Understanding the Relationship between Alcohol and Mental Health
Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances globally and has been linked to a wide range of negative consequences.
It can harm mental health, including increased risk for anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.
Understanding the relationship between alcohol and mental health is important because it can help reduce the prevalence of these conditions and improve people's lives.
5 Ways Alcohol Contributes to Anxiety
Alcohol can exacerbate anxiety in several ways.
Increase in Heart Rate
Alcohol causes a temporary spike in heart rate and blood pressure.
Chronic consumption of alcohol can lead to ongoing increased heart rate and blood pressure, weakened heart muscles, and irregular heartbeat.
A Sneak-peek Into the Gene Health Report
Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals.
Alcohol consumption interferes with neurotransmitter levels, throwing your body out of balance.
For example, GABA is a neurotransmitter that reduces energy levels and calms your body down.
When alcohol increases the GABA levels, the sedation effects are amplified, causing wobbly walking and speech slurring.
Alcohol also increases dopamine levels, stimulating the brain's reward centers, thus tricking you into thinking alcohol is pleasurable.
Thus, alcohol consumption throws your neurotransmitter levels off balance, thereby worsening your activity.
Alcohol can induce feelings of relaxation and sleepiness; however, excess consumption can lead to poor sleep quality.
Alcohol is a depressant and results in quick sleep onset. So, people fall into deep sleep quicker, creating an imbalance in the stages of sleep.
This decreases the overall sleep quality, making anxiety management difficult.
Worsens Short-term Memory
Alcohol affects how nerves communicate with each other in a region of the brain called the hippocampus.
The hippocampus plays a role in memory formation.
Alcohol slows down the normal nerve activity here, thereby worsening short-term memory.
This can be very unsettling, even more so for people with anxiety.
What is Hangxiety?
Hangxiety is hangover-related-anxiety.
It describes the significant increase in anxiety one may experience after a night of heavy drinking.
Everyone may not experience this.
People with existing anxiety or social phobia are more prone to it.
There are a few hypotheses on why hangxiety happens.
- Alcohol temporarily lowers inhibitions and puts you in a relaxed state. Once it is out of your system, the symptoms of anxiety may rush back in.
- Alcohol triggers endorphin (happy hormone) release. It can mimic an emotional breakdown state when endorphin levels decrease gradually.
- Dehydration is commonly seen with alcohol since it is a diuretic. Diuretics rid your body of salt and water. According to studies, dehydration can contribute to anxiety and mood swings.
Image: Hangover and Anxiety - Hangxiety Management
The Vicious Circle of Alcohol and Anxiety
For people with anxiety, a few drinks may help them relax.
But alcohol can also make anxiety worse in some people.
- You feel anxious and reach out for a couple of drinks
- As it releases endorphins and GABA, you feel calm and relaxed
- As the body begins to clear the alcohol out of your system, the anxiety symptoms return
- You again consume alcohol to relieve the symptoms
While alcohol may initially relieve anxiety symptoms, they return once alcohol is eliminated from the body.
Over time, the more you drink, the more alcohol it'll take for your body to be in a relaxed state.
This tolerance build-up can put a person at dangerous risk for alcohol addiction.
The Right Ways to Manage Anxiety
Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress, but it can interfere with daily life when it becomes excessive or disabling.
There are many ways to manage anxiety; here are a few tips to get started:
- Get enough sleep. Most people need around eight hours of sleep per night. When you're exhausted, coping with stressors and anxiety symptoms is harder.
- Eat healthy foods. Avoid processed foods and sugary snacks, which can increase anxiety levels. Instead, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.
- Practice meditation or mindfulness exercises. These can help you focus on the present moment and reduce rumination about the past or future.
- Seek therapy if needed. Talking to a professional can help with effective coping mechanisms to manage anxiety.