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Anxiety and Alcohol

a man does not seem to realize that his alcohol consumption makes his anxiety symptoms worse

In the U.S., it’s considered “normal” to unwind with an alcoholic drink at the end of a stressful day. This occasional habit can lead to serious problems for some, especially if they are attempting to self-medicate symptoms of an anxiety disorder. Receiving anxiety and addiction treatment is the best approach for patients with co-occurring disorders.

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of co-occurring disorder treatment, contact Woodland Recovery Center at 662.222.2989.

Understanding Anxiety and Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety is not the same as an anxiety disorder. Every human has feelings of anxiety at some point in life. Feeling nervous about a job interview or a move to a new state is normal. Being unable to follow through with those tasks because feelings of anxiety are so severe they have disabled you is a sign you may have an anxiety disorder.

Like other mental health conditions, the symptoms of anxiety disorders can range from mild to severe. Some people with anxiety disorders experience symptoms regularly, while others may only have symptoms a few times a year. Stress, even “good” stress, like getting a new job you really wanted, can trigger symptoms.

There are several distinct types of anxiety disorders, including:

  • Generalized anxiety disorder
  • Social anxiety disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Specific phobias
  • Separation anxiety disorder

All types of anxiety disorders affect the central nervous system. The exact symptoms people experience depend on the type of disorder they have and their general health. People with both anxiety and alcohol use disorder may experience more severe and frequent symptoms.

The Dangerous Connection Between Anxiety and Alcohol

Alcohol has a sedative effect on the central nervous system, so it is understandable that people experiencing anxiety might occasionally use alcohol for its calming effect. In fact, the initial mood boost and general good feelings induced by alcohol are similar to the effects of antianxiety medications.

The problem arises when people use alcohol as an alternative to appropriate anxiety treatments, such as therapy and medication. With long-term use, alcohol worsens anxiety symptoms and can lead to the development of an alcohol use disorder.

Sadly, alcohol and anxiety are a common duo. Healthline reports that approximately 20% of those with a social anxiety disorder are also dependent on alcohol. That not only refers to drinking in order to feel comfortable in social situations, but it also includes:

  • Drinking five or more alcoholic drinks in a single day
  • Heavily drinking at least four days a week
  • Needing an alcoholic drink to get started in the morning
  • Wanting to drink at any social get-together
  • The inability to stop drinking even though you desire to stop

Not only does excessive alcohol use increase the risk of dependency and addiction, but it also worsens the symptoms of some mental health disorders, including anxiety.

Treating Co-Occurring Disorders

Having an alcohol use disorder can cause anxiety, and having anxiety can lead to developing an alcohol use disorder. Whichever condition occurred first, simultaneously treating co-occurring conditions is key to achieving long-term recovery.

Co-occurring disorder treatment is effective and typically includes a variety of therapies, such as:

  • Individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Dialectical behavior therapy
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Mindfulness practice
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Trauma therapy
  • Medication-assisted therapy
  • Relapse prevention programs

Addressing both alcohol use disorder and an additional mental health disorder at the same time ensures patients receive all the support and tools they need to remain healthy in the long run.

Find Help for Alcohol and Anxiety at Woodland Recovery Center

Start on the road to recovery from anxiety and alcohol addiction. If you or someone you care about could benefit from treatment for co-occurring anxiety and substance use disorders, call Woodland Recovery Center today at 662.222.2989. You can also fill out our online contact form and let us get back to you.