Anxiety is undoubtedly a common mental health issue. Throughout the pandemic, solitude, depression, and anxiety have become commonplace, and Britons have turned to alcohol as a result.
Most people have experienced an unexpected turn in their lives in the past 12 months, and this has resulted in heightened levels of anxiety.
Research conducted by collecting data from over 27,000 people was recently published in the Epidemiology and Community Health Journal. From the research, it was established that lockdown saw the number of individuals drinking over four times a week rise from 13.7% to 22%, with the rate of binge drinking also rising from 10.8% to 16.2%.
Individuals battling with a pre-existing anxiety disorder are often strongly tempted to drink alcohol and use other substances in search of relief.
Is it the alcohol or anxiety that comes first?
Alcohol falls under the category of ‘depressant’ drugs as it slows down the functioning of the central nervous system and induces a feeling of calm and contentment. Extremely anxious people often seek alcohol as a solution to alter how they feel for a short period of time.
While alcohol seems to instantly calm anxiety symptoms, the chances of feeling even more perturbed after the effects of alcohol have worn off are high. In fact, anxiety is among the significant signs of alcohol withdrawal and hangover.
Determining whether or not alcohol is the cause of your anxiety or whether you’re drinking to deal with an undiagnosed anxiety disorder can be difficult unless you can identify a point in time when you suffered from anxiety and were not drinking alcohol.
Regardless of whether it was the anxiety or alcohol that came first, one thing is for sure: eventually, regular or heavy drinking will worsen anxiety symptoms.
What is anxiety?
Anxiety can be characterised by mild or severe symptoms. Similar to many other mental health issues, the symptoms are initially mild and worsen over time if left unchecked or wrongly treated.
Besides being caused by the imbalance in the chemistry of the brain, anxiety symptoms can also be a learned reaction.
The term ‘fight or flight’ may or may not ring a bell. This is a term that describes the mechanism through which the body prepares mentally and physically for an apparent threat to life.
In individuals who don’t suffer from an anxiety disorder, this fight or flight comes naturally, whenever there is a genuine threat. This is the case, for example, when you prepare to protect yourself against bodily harm.
For an individual suffering from an anxiety disorder, the brain sends a signal of a threat even when there is none. This can be really frightening for the sufferer; their brain and body instantly switch to fight or flight mode due to the many chemicals present in the brain and body at the time.
Sufferers are so often overwhelmed by anxiety disorders that even the thought of anxiety development can quite easily trigger an anxious response. At this point, such an individual may start to use addictive pharmaceutical drugs, illegal drugs, or alcohol to stunt the development of anxiety symptoms.
The use of drugs or alcohol to relieve anxiety symptoms doesn’t help the recovery process; it only makes it tougher. The anxiety-alcohol cycle (or drugs) proves extremely tough to break without help from a professional.
What are the signs of anxiety?
A person struggling with an anxiety-related disorder will most likely experience psychological and physical symptoms. As mentioned earlier, the severity and frequency of these symptoms may vary from one person to the other.
Some common physical signs of anxiety are:
• Fast heart rate
• Dry mouth
• Rapid breathing
• Excessive sweating
• Hyper alertness
• Increased urge of urinating
• Skin picking
• Hair pulling
• Abuse of medication
• Alcohol and drug abuse
Common psychological signs of anxiety are:
• Uncontainable racing thoughts that come in quick cycles
• Difficulty in breathing or getting enough air into the lungs
• Constant feeling of imminent danger
• Fear of death
• Difficulty in focusing
• Feeling out of control
• Having the urge to escape a particular environment or situation quickly
• Being out of touch with reality
• Inability to justify thought patterns
What causes anxiety disorders?
The trials and tribulations of everyday life can easily cause anxiety symptoms. In an individual suffering from an anxiety-induced mental health issue, the causes may be deep-seated and mainly beyond their control.
Experiencing the pandemic and other hard-to-control events can be tough to manage.
Excessive consumption of alcohol may well be a cause of anxiety symptoms and can easily set off the development of an anxiety disorder.
Drinking as per the Chief Medical Officer’s safe drinking rules will less likely cause anxiety. However, drinking regularly and beyond these guidelines or binge drinking can have a negative effect on your mental health and physical health as well.
Anxiety resulting from a heavy drinking session can make one continue drinking to alleviate the symptoms, which can result in alcohol dependence; a serious and often deadly alcohol use disorder.
Putting an end to alcohol use mustn’t be an uphill battle, especially if you seek the help of a professional. At our alcohol detox clinics, you can access professional therapeutic and medical treatment of the highest level, thanks to the efforts of our addiction treatment professionals from various disciplines.
Regularly taking time off work, working out, sticking to a clear schedule, and getting a good night’s sleep are some great ways to deal with stress and can help avert the development of substance use issues.