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Does Alcohol Increase Anxiety?

Authored by Granite Recovery Centers    Reviewed by James Gamache    Last Updated: September 3rd, 2021


James Gamache Medical Reviewer
Jim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LICSW) and Licensed Masters Level Addictions Counselor (MLADC). He has been working in the field of mental health/addiction treatment since 1995. Jim earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Human Services from Springfield College in 2000, and a Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston University in 2002. In 2002 Jim was hired by the Mental Health Center of Greater Manchester holding the position of Clinical Case Manager. From 2004-2019, Jim was employed at WestBridge Inc. During his time at WestBridge, Jim held the following positions; Clinician, Team Leader, Director, & Chief Operations Officer. In 2019 Jim transitioned employment to GateHouse Treatment Center as the Clinical Director for 10 months. In October of 2020 Jim transitioned to Granite Recovery Centers and is currently serving as the Senior VP of Clinical Services and Quality Assurance.

You will often hear people wanting to unwind their day at work with a glass of wine or a beer. However, this is not the best way to deal with stress. In fact, there’s a dangerous connection between alcohol abuse and anxiety.

There is a close connection between alcohol use and anxiety, which is a serious combination. Many people drink to deal with anxiety. However, when you become accustomed to drinking anytime you feel anxious, you could find yourself drinking too much, which triggers a further increase in anxiety and stress levels.

What Is Anxiety?

Have you ever felt fearful about something that is going to happen? Then, you were anxious at that time. The feeling of anxiety happens to everyone whether they drink or not. You will feel anxious when you are in a bad situation or facing a problem, which is normal.

However, when anxiety becomes prolonged, then it can impact your daily life. Prolonged anxiety can lead to actual anxiety disorders that need to be treated. People often treat themselves, which is where they use alcohol to mitigate the situation.

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Alcohol

Anxiety may impact your entire body, including the nervous, respiratory, digestive, and immune systems. However, if you indulge in alcohol more often, you may not know that you are trying to fight your anxiety. You may also not be aware of how it affects your well-being. If you drink alcohol to deal with stress, you create a relationship between alcohol and anxiety.

Trying to withdraw from alcohol after drinking it for a long time will increase anxiety disorders. You may experience symptoms such as panic attacks. During such a time, you may now feel the urge to consume more alcohol. As such, you become an addict, resulting in high anxiety, and in turn, you drink even more. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America asserts that 20% of social anxiety disorder patients depend on alcohol.

Can You Drink to Deal With Anxiety?

Though alcohol may seem to help in coping with anxiety, the effects are temporary relative to actual anxiety medication and treatment. When you use alcohol, you will only get that calming and stress-free effect at the moment. As time goes by, the alcohol leaves your body, and you will be back to feeling anxious again. At such a time, the serotonin levels in your body are way below average, and the feeling of anxiety may escalate to higher levels.

How Chronic Alcohol Use Leads to Anxiety

Initially, alcohol will reduce anxiety for just a minute. However, the dehydrating role that it plays in the body makes the calm feeling fade away. Moreover, your mind will not be at ease because alcohol affects your brain, and this can cause memory loss. You will also have alcohol-induced anxiety after consuming so much of it. At this time, you will remember the things that were happening when you were drunk.

The close connection between anxiety and alcohol is clear, with some studies showing that these two are close because of some genetic connection. This will affect the persons’ drinking behavior and anxiety. Additionally, heavy alcohol usage impacts the way a person handles stressful situations, and consuming more alcohol may make a person develop panic disorder.

Different Anxiety Disorders and How They Relate to Alcohol Use

While anxiety is a general term, there are different types of specific anxiety disorders. Each has a way in which it links to the use of alcohol. They include generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. Though alcohol can curb anxiety disorder for a while, its long-term effect may exacerbate one’s anxiety, no matter the type of anxiety disorder.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol

When you continuously feel stressed, even when nothing is wrong, you may be suffering from a generalized anxiety disorder. People with this disorder often panic about things that haven’t happened yet or that might not ever happen. Those afflicted with a generalized anxiety disorder may self-medicate and opt to drink alcohol to dull their fears.

Social Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol

Social anxiety disorder makes a person have irrational anxiety during social interactions. The person may become restless and uncomfortable when in a place where there are many people. A person with a social anxiety disorder may become nauseous or dizzy any time they are in a social situation. The feeling is also accompanied by one feeling shy around strangers, which is familiar to most people. But for those struggling with social anxiety, the feeling is beyond being shy to feeling like they need to hide or flee the situation.

Panic Anxiety Disorder and Alcohol

People who have panic anxiety disorders get severe panic attacks as a response to a stressful situation. Typically, such people will experience sweating and shaking when they have panic attacks. Their heart will pound, and they will even fall short of breath. Since people with this disorder sometimes know what triggers the attacks, they may consume alcohol preemptively. On the other hand, studies reveal that the more a person consumes alcohol, the more they risk panic anxiety disorder. Therefore, this can create a cause-and-effect relationship.

Does Alcohol Increase Anxiety?

From the discussion above, it is clear that alcohol will exacerbate any preexisting anxiety disorder. The increase in anxiety is more prominent when a person tries to withdraw from consuming alcohol. Remember, once your body becomes accustomed to using alcohol, the cravings become physical in addition to psychological.

When you don’t drink the amount of alcohol that your body is used to getting regularly, the anxiety symptoms will kick in harder. You will shiver, have panic attacks, and possibly fall into depression. All these are anxiety symptoms that arise because you are trying to stop drinking. It is hard to abstain from alcohol once your body is dependent on it. As such, the anxiety levels increase, and your alcohol consumption will increase as you try to fight the symptoms away. One way to know that you are physically dependent on alcohol is when:

  • You are drinking four to five times a week
  • You drink every morning so that you can carry out your daily tasks
  • You are unable to stop drinking
  • You drink during social settings because you feel uncomfortable

To be healthy, you need to deal with your anxiety disorder without going for alcohol. Enrolling in a drug rehab program will help you fight anxiety in a better way.

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Anxiety Disorder

Most people tend to ignore an anxiety disorder and leave it untreated because they think that alcohol is causing problems. However, this may not be the case. If you treat one and leave the other unattended, it could trigger a relapse.

The first treatment option is to try to change your relationship with alcohol. It may not be easy to do, but this marks the beginning of your healing journey. By changing your relationship with alcohol, you will be able to do the following.

  • Deal with anxiety in a better way. You drink because something is stressing you out, and you have no other way to deal with such feelings. Once you stop drinking, you open a path to better ways of dealing with the anxiety without depending on the alcohol.
  • Allow your brain to work well. Drinking to alleviate your anxiety causes your brain to rewire. When you stop drinking, you will be giving your brain time to process those feelings and react appropriately. Even when the anxiety increases, you can cool yourself down and resolve it by other means.
  • Talk about your anxiety. There is nothing as good as being able to express your problem, especially to people who care about you. Once you are sober, you can begin an open discussion about your anxiety with your support network.

Treating anxiety will be much easier once you adopt a healthy lifestyle. One of the best ways to do this is by ensuring that you get enough sleep. It would help if you tried to be involved in activities that are not alcohol-related and will keep your mind and body active. It is also best to ensure that you are eating healthy meals throughout the day.

Social Support for Alcohol and Anxiety Treatment

Your friends and family will undoubtedly be an invaluable resource to help you stop drinking and adopt a sober life; however, they may not have the capacity and the right skills to help you. Therefore, seeking assistance from the professionals at Granite Recovery Center is the best option.

We are committed to improving your mental health while addressing the alcohol use disorder, treating both concurrently. Therapy will help you deal with situations that could trigger relapse once you’re out of treatment. Our goal is to provide you with all the tools that you need to stay sober and healthy.

Depending on the level of alcohol use and the severity of the anxiety disorder, someone who enters Granite Recovery Center may have to start with our detox program to set the pace for their recovery. Granite Recovery Centers provides medical detoxification for people who do not need immediate medical intervention, are not a danger to themselves, and are capable of self-evacuation in the event of an emergency. Those who choose an inpatient treatment program often see the best results as the immersive environment allows them to tackle their issues head-on.

Inpatient Program for Alcohol and Anxiety

Also known as a residential treatment program, this offers a secure and safe treatment environment if you struggle with anxiety and alcohol use. Here, you will receive intensive care and have 24/7 support from professionals who will help you make your path right.

At Granite Recovery Center, we will help you deal with the alcohol use disorder and help you learn how to deal with your anxiety. The extent of your illnesses will determine how much time you will spend in the rehab center. However, the period usually runs from 30 to 90 days. We have a structured schedule that will contribute to your healing.

Evidence-based Program

The evidence-based treatment program also marks a crucial step to your healing. At Granite, we incorporate the 12-step curriculum that ensures that both your alcohol and anxiety are treated. Our evidence-based program also offers therapy sessions that work well for people with anxiety-related disorders. When therapy sessions are used together with the 12-step program, the chances of relapsing are minimized.

The most common therapy that works for people dealing with anxiety issues is cognitive-behavioral therapy. It addresses the negative thoughts that lead to anxiety. Also, it looks at how you behave and your reaction to the conditions that trigger your anxiety. For best recovery, Granite Recovery Center will incorporate different treatment options depending on what each person requires.

The recovery journey does not stop after rehab, and one can never be 100% healed from anxiety and alcohol use. It is, therefore, essential to continue with an aftercare program.

At Granite Recovery Center, we care about your health. You don’t have to live trapped in a vicious cycle of anxiety and alcohol use. Call us today, and we can plot your path to recovery together.

At Granite Recovery Centers, we want to provide accurate information about health and addiction so that our readers can make informed decisions.

We have credentialed medical doctors & clinicians who specialize in addiction treatment review the information on our website before it is published. We use credible sources such as government websites and journal articles when citing statistics or other medically related topics.