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Can Alcohol Cause Anxiety

Alcohol has an effect on brain chemistry - it can induce panic because of its effects on GABA, a chemical in the brain that normally has a relaxing effect. Small amounts of alcohol can stimulate GABA and cause feelings of relaxation, but heavy drinking can deplete GABA, causing increased tension and feelings of panic.14,15 Panic attacks can occur due to alcohol withdrawal.

Can Alcohol Cause Anxiety


The NHS website, Every Mind Matters, has advice on how to access support and treatment for anxiety in England. This includes options for NHS support, links to charities, helplines and communities, and tips on self-care.

[16]Driessen, M., Meier, S., Hill, A., Wetterling, T., Lange, W. and Junghanns, K. (2001). The course of anxiety, depression and drinking behaviours after completed detoxification in alcoholics with and without comorbid anxiety and depressive disorders. Alcohol and Alcoholism, 36(3), 249-255.

Hangxiety has become a buzzword that describes the uneasy feeling that often accompanies heavy alcohol use, but what does it really mean? We asked Dr. Bulat to explain what hangxiety is and how to manage it best.Q: What is hangxiety?

A: Drinking alcohol dumps a flood of dopamine into the pleasure center of the brain. The feel-good chemical swirls through your head, but the rush only lasts for a short while. When dopamine levels dip back down, feelings of anxiety rebound.

A: People who suffer from depression and anxiety are more likely to experience anxious feelings after drinking. Though alcohol can suppress anxious feelings while a person is imbibing, the rebound effect can be far worse than their baseline level of anxiety. Unfortunately, those uncomfortable emotions can drive people straight back to the culprit: alcohol.Q: How does alcohol compare to medications used to treat anxiety?

A: Like alcohol, medications such as benzodiazepines that are used to treat anxiety target GABA in the brain. In fact, some people with depression and anxiety turn to alcohol to self-medicate. Unfortunately, self-medicating with alcohol or other substances increases the risk of developing substance abuse disorders, which can lead to negative effects on your heart, liver and other vital organs.Q: How do you know if your hangxiety indicates an alcohol use disorder, or AUD?

Your best bet to avoid hangxiety is to drink responsibly, says Dr. Bulat. Pay attention to family members and loved ones who say they notice an increase in your drinking habits and stay within the recommended limits of alcohol consumption (one drink per day for women; two drinks per day for men).

Anxiety and alcohol use disorder are common co-occurring disorders that can cause serious distress and impair your daily functioning. Alcohol use disorder can exacerbate an existing anxiety disorder or may lead to new anxiety symptoms and vice versa, meaning that a pre-existing anxiety disorder can contribute to an alcohol use disorder (as many individuals use alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism).

This article will help you understand alcohol misuse, anxiety signs and symptoms, and how both disorders often co-occur. This article will also explain a few ways to help calm anxiety symptoms if you should experience alcohol-induced anxiety or an alcohol panic attack.

American Addiction Centers offers co-occurring disorder treatment at many of our nationwide treatment centers for substance and alcohol use disorders. Call us today at "props":"scalar":"","helpline":"true","children":""

Alcohol may be a temporary, unhealthy way to relieve anxiety and forget about your underlying stressors, however using alcohol does not erase these underlying triggers. Whether your anxiety is related to past trauma, financial stress, or untreated depression; alcohol is merely a temporary Band-Aid and the longer one depends on alcohol to help treat their anxiety, the more at risk they are for developing an alcohol use disorder. Additionally, symptoms of anxiety will still be lurking around the corner as the underlying triggers have not been properly addressed and treated.

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used (and misused) substances in the U.S. In 2019, 85.6% of people reported drinking alcohol at some point in their lives, 25.8% of people aged 18 and older reported binge drinking in the past month, and 14.5 million people aged 12 and older had an alcohol use disorder (AUD), the clinical term for alcoholism or alcohol addiction, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).1

There are several types of anxiety disorders that may manifest in different ways, depending on the individual, but all them share symptoms of excessive worry and fear. Common types of anxiety disorders include:4,5,6

One study reported that 25% of people who sought treatment for panic disorder had a history of alcohol dependence.16 Alcohol has an effect on many chemicals in the brain including GABA, serotonin and dopamine and when these brain chemicals are altered, it can throw off how the body reacts in everyday situations. Alcohol can induce panic because of its effects on GABA, a chemical that normally has a relaxing effect. Mild amounts of alcohol can stimulate GABA and cause feelings of relaxation, but heavy drinking can deplete GABA, causing increased tension and feelings of panic.17,18

Individuals with panic disorder, and many other types of anxiety disorders, may try to self-medicate with alcohol in hopes of reducing their anxiety levels. When more and more alcohol is used over time, they can potentially become dependent on alcohol and as a result, when they stop drinking, they are at risk of alcohol withdrawal which can result in severe anxiety.16

Alcohol tolerance occurs when the individual needs more alcohol over time in order to induce the same feelings of euphoria. This can become a vicious cycle, because you may initially use alcohol as an unhealthy coping mechanism to help relieve your underlying anxiety but overtime you will need more alcohol to produce the same effects (tolerance).20

Dependence, different from tolerance, develops when the body adapts to regular alcohol use. A telltale signs of dependence is the presence of alcohol cravings or alcohol withdrawal symptoms when the individual reduces their alcohol use or stops drinking altogether. Alcohol withdrawal can worsen a pre-existing anxiety condition, or it can create new symptoms of anxiety, potentially resulting in the need to drink again..3,15

If you are physically dependent on alcohol, you can experience anxiety symptoms associated with alcohol withdrawal that last approximately 3-7 days, with the first 48 hours being the most difficult. Some people can experience anxiety symptoms that last longer than 7 days.22

It might not be possible to completely calm yourself down if you experience hangover-induced anxiety (or hangxiety), but there are some things you can do to make your experience a bit easier, such as:

The only sure way to avoid anxiety caused by drinking is to stop drinking or drastically reduce your alcohol consumption. However, it depends on whether your anxiety is alcohol-induced or if you have an underlying anxiety disorder that you have been self-medicating with alcohol.

Regardless, quitting alcohol (or other mind-altering substances) can help you feel more grounded and level-headed and provide a beneficial baseline for the treatment of any co-occurring disorders you may be struggling with.

Seeking professional treatment for AUD and anxiety can help you take back control of your life and prevent the negative consequences and feelings associated with alcohol-induced anxiety. An integrated form of treatment is usually best for treating co-occurring disorders, such as anxiety and alcohol use disorder. This may include detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, medication, psychotherapy, participating in support groups, or a combination of these.25

When dealing with stressful days or nervous situations, you may be tempted to have a glass of wine or a beer to calm your nerves. However, drinking alcohol, especially heavily and over a long period of time, can actually increase your anxiety.

Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also have noticeable physical and mental consequences. Over time, consuming too much alcohol can lead to blackouts, loss of memory, and even brain damage (especially if it causes other health problems, such as liver damage). These issues can create more anxiety as you cope with their symptoms.

Treatment may depend on the type of anxiety you have. If you have social anxiety or a social phobia, therapy may work best to reduce your levels of anxiety (combined with a medication such as sertraline, or Zoloft). If you have generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), an ongoing feeling of worry or stress without a specific cause, your doctor may recommend learning behaviors or skills to help you stop avoiding activities because of anxiety (known as cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT), or talking about your anxiety with a therapist.

Each type of medication treats anxiety in a different way. Antidepressants may be taken every day to help treat anxiety, while benzodiazepines are generally used for temporary relief from uncontrollable feelings of anxiety. Talk to your doctor to decide which type of medication is best for you.

Having a glass of wine to unwind may feel like a great way to end a long day, but how do you know when you're alcohol dependent? And if you have anxiety, does alcohol alleviate or aggravate your symptoms?

However, alcohol abuse can also make any existing anxiety worse in the long term. In addition, long term alcohol abuse can lead to other mental health problems and can result in a number of chronic physical health problems, such as liver disease, which may cause even more anxiety.

At Priory, our alcohol addiction treatment programmes can help you to tackle your addiction, explore the underlying reasons for your drinking and help you get back on track. If your drinking stems from pre-existing anxiety, we can also help you to get this under control. Anxiety treatment at Priory will equip you with the skills to manage your negative feelings more effectively in the future, instead of reaching for a drink.

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