Anxiety and alcohol usually get paired together.
Many people with anxiety disorders have a strong tendency to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism. And many people with alcohol use disorder also experience anxiety.
A few different models explain the connection between anxiety and alcohol use. Each model addresses a slightly different aspect of their relationship, and understanding them together can provide a clearer picture of what is going on.
Anxiety Leads to Alcohol Use
Due to its effects on the nervous system, alcohol can provide short-term relief from anxiety and other unpleasant psychological states.
Alcohol can temporarily reduce feelings of stress and increase confidence. It could cause a person to feel more relaxed, happy, and pleasant.
It’s estimated that 1 in 5 people with anxiety disorders use alcohol or other substances to self-medicate their anxiety symptoms.
This may be especially true for people with social anxiety issues. Alcohol might seem like the perfect way to take the edge off before going out into social situations. It reduces inhibitions and allows people to feel more comfortable in social situations.
However, the relief that comes from using alcohol is limited and temporary. Alcohol may provide a sense of calmness, but it will likely come with undesirable long-term consequences.
Alcohol Leads to Anxiety
While many people might try to use alcohol to relieve their anxiety, alcohol may lead to the opposite effect, causing or worsening their anxiety.
It might feel good when you become intoxicated, but when the alcohol starts to wear off, the rebound effect can be a painful return to reality. The come-down and withdrawal from alcohol often include feelings of depression and irritability.
This process might lead to further drinking, which compounds the problem.
As addiction and dependence on alcohol develop, this tends to have terrible effects on social and professional life, creating even more stress and anxiety.
Breaking Free from the Vicious Cycle
Both anxiety and alcohol use disorder, individually or together, are severe issues that can be addressed through professional help.
If you’ve found yourself stuck in a cycle of anxiety and excess alcohol use, remember that many people have been in similar situations, and recovery is possible.
For some people, it could be better to deal with one problem at a time, though for other situations, both struggles can be managed simultaneously.
Both alcohol use disorder and anxiety disorders can be managed through therapeutic interventions. Often this comes down to learning healthier coping mechanisms to deal with stress and negative emotions.
Group therapy, psychotherapy, and medication management are also viable options for overcoming these conditions.
The important thing is to find a treatment path that helps you feel comfortable, safe, and supported through your journey.