Can Drinking Make Anxiety Worse?

We all experience anxiety from time to time. Stressful days, upcoming events, or tense situations can contribute to abnormally emotional conditions. In these cases, you may be tempted to reach for a glass of wine or a drink of some type to help “calm your nerves.” But is this form of coping really beneficial? Research indicates it may not be. Evidence suggests that drinking alcohol, especially heavily and over a long period, can increase your anxiety symptoms. If you have a diagnosed anxiety disorder or substance use disorder and are receiving treatment alcohol can have significant consequences on your treatment outcomes. 


What Is Anxiety?

Anxiety is the body’s natural response to stress. Anxiety is that feeling of fear or apprehension about a current situation or future event. Common examples of situations that induce anxiety could include a job interview, the first day at a new school, or giving a speech in front of a large group of people. Anxiety is not abnormal. Everyone experiences a certain level of anxiety at some point in their lives. However, “normal anxiety” often resolves itself in a short time. If your feelings of anxiety are extreme or last for longer than six months and interfere with your day-to-day life, it is possible that you may have an anxiety disorder. 


Can Drinking Make Anxiety Worse?

Some turned to alcohol as a way to alleviate the unpleasant symptoms associated with stress and anxiety. In the short term, this may seem helpful. Alcohol is a sedative and acts to depress the central nervous system. Therefore, at first, a few drinks can help take your mind off your troubles and reduce a sense of fear and apprehension. Initially, the effects of alcohol can be similar to those of anti-anxiety medications prescribed for anxiety disorders. Using alcohol to unwind or reduce fears on occasion is not necessarily dangerous; however, excessive and ongoing alcohol use can result in tolerance to the distressing effects alcohol naturally provides. Eventually, this can make anxiety and stress even more difficult to cope with and result in alcohol dependency and addiction


Ongoing regular or excessive drinking can result in physical and psychological consequences that can be difficult to manage. Some examples include loss of memory, changes in the brain’s structure and function, and even blackouts or other health problems. The introduction of chronic, sometimes irreversible physical and mental health difficulties only serves to create more anxiety as one struggles to find a healthy or safe way to manage their symptoms. 


What to Do if You’re Struggling With Anxiety and Drinking

If you are one of the millions who struggle with anxiety and drinking, it is essential to seek help at a treatment center skilled in dual diagnosis treatment. Dual diagnosis programs are designed to address both your struggle with alcohol and co-occurring anxiety symptoms. A dual diagnosis treatment program at Rise in Malibu will help you learn more about addiction and mental health are connected. Through comprehensive therapy, you will practice new and healthier ways to cope with anxiety symptoms without turning to alcohol. At our luxury Malibu, California treatment center, we will work with you to ensure your treatment program is designed around your specific treatment needs and goals. Using a combination of traditional, evidence-based treatment methods combined with alternative therapy models, our individually designed programs support each person’s physical, psychological and spiritual needs who comes to Rise. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with anxiety and drinking, don’t wait another day to seek help at Rise in Malibu. Our skilled and compassionate admissions team is waiting to help you learn more about how our programs can help you better cope with anxiety without turning to substances to cope.

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