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Anxiety and alcoholism are typical co-occurring conditions that can cause significant suffering and hinder daily functioning. An existing anxiety condition can intensify or cause new anxiety symptoms, and vice versa, implying that a pre-existing anxiety disorder can aggravate or cause an alcohol use disorder.

Anxiety may be the consequence or a contributory component of alcohol abuse if you or somebody you care about is suffering from anxiety and alcohol use disorder.

The following are some of the facts and figures related to alcohol-induced anxiety.

  • The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 20 percent of people with an anxiety and mood disorder also have a substance use issue.
  • While alcohol can temporarily alleviate anxiety or the effects of anxiety disorders, it has been shown to worsen both short- and long-term anxiety.
  • Alcohol abuse is especially harmful to people who suffer from anxiety disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, or panic disorder.
  • Excessive alcohol intake has been linked to an increased risk of acquiring anxiety disorders such as PTSD and panic disorder.
  • If a person with an anxiety illness also has an alcohol use disorder, it is critical that they undergo treatment for both conditions at the same time.

This article will explain the indications and symptoms of alcohol abuse, as well as how the two disorders frequently coexist. If you do suffer alcohol-induced anxiety, this article will also describe a few methods to assist you to manage your symptoms.

In the United States, alcohol is among the most often used (and abused) substances. As per the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 85.6 percent of people reported consuming alcohol at some point in their lifetimes in 2019, 25.8 percent of individuals aged 18 and older reported binge drinking in the previous month, and 14.5 million individuals aged 12 or older had an alcohol use disorder or AUD, the medical term for alcohol addiction or alcoholism.

Alcohol abuse refers to the use of alcohol in harmful ways that have a negative impact on your life. It entails exceeding the CDC’s (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) alcohol Dietary Guidelines, which suggest that persons who desire to drink must do so in moderation.

This translates to a man having no more than two drinks per day and a woman having no more than one drink per day. 12 ounces of 5 percent beer, 8 ounces of 7 percent malt liquor, 5 ounces of 12 percent wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80 proof hard liquor or distilled spirits constitute a normal drink (like vodka, gin, rum, or whiskey). heavy drinking, binge drinking, and drinking in pregnancy are all examples of excessive alcohol use (abuse).

Although not everyone who drinks excessively develops an AUD, heavy or harmful alcohol use can contribute to addiction.

AUD is a chronic brain illness in which a person continues to consume alcohol despite its harmful effects on their lives.

It is defined by a compulsion to drink, being unable to manage your alcohol consumption, and a terrible feeling when you don’t consume alcohol, as per the NIAAA.

A significant number of people who drink excessively also suffer from anxiety disorders. If you have either an anxiety disorder or alcohol use disorder, you’re more likely to develop the other.

GAD and Alcohol

Every year, over 3 percent of Americans suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Excessive worry is experienced by people with this illness regularly, even if there is no extrinsic incident that causes it.

Coupling substance use with a generalized anxiety disorder may provide brief relief from feelings of concern or anxiousness, but it also exacerbates symptoms of the disease. People with generalized anxiety may come to rely on alcohol to alleviate their symptoms over time, and when resistance to the substance develops, they may tend to drink even more.

Drinking alcohol can temporarily reduce anxiety, but as the benefits of the drink wear off, it tends to elevate anxiety levels. This is mainly due to alcohol’s diuretic properties, which cause the body to become dehydrated. According to studies, those who consume more water have a reduced risk of depression and anxiety than those who consume less water, and drinking less water is linked to increased physical tension and disorientation.

Anxiety may rise after consuming alcohol as a result of stress or guilt regarding actions and behaviors that happened while under the influence.

While it’s obvious that alcohol can create transient anxiety, the link between alcohol and psychological problems is less established.

Heavy drinking has been linked to the development of some anxiety disorders, according to research. According to a study done by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, high alcohol use can hinder a person’s ability to heal from trauma, increasing their odds of experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This shows how an alcohol use disorder can affect a person’s overall resistance to stress and capacity to cope with it. As per the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, up to three-quarters of abuse survivors or violent, traumatic incidents, as well as one-third of individuals who have experienced other trauma, have alcohol problems.

Some experts believe there is a hereditary relationship that determines a person’s anxiety levels as well as their alcohol use, implying that the same brain process that causes symptoms of anxiety also affects drinking behaviors.

Other studies have looked into the link between persistent alcohol usage and the emergence of panic disorder, but more research is needed to uncover a connection between them.

When a person with an anxiety condition uses alcohol to deal with their symptoms, emotions of depression, anxiety, and restlessness tend to worsen as the effects of the alcohol wear off. If an individual develops a physical reliance on alcohol and tends to experience withdrawal from alcohol, this progression of symptoms can be very severe.

Keeping away from drinking, particularly after a period of frequent drinking, can trigger withdrawal and dependence symptoms. One of the most prevalent symptoms of substance addiction withdrawal is anxiety. Attempting to stop drinking after developing a dependency on alcohol can lead to a cycle of physical discomfort and increased anxiety levels, followed by greater alcohol consumption to alleviate these symptoms.

Serotonin and other neurochemicals are affected by alcohol, which can exacerbate anxiety. In fact, once the effects of alcohol wear out, you may feel much more worried.

Anxiety caused by alcohol might continue for several hours or even a whole day following consumption. It’s risky to use alcohol to deal with social anxiety disorder. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) estimates that roughly 7 percent of Americans suffer from this type of anxiety.

You may find it difficult or awkward to be part of social occasions or big gatherings if you suffer from social anxiety. Drinking alcohol to deal with social interactions is prevalent among people with social anxiety disorder. This can lead to an addiction to alcohol when socializing, which can exacerbate anxiety symptoms.

Around 20 percent of patients with a social anxiety disorder also have an alcohol problem. Other indicators of dependence, aside from the need for alcohol to feel at ease when interacting, conversing, or socializing, include:

  • Necessitating a drink to get started in the morning
  • Four or even more days a week of heavy drinking
  • Needing a drink at each gathering
  • Being unable to put down a glass of wine
  • Consuming at least 5 alcoholic beverages in a single day

Hangovers can also be caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Symptoms of a hangover can make you feel even more nervous than before, such as:

  • Body aches
  • Dizziness
  • Sickness and nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood sugar

If you have hangover-induced anxiety (or hangxiety), you may not be able to entirely calm down, but there are certain things you can do to make your experience a little easier, such as:

Maintain a cool demeanor and provide plenty of time for rest. Help assure yourself that this is a passing sensation that will pass once you feel better. If you require assistance, join a self-help program like Alcoholics Anonymous.

Learn as much as you can about anxiety. Consider whether alcohol is causing or exacerbating your anxiety. If you are constantly upset by anxiety related to alcoholism or if your drinking habits are messing with your everyday life, commit to reducing or ceasing drinking.

Stopping or severely reducing your alcohol use is the only sure step to prevent anxiety produced by drinking. However, whether your anxiety is caused by alcohol or if you have an existing anxiety condition for which you’ve been self-medicating with alcohol is a consideration.

Regardless, stopping alcohol (or another mind-altering drug) can help you feel more anchored and level-headed, as well as provide a good baseline for treating any co-occurring illnesses you may have.

Seeking professional therapy for alcoholism and anxiety will help you reclaim control of your life and avoid the harmful repercussions and feelings that come with alcohol-induced anxiety. When it comes to treating co-occurring illnesses like anxiety and alcoholism, an integrated approach is usually the most effective.

Detox, outpatient treatment, inpatient treatment, psychotherapy, medication, support network participation, or a mix of these may be used.

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