Alcohol use is one of the most widely used drugs of all time. Its use is highly normalized and accepted in today’s day and age, despite the well-established health consequences that alcohol use can cause. Although there are many reasons why someone may choose to use alcohol, one of the most common reasons is an attempt to relax or relieve anxiety. Contrary to what some may believe, however, alcohol makes anxiety worse. Understanding the link between anxiety and substance use disorder (SUD) and utilizing professional help are the first steps in effectively eliminating the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism for anxiety.
At Lantana Recovery, we understand how challenging it can be to moderate alcohol use in society today. Moreover, we recognize the incredible benefits of working with rehabilitation staff who are in recovery and have personal knowledge and experience of SUD. Fortunately for those seeking recovery, our staff members can offer the intimate and genuine healing that individuals may need to achieve lasting recovery from substance abuse and co-occurring disorders like anxiety. Alcohol makes anxiety worse, and by seeking treatment, individuals can achieve lasting recovery from both anxiety and SUD.
Leaving Anxiety Untreated
Everyone experiences anxiety from time to time. For example, it is normal to feel nervous while taking a test or before entering a brand-new life transition. However, when the physical or mental symptoms of anxiety do not subside within a few days or weeks, it can indicate the presence of an anxiety disorder. Furthermore, leaving anxiety unmanaged can also increase an individual’s risk of developing an anxiety disorder.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) explains that signs and symptoms of anxiety disorders vary based on each unique type of anxiety disorder. Different types of anxiety disorders include:
- Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
- Panic disorder
- Social anxiety disorder
- Various phobia-related disorders
In general, a person with an anxiety disorder may experience excessive worry, restlessness, and self-consciousness, as well as an array of physical manifestations such as chest pain, stomach aches, and excessive sweating. Whether a person has a diagnosed anxiety disorder or not, leaving anxiety untreated can worsen symptoms over time. Additionally, it can increase an individual’s risk of turning to alcohol or other drugs in an attempt to self-medicate.
How to Determine if Alcohol Makes Anxiety Worse
If an individual engages in substance use, it already increases their risk of experiencing mental and behavioral health problems. However, the severity of potential problems that may develop can be dependent on an individual’s mental and behavioral health status while they engage in substance use.
For example, if a person does not struggle with symptoms of anxiety on a day-to-day basis, they may not experience any worsening symptoms as a result of alcohol use. However, if a person does struggle with symptoms of anxiety – even occasionally – it is likely that alcohol and other drugs will make their anxiety worse.
It is important to understand that alcohol is a type of depressant drug. Depressants slow activity in the central nervous system (CNS) and brain, which can temporarily produce feelings of relaxation and inhibition. Thus, in the moment of alcohol use, it may seem like alcohol is working to relieve anxiety.
However, once the effects of alcohol wear off, a person will find themselves back in the physical and mental state of anxiety, often with symptoms worse than before alcohol use. This is because alcohol only masks the underlying problem rather than treating it.
Additionally, it is necessary to understand that the use of any drug to self-medicate can facilitate chemical dependency and addiction. Over time and with repeated use, withdrawal symptoms may become present when alcohol is not in use. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can present a host of physical and mental dangers, including the facilitation of anxiety-related symptoms. Therefore, alcohol makes anxiety worse because it informs the development of SUD, which can complicate the treatment and recovery process.
Signs and Symptoms That Alcohol Makes Anxiety Worse
Some signs and symptoms to consider that can help a person recognize if alcohol is making anxiety worse include:
- Feeling stressed or anxious when not under the influence of alcohol
- Experiencing cravings for alcohol use
- Feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed once the effects of alcohol subside
- Experiencing temporary physical and mental relief of anxious symptoms from alcohol use
- Spending a great deal of time obtaining, using, or recovering from the effects of alcohol
- Feeling as if alcohol is the only effective coping strategy for anxiety
Treatment for Alcohol Use and Anxiety
Individuals who use alcohol as a coping mechanism for anxiety must recognize the incredible benefits that professional treatment can pose for lasting healing and recovery. Alcohol use only covers up the underlying issues of anxiety. Therefore, both substance use and anxiety must be treated in tandem to foster lasting recovery. Fortunately, there are many effective – and healthy – treatments available to treat alcohol use and anxiety disorders.
For example, at Lantana Recovery, there is a range of therapeutic interventions that individuals can utilize to achieve sobriety and heal from distressing symptoms of anxiety. First, there are medication-assisted treatment (MAT) options to help individuals properly and safely detox from alcohol use. MAT can also be used in other treatment programs to reduce any unmanageable symptoms of anxiety disorders.
As far as clinical modalities go, we at Lantana offer cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and mindfulness-based stress reduction approaches to help influence a healthy balance of thought, emotion, and behavior. These approaches often play a critical role in an individual’s ability to heal from anxiety. Moreover, we also utilize a variety of holistic modalities – including breathwork, yoga, and meditation – to influence whole-person healing. Having options for treatment and recovery offers greater autonomy for clients as they venture into the uncharted territories of sobriety.
Contrary to what you may think, alcohol makes anxiety worse. While it may seem to produce temporary relief from symptoms of anxiety, that relief will fade. Moreover, alcohol does not treat the underlying problem; it only adds worsening issues such as chemical dependency and the potential for addiction. Fortunately, there are treatments that help to treat the underlying issue of anxiety. Lantana Recovery offers a variety of treatment programs and services for those with substance use disorder and co-occurring mental health disorders. In addition to outpatient programs, Lantana offers a residential Empowerment Program designed to utilize community integration. To learn more, give us a call today at (866) 997-2870. You deserve healing.