Can Alcohol Make Your Anxiety or Depression Worse?

Can Alcohol Make Your Anxiety or Depression Worse?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is often associated with anxiety and depressive disorders. The consumption of alcohol can both exasperate mental health disorders and cause them to occur. The effects of alcohol on a person’s mental health may be long-lasting even when consumption has stopped. 

Someone diagnosed with a mental health disorder in congruence with an alcohol or substance use disorder is referred to as having a co-occurring disorder. Understanding the relationship between anxiety or depression and alcohol may help a person seek treatment that addresses the impact of both disorders. 

This person and their mental health professional should also consider how anxiety and depression disorders affect the alcohol use disorder and vice versa. Co-occurring depression and anxiety disorders are the most common co-occurring disorders, and a person with such a diagnosis should be treated with this in mind.

Co-Occurring Alcohol Use Disorder and Anxiety

Anxiety disorders are caused by irrational fear or overreacting to fear. This could be a feared subject, event, or place. Anxiety disorders include separation anxiety, selective mutism, specific phobia, panic disorder, social phobia, and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). 

Alcohol use disorders tend to be associated more with panic and phobia disorders. People who have phobia disorders are more likely to self-medicate than people who have been diagnosed with other anxiety disorders. 

There are several theories about why anxiety and alcohol use are so strongly correlated. Some research suggests that there are similarities in genetics for anxiety disorders and alcohol use disorder. Some believe that anxiety and alcohol use disorder are indirectly related and that the chances of having either disorder increase when other risk factors are involved. Other research focuses more on how alcohol impacts a person’s anxiety.

There is a stronger correlation between alcohol dependence and anxiety disorders than between alcohol use and anxiety disorders. Anxiety can be a consequence of heavy and prolonged drinking. Consuming large quantities of alcohol can cause a change in the body’s nervous system that exacerbates anxiety symptoms. 

Anxiety stemming from drinking may also be caused by withdrawal symptoms. As someone experiences various symptoms when they stop or cut down on their alcohol consumption, the symptoms presented can cause health anxiety. 

Co-Occurring Alcohol Use Disorder and Depression

Depressive disorders are characterized by persistent sadness, hopelessness, and loss of interest in activities that used to bring the person joy. There is a high correlation between depression and heavy alcohol consumption as well as alcohol use disorder. 

Someone with a depressive disorder may likely use alcohol to self-medicate and relieve depressive symptoms. There are also genetic and environmental risk factors that may make it more likely for someone to have both disorders.

Even though some people use alcohol to self-medicate their depression, alcohol is a depressant that often makes depressive symptoms worse. The consumption of alcohol reduces tryptophan, which is involved in the process of creating serotonin. 

Studies have shown that even the consumption of one ounce of alcohol per day can cause more severe depressive symptoms and interfere with depression treatment. Alcohol consumption can also cause feelings of guilt, shame, loneliness, low self-worth, and other negative thoughts, all of which may also be symptoms of depression.

Coping Without the Use of Alcohol 

While having a drink after a stressful day of work may provide some immediate relief for both anxiety and depressive symptoms, it will be more damaging to the person’s anxiety or depression in the long term. 

Excessive alcohol use can cause chronic physical and mental problems. It could even worsen a person’s anxiety and depressive symptoms. Masking symptoms with alcohol is not a sustainable coping method to manage anxiety or depressive symptoms.

If a person is struggling with symptoms of depression or anxiety, there are healthy alternatives for coping and managing them. One way to learn about healthy coping techniques is by contacting a mental health professional. A mental health professional will work with you to come up with alternative coping strategies. These coping strategies may include changing negative and unproductive thoughts into positive ones or creating habitual positive behaviors. 

While antidepressant medication may be suggested, there are also holistic options for treating anxiety and depressive symptoms. Some of these include such things as meditation and yoga. Meditation and yoga are both practices that are grounded in mindfulness or being present in the moment. They also can help lead to physical and mental control of thoughts through breathing exercises and movement. 

Healthy coping mechanisms can not only help with your symptoms but will also help you work through them.