If you are using alcohol as a self-medicating measure, you might feel it “works” to help you cope with your symptoms. While you might feel that it works in the short term, it’s more likely to cause you problems in the long run. If you have an anxiety disorder, alcohol misuse and withdrawal can make your symptoms worse. The initial symptoms of anxiety and panic may be related to alcohol withdrawal.
Drinking floods the brain’s pleasure center with increased dopamine levels. This “feel-good” chemical rush only lasts for a short time, and when the levels dip back to normal, hangxiety can set in. People can usually manage all types of anxiety successfully by using a combination of lifestyle changes, medications, and therapy rather than alcohol.
Why People Use Alcohol for Anxiety
But quitting alcohol can also result in loneliness for many people due to factors such as decreased social opportunities and strained relationships. A hangover can decrease your motivation to engage in social activities. Often, people drink to relieve feelings of loneliness or to distract themselves from those feelings. But if drinking never ends, and the alcohol use becomes chronic, you might begin to see how anxiety and alcohol misuse can feed into each other. Some studies on mice show that alcohol-related anxiety can last anywhere from 4 to 14 hours. In fact, drinking can change the chemistry of the brain in a way that actually makes anxiety worse.
- Drinking is commonly used to numb anxious thoughts, and yet paradoxically alcohol can cause more panic attacks to occur.
- If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your anxiety disorder, there are other ways to seek help.
- Alcohol causes reduced levels, so there’s no natural block to excessive brain activity when you stop drinking.
- Your brain relies heavily on proper hydration to function optimally.
As time goes on, however, they might find they need two, three, or more glasses of alcohol to get the same feeling. Another proposed theory refers to an expectancy component in people with anxiety who use alcohol. In this situation, a person expects to get relief from their anxiety symptoms when they consume alcohol because of its effect on the central nervous system (CNS). Alcohol can produce a sense of euphoria and decrease a person’s inhibition. These effects can make it seem like drinking alcohol is providing the person with relief from their anxiety. Dr. Okhifun is a passionate medical doctor, with over five years’ experience as a general practitioner.
Treatment for Alcohol Use and Anxiety Disorders
You may fear having panic attacks so much that you avoid certain situations where they may occur. Drinking is commonly used to numb anxious thoughts, and yet paradoxically alcohol can cause more panic attacks to occur. Alcohol use can cause new onset anxiety and worsen pre-existing anxiety symptoms.
They can strike at any time — when you’re driving a car, at the mall, sound asleep or in the middle of a business meeting. You may have occasional panic attacks, can alcohol cause panic attacks or they may occur frequently. Although panic attacks themselves aren’t life-threatening, they can be frightening and significantly affect your quality of life.