Alcohol and Anxiety: Alcohol Aggravates Anxiety Symptoms

By: Jonathan Sapling

Alcohol and anxiety can be a treacherous combination.

Research suggests that the prevalence of alcohol dependence is twice as high in people with anxiety disorders than in the general population.

According to a recent report by the National Institute of Health (NIH), anxiety is a strong psychological risk factor associated with heavy or problem drinking. Other risk factors include an impulsive personality or a family history of alcohol abuse. When alcohol and anxiety are combined, there are many serious problems that occur.

Social anxiety is the most common type of anxiety disorder and it affects 15% of all Americans. It can trigger a host of physical symptoms, anxious thoughts and avoidance behaviors.

People with anxiety may be tempted to drink before and/or during social engagements as it may initially decrease their anxiety.

The truth is that alcohol can actually trigger panic attacks. It depresses the central nervous system and causes fatigue, agitation and anxiety. It is ironic that individuals engage in an activity that produces effects similar to the ones they are trying to relieve.

When the alcohol begins to wear off, anxious people are likely to experience shakiness, headaches and nausea.

Alcohol does not mix well with anxiety medications. Sedatives of any kind should never be combined with alcohol. The interaction of alcohol with benzodiazepines can depress both breathing and blood pressure, possibly causing coma or death.

The same qualities in alcohol that may initially cause relaxation also affect your ability to remember, understand and make decisions. A person may experience minor relief from panic after drinking alcohol only to discover that as it wears off, his anxiety returns more intensely than before.

In his insightful book titled "Prisoners Of Our Thoughts" Gary Miller counsels readers not to the make the same mistakes he made.

"Adults have self- destructive ways of coping with anxiety. For any of you that are currently using alcohol to help, please realize this not a cure. In the short term, you may think it feels good but in the long term it will only bring on other issues. I'm not saying an occasional drink or two is bad. Everyone has their own opinions on drinking. But when you drink excessively to dull your anxieties, then you are on the wrong path."

If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol and anxiety, see your health professional. Working together, you can develop a treatment plan that will free you from the vicious cycle of alcohol and anxiety.

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