Who doesn’t love a nice glass of wine or a cold beer after a stressful day? Sure, a moderate amount of alcohol can help you unwind. However, drinking with depression and anxiety can quickly turn a treat into a habit. Inevitably, mental health symptoms can worsen when you mix anxiety medication and drinking alcohol. Here’s why we drink alcohol when we’re anxious and healthier alternatives so that you don’t develop a life-threatening addiction.
Drinking and Anxiety: What’s the Connection?
Chilling by the poolside with a cocktail in hand is the quintessential vision of relaxation. There’s a reason for that. Alcohol is a sedative.
When we consume alcohol, neurons in our brains begin to slow down. For someone with anxiety, we would do anything to calm our racing thoughts by a mere fraction of a second. Alcohol drowns those fears and pressures away.
There are many situations where drinking may cause someone to feel less anxious:
- Social Gatherings
- Peer Pressure
- Dancing at Concerts
- Awkward Dates
- Relaxing in a Bathing Suit on Vacation
- After Work Stress Melt
- Kids Are Finally In Bed
When we consume alcohol, we lose our inhibitions. Our mind no longer fixates on the stresses we’re trying to ignore. Therefore, as blood alcohol content (BAC) rises, our dopamine levels will, too.
Dopamine is our reward center. So, when we use drinking alcohol to cope with anxiety, it causes us to feel good. However, it’s also training our brain to create a pattern that can lead to alcoholism.
Furthermore, this dopamine production is fleeting. When our liver metabolizes the alcohol, our BAC will begin to drop.
A few drinks in, the dopamine rush wears off. Our insecurities come back, and we become jealous, paranoid, and emotional. That’s why many of us experience anxiety and depression after drinking alcohol. So, how do we break the cycle and find healthier ways to cope with anxiety?
Why Drinking Can Worsen Depression and Anxiety
Experiencing anxiety and drinking alcohol to fix it are both temporary. You’re handling a fleeting experience by consuming a beverage that impairs your mind. It’s reacting to a reaction, rather than creating a solution to a problem.
For those of us who have severe anxiety disorders, drinking each time we feel anxious wouldn’t be an option. Otherwise, we’d be Frank Gallagher on Shameless.
The more alcohol you drink, you start to build up a tolerance. Therefore, it will take more drinks to ease your daily woes.
In turn, the dopamine will take longer to kick in. Subsequently, the rewarding feelings will also cease much sooner.
Now, you must drink more alcohol to compensate. That’s why there’s such a strong correlation between binge drinking and anxiety.
Approximately 15% to 20% of people with a social anxiety disorder also have alcoholism. Since alcohol is a social drug, we must figure out other ways to feel comfortable and confident in public settings.
How Alcohol Can Increase Anxiety
Alcohol is a regular part of pop culture. So, it’s been ingrained into our minds as an acceptable way to unwind. Therefore, the pressure of drinking alcohol can also cause someone to develop an anxiety disorder.
Millions of people are born into a family who has a history of alcohol abuse. For many of us, alcohol is a staple at dinner, family cookouts, and football games. That’s the environmental aspect.
Then, thousands of genes can make someone more prone to becoming an alcoholic. Plus, those who are born from a family with alcoholism might be born with a smaller amygdala. The amygdala is the part of the brain that processes emotions.
These environmental and genetic influences can cause a strong connection to anxiety and drinking in our lives. So, we must find other coping mechanisms that don’t allow alcohol to become our crutch.
Many of us turn to alcohol to help us feel comfortable fitting into social settings. The more we rely on alcohol, the less effective it will be on our confidence. That’s because we grow tolerant to the effects of alcohol.
We can grow anxious just by attempting to lower our anxiety! We become aware of our higher tolerance for alcohol and get nervous that the alcohol won’t work fast enough.
So, we drink quicker or consume beverages with higher alcohol content. That’s what makes such a glaring connection between binge drinking and anxiety.
Lowers Brain Chemicals
If alcohol does become your primary anxiety go-to, it can alter our brian’s makeup. This change can cause more anxiety in the long run.
Short-term drinking when you have anxiety will boost our serotonin levels, making us feel happier after a few cocktails. However, long-term alcohol will have the opposite effect.
Research shows that alcohol abuse destroys this essential brain chemical. That’s why it’s so common to experience anxiety and depression after drinking alcohol.
Why Taking Anxiety Medication and Drinking Alcohol Can Be Dangerous
Millions of people rely on anxiety medications to keep their mental health symptoms in check. These prescriptions are specifically targeting neurotransmitters in the brain.
Consuming alcoholic beverages disrupts the production of brain chemicals. So, taking anxiety meds and drinking alcohol can be a dangerous cocktail.
Alcohol and Benzodiazepines
Benzodiazepines help the body produce more Gamma-Aminobutyric Acid (GABA). GABA is a brain chemical that binds on receptors. When this happens, we feel a calm effect over the body.
Alcohol also binds to these receptors. It creates the same feeling. However, it’s not the natural chemical, GABA. Unlike GABA, alcohol is addictive, may cause liver damage, and can destroy beneficial stomach bacteria.
If you are trying to lower your dependency on medications, you might consider using an all-natural supplement, like Tranquilene.
Tranquilene contains GABA that helps ease anxious thoughts and compulsive behaviors. It also has a litany of other botanicals that have shown to boost GABA and serotonin production in the body.
Alcohol and Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs)
While common for treating depression, SSRIs are also a common prescription for people with an anxiety disorder. They help make serotonin more readily available in the system. That way, the person taking the medication feels happier throughout the day.
Drinking alcohol can amplify those feelings in the short term. However, its long term effects on serotonin levels may compete with the intentions of the medications. In some cases, it might even cause someone to behave manically.
Research also suggests that taking SSRIs for anxiety medication and drinking alcohol can cause you to blackout. It lowers your overall alcohol tolerance and promotes memory loss.
Natural Ways to Stop Drinking When You Have Anxiety
Drinking alcohol is a privilege that we can’t take lightly. When used moderately, alcohol can help you loosen up. However, it’s not a crutch. Nor should you be taking anxiety meds and drinking. Here are some natural ways to cope with anxiety.
Yoga is an excellent way to curb your anxiety. It forces you to become present in the moment. In turn, you forget about things that are causing you anxiety in the first place. Instead, you focus on the movements your body makes and breathing through the positions.
When you leave the yoga mat, that calmness should follow you. A meta-analysis of the benefits of yoga concluded that continuous practice may, “lower anxiety, heart rate, respiratory rate, blood pressure, and cardiac output.”
The research journal also pointed out that regular yoga practice increases monoamine oxidase. This enzyme is known to break down neurotransmitters, namely our stress hormone, cortisol.
Meditation and Deep Breathing
Not all of us can jump into a Vinyasa flow in the middle of a dinner party. However, you can perform deep breathing exercises.
If you ever feel the pressure becoming too much, escape to a bathroom. Take a few deep breaths to center yourself.
Then, perform the 4-7-8 method:
- Inhale for 4 Seconds
- Hold for 7 Seconds
- Exhale for 8 Seconds
You can perform the 4-7-8 method anywhere, and no one would have a clue that you’re having a panic or anxiety attack.
Supplement your emergency deep breathing techniques with regular meditation. Meditating just ten minutes per day can help you clear your mind. You’ll be amazed by what insights come to you after a fantastic meditation session!
Part of the reason we associate anxiety and drinking is that there’s a physical tangible to this form of peer pressure. What if everybody at the party is drinking and you’re not?
You don’t need a cocktail to fit in. Grab a mocktail. Just pour some soda water and lime into a glass, and people will think you’re sipping on a gin and tonic. Drink some sparkling cider instead of champagne or have birch beer rather than a regular one.
CBD is a non-habit-forming way to help alleviate stress. Our body is designed with a vast networking board known as the endocannabinoid system.
The endocannabinoid system has receptors throughout the body. These receptors report back to the central nervous system. When they experience stress, the mind interprets this emotion, and we feel it.
Phytocannabinoids in CBD oil mirror our body’s natural endocannabinoids. Our body creates endocannabinoids to help bring balance to the system.
When we are under immense stress, that alters the balance in the body. So, phytocannabinoids in CBD oil interact with these receptors to cause a calming feeling throughout the system.
Social situations are a common cause of anxiety. You need to arm yourself for the situation with as many beneficial plant compounds as possible. The most effective way to do this is by using all-natural supplements.
Stressful situations cause our body to produce cortisol. This hormone is our fight-or-flight instinct. In social situations, that instinct tells us to combine anxiety and drinking.
Using all-natural supplements like KSM-66 Ashwagandha can help lower cortisol levels. Research shows that KSM-66 Asghwaganda can lower perceived stress levels by 44%. It also improves cognition and memory. Therefore, you can enter a part with confidence, dance flawlessly, and remember the night!
Consume Foods and Drinks That Help with Anxiety
Many of us consume a diet that perpetuates mental health disorders. No, we’re not just talking about experiencing anxiety and depression after drinking. The everyday foods we are setting us up for illness.
Most foods found in the Western Diet are highly processed. They have additives and artificial ingredients that spark inflammation. Eating three meals and snacking on these foods can cause chronic inflammation that destroys healthy cells linked to mood.
We must reverse this anxious behavior by eating brain-boosting foods, including:
- Dark Greens
- Dark Chocolate
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Whole Grains
- Herbal Tea
Making little changes to your diet can do wonders for improving your everyday mood. In turn, you are less likely to turn to the bottle at the end of the day.
Alternatives to Drinking to Promote Calmness
Drinking and anxiety go together. However, they go together too well. What once was a crutch for your anxiety disorder may actually make your mental health episodes worse.
Long-term alcohol abuse comes with a long list of health problems and has severe implications on mental health. By relying on drinking for anxiety, we can become dependent on alcohol. This addiction may cause us to lose brain chemicals and worsen our anxiety.
Instead of drinking, we can use other methods to promote calmness. Implement yoga, deep breathing, and meditation to your routine. Consume foods and drinks that help with anxiety and use all-natural supplements.
Drinking to forget your anxiety will cause you to forget yourself. These alternative solutions can help manage your anxiety in a healthier way.
- Alcohol lowers inhibitions and increases dopamine in the short term.
- Short term benefits of alcohol can cause someone to combine anxiety and drinking.
- Long-term drinking may cause anxiety.
- Use all-natural supplements, yoga, meditation, mocktails, and CBD oil for social anxiety.