How alcohol can impact mental health and long-term feelings of anxiety.
Drinking alcohol doesn’t just give us a temporary high on a night out, or a way to relax after a long day at work, it also affects our mind and mental health in ways that are often not realised.
The affect of alcohol on mental health:
- Alcohol can cause mood swings due to altered serotonin levels in the brain.
- Dehydration from alcohol can lead to dizziness, nausea, light-headedness and muscle fatigue which can encourage the onset of anxiety.
- Alcohol is a sedative, overtime your body can go into a state of hyperactivity causing heart rate to rise and exacerbate anxious feelings.
- Alcohol can interrupt REM sleep. When we don’t get enough sleep, our ability to properly function the next day is impaired which can lead to negative impacts on mental health.
- Many people use alcohol to cope with anxiety however prolonged abuse of alcohol can make anxiety worse.
Alcohol, anxiety and mental health
Many people who suffer from anxiety turn to alcohol as a means to relax and feel better, especially in social situations. What they don’t realise, is that by drinking alcohol, they are in fact making it worse. Many drinkers find themselves suffering the next day and feeling “hangxious” thanks to the way in which alcohol has affected their brain chemistry.
The Physical Aspects of Hangxiety
Just like your typical hangover, the morning after the night before brings with it a range of physical effects that we wish would just go away. And, many of these physical aspects are the physical manifestations of anxiety.
Because alcohol affects the levels of serotonin in your brain – our “happy hormone” – your mood can shift from one extreme to another much more easily than usual. This can leave you with feelings of anxiety and depression when just a few hours ago you were on a high from drinking.
We all know that drinking water alongside alcohol is one of the best ways to keep hangover symptoms at bay – many of us quickly forget this once the alcohol kicks in. And so, when we wake up the next day, we feel the effects right away. Dizziness, nausea, light-headedness and muscle fatigue all make it difficult to go about your normal routine, which can encourage the onset of anxiety.
Alcohol is a sedative, and so your body has to work overtime to fight those effects. To do this, your body goes into a state of hyperactivity, which raises your heart rate at the same time. These small palpitations can make you feel shaky and unsteady and may induce your anxiety even further by making you wonder if you’re experiencing heart attack symptoms.
How Alcohol Makes Anxiety Worse
Despite the physical aspects that we all experience after a night of drinking. Those who already suffer from anxiety are likely to suffer much worse than those who don’t. And, while 34% of Brits are using alcohol to cope with their mental health issues, what they’re actually doing, is making it worse.
Building up a tolerance
As with many substances, the more you indulge, the higher your tolerance for their effects becomes. If you’re using alcohol to help you feel at ease in social situations, then gradually, you will need to drink even more to begin to feel relaxed. It’s a vicious cycle that becomes increasingly difficult to break out of.
There have been many studies investigating how mental health and alcohol dependency go together. One such study conducted in the US found that 20% of those who were suffering from anxiety had also developed some form of alcohol abuse problem. Once you have used alcohol as a means of mastering social situations, you may find it difficult to face them without it.
The myth that alcohol helps you sleep has long been perpetuated throughout society. What actually happens though, is that it affects our ability to fully rest as we need to. When we don’t get enough sleep, our ability to properly function the next day is impaired. We can’t focus, our nerves are frayed, and we are more susceptible to anxiety and anxious feelings.
One of the major differences between an anxious person’s hangover and a non-anxious person’s hangover is the tendency to misread the symptoms they’re experiencing. While a headache may just be another price we have to pay for last night’s indulgences, for anxiety sufferers, they can be left wondering if it really is “just a headache”. This level of anxiety and worry can severely affect job performance, amongst other things.
How you can help your employees with hangxiety
Caring for your employees needs to go beyond free fruit in the office and birthday’s off work. Focusing on the mental health and wellbeing of your employees can begin simply by encouraging them to stay away from the booze. Engaging them in a programme like One Year No Beer could help to reduce stress levels and the effects of anxiety and depression in the office.
By changing the way your employees think about and interact with alcohol, you can help them to lead happier, healthier lives – both physically and mentally. This kind of focus on wellbeing can also improve your business. Their focus will be improved, productivity heightened, and ability to build and maintain inter-office relationships upgraded.
To find out more information about how One Year No Beer could benefit your organisation, email us at [email protected].
An entrepreneur and former senior oil broker, Ruari gave up drinking after excessive consumption almost cost him his marriage, and worse, his life. Going alcohol-free improved his relationships, career and energy levels, leading to him founding OYNB to provide a support network for others.