Alcohol is often at the center of celebrations. Some may even argue that a party isn’t complete without booze. Others drink alcohol to drown their troubles, distract themselves from real-life troubles, lift their moods, give them confidence or as part of socialization. 85.6% of people in the U.S, ages 18 and older have drank alcohol in their lifetime so it’s quite a common habit.
There’s nothing wrong with drinking occasionally but the problem comes in when you use alcohol as a coping method. What starts out as drinking to feel good and relax can easily turn into an addiction disorder. Alcohol is a temporary solution to any problems you may have; it doesn’t even take them away; it only makes you feel terrible afterward as the effects start wearing off. Nearly 15 million Americans struggle with alcohol use disorder meaning that most people lack the right coping skills for stress, anxiety, depression, and other mental health struggles.
How alcohol affects the brain:
Our brains wouldn’t function properly if there was a chemical imbalance. Alcohol disrupts the signals that transmit information from one brain neuron to another which triggers a chemical imbalance in the brain. This affects the flow of thoughts, feelings, and actions. You can tell when your brain chemistry starts to change after a few drinks which may result in euphoric feelings of relaxation, less anxiety, and confidence because alcohol suppresses the part of the brain that is associated with self-consciousness.
The more alcohol you drink, the higher the chemical imbalance which leads to negative effects on your brain. It also suppresses the release of serotonin – the mood-stabilizing hormone. The seemingly positive feelings begin to turn into negative ones with negative impacts like anger, aggression, anxiety, depression, and violence.
How alcohol affects mental health
Alcohol and mental health issues are related. Abusing alcohol can lead to the development of mental health issues and struggling with mental health issues can lead to alcohol abuse and addiction. Anyone on either side of the spectrum is vulnerable to addiction.
One may think that alcohol helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression but it only makes them worse. It gives temporary confidence and relief to anxiety – creating a false sense of control. With depression, alcohol can be assumed to give relief to the sadness and pain which is also temporary. People easily develop alcohol dependence because of those short-lived moments of relief and before they know it – they can’t function normally without alcohol.
Alcohol makes people act impulsively and recklessly which can lead to self-harm and suicide. Thoughts about the same are linked to heavy alcohol use. Binge-drinking alcohol or drinking more than 30 units per day for a long period of time can cause a mental illness called psychosis which is characterized by a disconnection from reality; symptoms include hallucinations, delusions, impaired speech, and agitation.
Other negative impacts of alcohol include;
- Memory and concentration problems, insomnia, lower immunity, confusion, lack of motivation, and productivity.
- Diseases like; brain damage, heart disease, bowel cancer, pancreatitis, mouth cancer, stroke, high blood pressure, and liver disease.
- Destroyed relationships with family, friends, and colleagues. This can lead to abandonment, job loss, and separation.
- Poor personal hygiene. You stop caring about how you look. It becomes very apparent through your dressing that you’re struggling with something.
- Poor nutrition could lead to eating disorders. Alcohol addiction and poor feeding habits are a recipe for bodily disaster.
“One of the hardest things was learning that I was worth recovery.” – Demi Lovato
- Assess your alcohol consumption here. The questionnaire is designed by the National Institute on Drug Abuse to help you identify the consequences of alcohol on your health and wellbeing.
- Use the drinkaware.co.uk app to keep track of your alcohol intake. It also has many other helpful tools that guide you on how to reduce or stop your drinking.
- Join support groups. If there are none in your local area, you can always join an online group. Our friends at verywellmind.com combined this list of online alcohol support groups.
- Stay active. Go to the gym to exercise, take a walk or run, swim, go into nature, hike, rock-climbing, etc. Do the things that instantly trigger your endorphins.
- Take breaks between the days you take alcohol so that you reduce the chances of developing an addiction.
- Distract yourself. Movies, reading, cleaning, hobbies, taking a course, learning something new. More of what engages your mind and takes it away from the thoughts of alcohol.
- Clear your environment of any alcohol. This is a radical measure but it’s necessary to ensure that your environment doesn’t lead you to temptations.
- Change your group of friends if they support your drinking habits. They will only lead you astray from your goal of sobriety. Keep the company that encourages you to stay sober.
- Look for alternative drinks for celebrations and parties. Alcohol doesn’t have to be the staple drink. There are tens of other celebratory drinks you can choose from.
- Go to therapy. We are here to help you work through your addiction. You’ll never be too far gone. Schedule your consultation call today.
“You don’t get over an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier to not use. If you don’t create a new life, then all the factors that brought you to your addiction will catch up with you again.” – Anonymous