotransmitters and alters the chemical balance in your brain (e.g. changes in serotonin levels may trigger symptoms of anxiety)

• Alcohol does not actually ease your anxiety - it just makes you feel a bit numb to it for a few hours. This means the anxiety is still likely to be there when you sober up.

• Drinking alcohol lowers our inhibitions and increases the likelihood that we will make bad decisions – this means more to feel anxious about

• Heavy drinking triggers anxiety as well as symptoms of depression

• Regularly overindulging in alcohol can lead to alcoholism

• Drinking too much can lead to low blood sugar (hypoglycaemia) - the symptoms of low blood sugar can include anxiety

• Heavy drinking negatively impacts your concentration levels (this effect can last well into the next day) thus making you less able to deal with anxiety

Alcohol for Anxiety – a Case of the Remedy Being Worse Than the Problem

The short-term relief we can get from regularly drinking alcohol to treat anxiety may make it appear like a tempting solution, but it is a case of the remedy being worse than the problem we are using it to treat. If you do a cost-benefit analysis, it should be easy to see that any relief you are getting comes at far too heavy a price.

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Better Alternatives Than Alcohol for Managing Anxiety

• Try to deal with the issues that are triggering the anxiety – even if the action you are taking isn’t going to ultimately make much of a difference, we tend to feel less anxious when we are doing something (it means we feel less powerless)

• Mindfulness can be a powerful technique for managing the anxiety. This approach helps you to see how unhelpful thoughts are usually what is driving the anxiety - you can learn to see such thinking patterns more objectively which then reduces their power.

• Going for a long walk can move your attention away from the thoughts that are driving your anxiety - as you walk, you are going to become more aware of your physical body (it works in a similar way to meditation)

• Trying to resist or escape anxiety is likely to make your symptoms worse – it can be like struggling when you are in quicksand. You can learn to lean into the feelings of anxiety (self-soothing), and this makes them much easier to deal with.

• Learn to accept that there are many things in life beyond your control

• Avoid caffeine as this can trigger and worsen the symptoms of anxiety

• Exercise regularly

• Laughter can be a fantastic remedy for anxiety – maybe you could watch a comedy show or spend time with people who make you laugh

• If you seem to be always anxious, you probably need to speak to your doctor

• If your anxiety is due to (or being made worse by) alcohol abuse, you may benefit from entering a rehab program


How Alcohol Makes Anxiety Much Worse by Paul G