Family & Relationships 7 ways alcohol affects your anxiety

14:25  03 february  2018
14:25  03 february  2018 Source:   prima.co.uk

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  7 ways alcohol affects your anxiety © Provided by Getty It's no secret that there's a relationship between alcohol and anxiety – just last year, findings published by Drinkaware showed that 34% of Brits will sometimes use drinking alcohol as a means to cope with anxiety or depression.

But with lots of us reporting to feeling the effects of "hanxiety" after a night out, the general consensus is that overall, alcohol makes anxiety worse.

With this in mind, we quizzed a couple of experts on how alcohol affects stress and anxiety, both short and long term, plus how to avoid overdoing it on a night out so you don't worsen your anxiety.

1. Initially it can make us feel far more confident – but that doesn't last

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In the long term this pattern of drinking may affect your mental health.' 4. And then there are anxiety hangovers. If you can stay sober for six weeks, you'll learn how to handle situations without alcohol and be forced to find alternative ways to relax and socialise.'

No doubt you're of the belief that having a drink makes you more confident, chatty and laid back – and it's true that having an alcoholic drink can temporarily put a hold on social anxiety. 'Alcohol acts as a sedative, so it can help you feel more at ease in the short term,' says Dr Sarah Jarvis, medical advisor at Drinkaware.

Unfortunately, that buzz is short-lived. 'When you drink alcohol it disrupts the balance of chemicals and processes in your brain,' Dr Jarvis continues. 'The relaxed feeling you experience when you have your first drink is due to the chemical changes in your brain. Alcohol depresses the part of the brain we associate with inhibition, but these effects wear off fast and the pleasant feelings fade.'

2. Your brain's serotonin levels deplete

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If you suspect you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder, something that affects 18 percent of the U.S. population, talk to your doctor. Relaxing with a glass of wine, a pint of beer or a shot of whiskey when you’re feeling anxious may have a calming effect at first — but using alcohol to reduce anxiety

As a depressant, alcohol lowers levels of serotonin, our 'happiness' hormone. 'There are a number of reasons that even short-term, alcohol can be harmful to our mental health,' says Chloe Brotheridge, hypnotherapist, anxiety expert and author of The Anxiety Solution.

'Drinking it reduces the amount of serotonin in the brain; serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps you to feel calm and happy and low levels of it are associated with increased anxiety.'

7 ways alcohol affects your anxiety © Getty Images 7 ways alcohol affects your anxiety 3. You'll find you need to drink more and more to lose social anxiety

Unfortunately, your body will build up a tolerance to alcohol and it will become less effective in making you feel at ease. 'If you're using alcohol to help with anxiety you can get into a vicious cycle,' says Dr Jarvis. 'As your tolerance increases you need to drink more to get the same effect.

'This is because as you come off it each time, you need more alcohol to help because the anxiety comes back. In the long term this pattern of drinking may affect your mental health.'

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4. And then there are anxiety hangovers

You know the feeling well if you're an anxiety sufferer; being bundled up in a cocoon of duvet feeling like something truly awful is about to happen. While you may not have a headache or any feelings of nausea, anxiety hangovers are very much a thing. So why do we get them?

'When we're experiencing symptoms such as a palpitations, dizziness, shaking or sweating during a hangover, it can trigger anxiety because these symptoms feel very similar to anxiety itself,' says Chloe. 

'It can also trigger health anxieties – worrying about whether that headache really is just a headache or whether it's something more sinister,' she adds. 'Low serotonin in the brain and dehydration will also add to that sense of feeling unwell.'

5. Drinking alcohol can worsen your short-term memory

Ever had a night after drinking where you can't remember what you did? Most of us have been there. But if you're an anxious person to begin with, this can end up making you feel a million times worse. 'Many people lose their inhibitions when they use alcohol, and behave in a way that would embarrass them under normal circumstances,' says Dr Jarvis.

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The first part of your body that alcohol affects is the brain, particularly your judgment. This means that your ability to think clearly, reason, plan ahead, and make sound decisions is reduced – even with blood alcohol levels as low as .02 percent.

Alcohol affects everyone differently. It can cheer you up after a rough day or make you feel more sedated. Discuss these concerns with your doctor first to see if Traditional ways of treating anxiety . Many treatment options exist for anxiety . Treatment may depend on the type of anxiety you have.

'In addition, alcohol can affect short-term memory, which is why people who have been drinking often forget what they did the night before. Worrying about what you might have said or done can have a significant effect on your anxiety levels.'

6. There's a greater risk of developing alcohol dependency

'A study carried out in the USA found that 20% of those with social anxiety have an alcohol abuse problem. It can create a vicious cycle where you drink to relieve anxiety, the hangover creates more and then you drink again to try to feel better,' says Chloe.

'You might feel you can't relax and unwind after work without half a bottle of wine, or that you can't face a work party without several drinks to calm your nerves. As your tolerance increases and you find yourself needing to drink more for the same effect, you could be doing your body more harm.'

a person posing for the camera © Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) 7. It disrupts your sleep pattern 

'Alcohol also disrupts your sleep pattern, which can affect your mood as well as your energy levels,' says Dr Jarvis. 'As a result, you're more susceptible to anxious feelings and can't cope with day-to-day life as easily. This can leave you feeling exhausted and irritable.'

What's more, using alcohol as a relaxant to help you get to sleep is directly harmful to your sleep cycles – a 2014 study by the University of Missouri-Columbia found that drinking alcohol as a method of getting to sleep disrupts your body's sleep homeostasis, or sleep regulator.

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Low mood. Experiencing anxiety in situations where you would normally feel comfortable. How does alcohol affect your sleep? Drinking within the government’s low risk alcohol unit guidelines will help keep your drinking in control. Here are three ways you can cut back

When your body is working to metabolize those beers you drank the night before, it could bring on anxiety , nervousness and irritability. This is because alcohol is a depressant, which intensifies your feelings and increasing the chances of you lashing out in anger.

Tips to avoid 'overdoing it' with alcohol: 

1. Going for a period without drinking at all

'This can be a good way to "reset" your drinking. If you can stay sober for six weeks, you'll learn how to handle situations without alcohol and be forced to find alternative ways to relax and socialise.'

2. Stick to less exciting drinks such as vodka and soda water over Prosecco

'Drinking something less delicious could mean that you end up drinking less. It's an oldie, but drinking water in between each alcoholic drink will mean you're less likely to be hungover the next day.'

3. Think about how you can socialise without alcohol

'Suggest heading out for brunch instead of dinner, an exercise class or spending time in the great outdoors. It might mean spending less time with friends that love to go out and drink and more time with other friends that prefer the sober life, but it will be worth it if it significantly lowers your anxiety and means you're happier.'

Related: How A Little Wine And Beer Goes A Long Way To Improve Your Brain Health (Provided by International Business Times)

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