Alcohol and Anxiety

Alcohol and Anxiety: Can Alcohol Induce Anxiety?

My Alcohol Problem

I never thought that I had an alcohol problem until I woke up one too many times having terrifying anxiety attacks.

Like many university students, I started my affair with alcohol during Fresher’s week. It started with just a few shots here, a few pints there. Before I knew it I was drinking almost every night.

Alcohol always felt great until it started to wear off. Then I would feel worse than ever before – not including the hangover.

It would just hit me like a freight train.

Anxiety with a capital ‘A’.

It Can Strike At Any Time… Be Prepared

Sometimes it would be the morning after, but many times it was late into the night when my pleasant buzz was cut off.

I would feel worthless and my sense of anxiety would increase a hundredfold. Feelings of being judged and silently mocked would appear in my mind. The weight of my suppressed anxious thoughts would flood over me like a tidal wave.

These feelings would often last for up to a day and were triggered by even the smallest amount of alcohol.

My mind and body was trying to tell me something and I finally listened. I cut my alcohol consumption down until I have now almost entirely cut it out of my life.

There was a connection between anxiety and alcohol consumption which I have only come to recognize in the past year.

However, alcohol isn’t all bad. There are some definite advantages to reducing your anxiety with alcohol, but is it worth the trade off?

Keep reading to find out more.

How Does Alcohol Reduce Anxiety

Alcohol is a remarkably effective sedative.

We’ve all seen movie scenes where a wounded character downs the contents of a nearby whiskey bottle before having a bullet pulled from their body.

Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system. As such, it can:

  • Make you feel less pain
  • Help you feel less shy
  • Give you a mood boost
  • Lower your inhibitions
  • And much more…

This can be attributed to your blood alcohol content (BAC). As your BAC rises, you get the effects above. Suddenly the attractive stranger at the bar is not so scary, the bouncer isn’t so tough and the drive home seems less dangerous.

Alcohol consumption is a remarkably effective way of feeling more socially confident.

I Could Always Count On Alcohol For A Confidence Boost

When I was at university alcohol seemed to have the ability to 10x my levels of confidence. I was given a strange sense of freedom to do whatever I wanted.

But, as I’m sure you are aware, these benefits are always short-lived.

When The Alcohol Wears Off

Drinking alcohol disrupts a very fine balance of chemicals in the brain. By affecting the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain (most notably serotonin), you feel great. You might even feel indestructible.

However, once the alcohol wears off, anxiety can often follow as it did for me. In fact, if you already suffer from anxiety, then you may feel even more anxious than before.

For me this feeling could last from as little as a few hours to several days at worst case.

You may even begin to experience symptoms similar to alcohol withdrawal as your body craves the sedative effects of alcohol. This can compound the alcohol’s effect on your anxiety levels.

In Defence of Alcohol

It is important to be fair about these kinds of things.

In moderation, alcohol is a fairly safe and fun way to pass the time especially when in the company of good friends.

It can make you feel confident and carefree and sometimes that is a good thing.

I have no doubt that the artificial confidence that alcohol gave me was one of the reasons I was able to make so many friends at university despite being extremely socially anxious.

There have even been some studies that show that alcohol in moderation is good for your health.

Alcohol is neither good nor bad. It is precisely what you make of it and if you abuse it, then you pay the consequences (though this is somewhat oversimplified).

Think of alcohol like a social tool which can help you to overcome your fears and so much more. However, if you misuse this tool, it can become dangerous for you.

Is Alcohol Worth The Trade-Off?

In my personal opinion, no.

For me, alcohol and anxiety still go hand in hand. However, this might not be the case for you or for others.

Therefore, my recommendation is to ask yourself whether alcohol is hindering you in the completion of your goals, whether that be to build a healthy body, overcome social anxiety, find a perfect relationship and so on.

At the end of the day, you have to live in the manner that makes you the most happy. As I have already said, alcohol can have some amazing effects, especially in the social realm.

However, it is important to be aware that over time, it can lead to a process of diminishing returns. For example:

  1. You drink alcohol
  2. You feel calm and confident
  3. The alcohol wears off and you feel anxiety
  4. You drink a little more to relieve the anxiety and begin the process again

This will certainly not be the case for everyone, but it is worth noting.

For myself and my goals, I feel it is best to cut out alcohol entirely from my life. Making my personal self-care a priority is one of the easiest decisions I have ever made.

There may come a time in my life when I could have a healthier relationship with alcohol, but for now I am happy to live without it.

Let me know what you think in the comments. What do you think about the link between alcohol and anxiety? Have you had a similar experience or has it been entirely different for you?

Keep the conversation going and I will see you in the next post.

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