Alcohol and Anxiety Attacks
The link between alcohol and anxiety attacks is an interesting one as it goes two ways. Some people feel anxious and use alcohol to try and escape from their feelings. These are the people who tend to drink regularly night after night to manage their stress and anxiety levels. Then there are the people whose anxiety is manageable most of the time until they have a drink and find that their anxiety goes through the roof. Neither situation is of course ideal.
So why do we get alcohol-induced anxiety? Well, the science is relatively simple. When we drink alcohol it has an impact on the chemicals in our brains. We have all experienced that nice warm fuzzy feeling where we feel nicely chilled and our troubles seem far away. This is the feeling that some people with anxiety love as it makes them feel as if their anxiety or stress has temporarily been quietened. It is also the feeling that they want to recreate causing an unhealthy relationship with drink.
The reason we get this feeling is because our serotonin levels are lowered and the neurotransmitters in the brain change creating a sedative effect. Then when you stop drinking the alcohol wears off and so does the sedative bringing back all the old feelings plus new ones such as headaches, feeling tired and a depressed feeling.
For a person, without anxiety, these feelings might be manageable but in an anxious individual, they seem much worse. This is because anxious people tend to focus inwardly and concentrate and worry on every negative feeling or worry amplifying the problem.
Alcohol Dependence and Anxiety
Now let’s go back to the people who drink night after night. A portion of these will feel that without alcohol they can’t sleep or relax in the evening. This means that later on that day they will once again turn to alcohol to switch off their anxiety and stress. So begins the cycle of alcohol dependence.
These people are not necessarily full-blown alcoholics but they are relying on alcohol to try and make them feel better. The problem is that whilst alcohol makes it easier for us to get to sleep we don’t have quality sleep. This means we wake up tired and irritable and in a low mood which our alcohol and anxiety attacks to become worse.
Anxiety After Drinking
Anxiety after drinking even has the name “hangxiety”. Thousands of people daily Google to see if there is a cure for this problem not understanding the cycle of alcohol dependence. The best way to stop the problem is to limit the amount of alcohol drunk and then work on a way of managing or resolving your underlying anxiety.
To break free from “hangxiety” or alcohol and anxiety attacks you need to separate the anxiety from the alcohol use. Limiting drinking helps as this allows you to work on the emotional root causes of your problem. If you carry on drinking night after night or binge drinking you are not allowing yourself time to recover and work on your health.
My Drink Less Alcohol program can help you to learn to limit or reduce your alcohol intake. Whilst my Blitz Anxiety program gives you tips and strategies to manage your anxiety whilst searching for the underlying cause. Why not grab one of my Drink Less Quick Start Guide to start limiting your drinking.
For example, your anxiety may be linked to a fear of being alone, worries about not being good enough, lack of control and so on. Identifying the root causes of anxiety are important because then you can take steps to address your real problem instead of masking it through drink.
Social Anxiety and Alcohol
It is also important to mention social anxiety disorder in relation to alcohol and anxiety attacks. A significant percentage of people drinking too much may suffer from this disorder. In these cases, the drinker will be using alcohol to build their confidence. This is because when they are in company they worry about how they are perceived, feel anxious about speaking or worry about embarrassing themselves in public. Alcohol becomes the crutch they use to try and overcome the problem.
Of course, the following day when the alcohol wears off the “hangxiety” kicks in and they then start to analyse what happened the night before. Did they embarrass themselves? Did they say something stupid? Make a fool of themselves?
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America state that around 20% of people with social anxiety disorder will suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence.
Breaking the habit of using alcohol to gain confidence is important as the next day the underlying problem has not been resolved and the anxieties are as bad as ever.
Alcohol and Anxiety Attacks Help
If you believe that you have a problem with alcohol and anxiety attacks you can consider our online programs to help make a difference. If you are looking for one to one coaching help just fill out the form below and we will contact you.
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