We know that people turn to alcohol use and can become dependent on it for many reasons. One of these can be anxiety. Dealing with anxiety can lead people to alcohol in an attempt to get relief.
Connections Between Anxiety and Alcohol Use
When someone is dealing with anxiety and alcohol use, we call it a dual diagnosis. Both issues need to be addressed during treatment to learn to live a sober life and not depend on alcohol to deal with their anxiety. If both problems are not addressed, it is doubtful that someone will overcome their substance abuse disorder.
We will explore why people with anxiety turn to alcohol, the effects of having anxiety and alcohol use, and the available treatment.
Why People with Anxiety Turn to Alcohol
When people suffer from anxiety, they often feel jittery and sometimes afraid. This can cause them to avoid social interactions as well as feel uncomfortable in everyday life. When they drink, they may feel more relaxed and less anxious. Those with an anxiety disorder may turn to alcohol to self-medicate and lessen their symptoms. Studies show that anxiety disorders and alcohol abuse often occur together. This is why a person with this particular dual diagnosis must treat both issues at once.1 According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, people with anxiety are two to three times more likely to have an alcohol or substance abuse disorder than others at some point in their lives.2 Typically, the symptoms of one disorder can make the symptoms of the other worse.
Research shows that 30 percent of people with an alcohol or substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder.2 Besides feeling the need to deal with anxiety and feel comfortable socializing for those with a social anxiety disorder, other signs of alcohol dependence include:
- Requiring a drink at every gathering
- An inability to stop drinking
- Feeling the need to drink in the morning to get going
- Drinking heavily for four or more days a week
Suppose you or a loved one are dealing with anxiety and realize you fit into any of the categories above. In that case, you may have a substance use disorder to treat, along with an anxiety disorder. Seeking treatment earlier rather than later is best so that issues don’t worsen and pose a danger.
The Effects of Having Anxiety and Drinking
At first, using alcohol may seem to help a person relax because it depresses the central nervous system. But since alcohol changes serotonin levels and other neurotransmitters in the brain, it can worsen anxiety.3 Some people may feel even more anxious once the effects of alcohol wear off.
Researchers believe that how much a person drinks often becomes associated with their anxiety level and how much relief they think drinking will give them. When this happens, the worse someone’s anxiety is, the more they tend to drink to make those feelings go away.4 This is how alcohol dependence can form for those suffering from anxiety.
Suppose someone with anxiety drinks to deal with uncomfortable situations. In that case, they may build up a tolerance that will make them want more alcohol to achieve the same comfort levels. This is also how a substance abuse disorder can develop.
Some people may eventually avoid social situations where they can’t drink because they become so reliant on alcohol to make them feel better and cope. Social avoidance is a sign the individual needs to treat their substance use and anxiety disorders together.
Another impact to consider when talking about anxiety and drinking problems is that those with a generalized anxiety disorder may think about what they said or did when they were drinking. If they were drinking heavily, there’s a good chance their memories are blurred. This may lead to more anxiety as they begin to worry and feel stressed about their behavior. They lose any feelings of relaxation from drinking due to the feelings brought up by anxiety.
Get Help for Anxiety and Alcohol Use Disorder
At Clear Life Recovery, we are equipped and ready to treat people struggling with anxiety and drinking. We offer anxiety treatment along with our alcohol treatment programs. This helps deal with both issues, allowing our patients to learn to live a sober life and deal with their anxiety.
Our dual diagnosis treatment is tailored to help each individual patient with their issues. We understand that everyone’s substance abuse disorder is different, so their treatment plan needs to be different as well.
For more information on getting treatment for anxiety and alcohol use, call us today or reach us online. Let us help you begin your road to sobriety.