You may have read from personal blogs online, and from scientific research that you pick up, that anxiety and alcohol don’t mix well. You may well have had a few hangovers in your time. But have you noticed that they come with increased anxiety and a host of symptoms that you would rather not have?
This article will uncover some of the reasons why alcohol anxiety occurs, what you can do to prevent a hangover and how you can more quickly recover when you’ve had a few too many.
What happens when you drink
Drinking alcohol has an effect on the mind and body – and one could argue that it’s positive (at the time), which is why those who suffer from anxiety turn to alcohol to mask their feelings. It’s ironic that we are culturally conditioned to have a drink to ‘calm our nerves’, because we now know that the opposite can be true. That’s because it’s mostly the hangover the next day, while your body is trying to get rid of the toxin that causes alcohol anxiety.
Drinkaware.co.uk tell us that alcohol affects brain chemistry – by lowering the levels of serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter – a message sender if you like, responsible for a range of functions including mood, sleep and memory. Low levels of serotonin means that you sleep poorly, have mood swings and trouble remembering things. If you already suffer from anxiety this is not going to help.
“About 20 percent of people with social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence, and a recent study found that the two disorders have a stronger connection among women.” (Anxiety and Depression society America)
Here’s why you could experience alcohol anxiety ‘the next day’:
Alcohol can affect our mood because it can lower the levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a feel good brain chemical that when in short supply can cause feelings of anxiety and depression.
- Your blood sugar will drop
A drop in blood sugar can cause dizziness, confusion, weakness, nervousness, shaking and numbness. These symptoms can most certainly trigger a bout of anxiety.
- You Will Be Dehydrated
This has been known to cause nausea, dizziness, fatigue, light-headedness and muscle weakness. These symptoms wouldn’t cause anxiety per se but they add to a sense of illness which fosters anxiety.
- Your Nervous System is on alert
The nervous system is affected because in order for the body to fight off the sedative effects of alcohol it puts the body into a state of hyperactivity in order to counteract this effect. This hyperactivity can lead to shaking, light/sound sensitivity and sleep deprivation.
- And so your Heart Rate is increased
Your heart rate can become elevated as a result of consuming alcohol which can cause a palpitation false alarm and put you into a state of anxious anticipation. Is it a heart attack or isn’t it you might ask. This “what if” questioning can increase your general state of anxiety.
- You won’t be able to focus
Recovering from a hard night of drinking can also make you hazy, bring on headaches and create a sense of disorientation.
So how do you best avoid experiencing alcohol anxiety?
The obvious answer would be to avoid drinking alcohol, as many have reported that they are better able to cope with their anxiety as a result.
If you’re wondering whether ‘staying dry’ and avoiding alcohol will make a difference to how you feel, then take note from research by London’s Royal Free Hospital. They monitored 102 men and women who were regular drinkers during a month of no drinking.
They found ‘substantial improvements’ not only with liver function (which you would expect) but also in quality of sleep. The Independent has reported that alcohol holds back glutamine – which keeps you awake. Once you’ve stopped drinking (and gone to bed), the body floods the body with glutamine trying to wake you up making it more difficult to get a good night’s sleep.
If you suffer from anxiety, wouldn’t it be better to just give it up? And can you? It’s worth some serious thought.
How To Prevent a Hangover
If you really don’t want to abstain, then Calmer You has uncovered some small but powerful strategies to help when you are going to drink. These include recommendations from endurance athlete and health expert Mark Sissons.
- Drink until you’re buzzed, then stop. Drink, but avoid drunkenness. Know when to stop. ‘Learn’ your limits.
- Choose your ‘poison’. Darker drinks like wine and whiskey have a higher level of toxins compared with vodka.
- Drink water with your alcohol. Have a glass handy throughout the night. If you order a drink from the bar, get a water with it and drink it first.This should help keep you hydrated. Even better – sprinkle a bit of mineral-rich sea salt in the water to provide electrolytes if you can.
- Eat before you drink. An empty stomach means you will get more drunk more quickly – and have a worse morning.
- Drink two large glasses of water immediately before bed. You can also drink an electrolyte drink such as Dioralyte, or coconut water for added electrolytes.
If you do have a hangover and feel anxiousl, then the best thing is to find hangover cures so you are able to recover as quickly as possible and avoid too much alcohol anxiety. Drinking water is one that everyone knows, but you can also introduce natural remedies, instead of having a big fry up or hair of the dog and wishing the day away in an anxious state.
Natural health approaches include taking Milk Thistle which helps the liver detoxify more quickly, green tea extract which has L-theanine, an anti anxiety property, or it would be a good idea to have a store of Rescue Remedy close by – a few drops in water, spray or pastilles will help to stabilise your mood and emotions. It is designed to get the user through an acute set of anxieties so would be great for alcohol anxiety.
Alcohol anxiety is something you can avoid, by just saying no to alcohol. However, if you decide to drink, it’s your decision whether you think that the risk is worth the rewards. At the very least, you can take measures to ensure the day after your anxiety levels can be managed somewhat. If you know that you will be drinking, then be prepared and make sure you have some support at the back of your cupboard.
Before you take any remedies, it is recommended that you seek advice from a doctor or chemist. And, if you really can’t cut down, then it’s best to seek advice from your Doctor about alcohol dependency.
I would love to know in the comments what you do to manage you alcohol intake, and if it helps. And, please share with anyone you think could use this information.
By Lisa – Team Calmer You