Does Alcohol cause Anxiety?
We have all been there. You watch a TV soap opera, and the person opens a bottle of wine and says, that is just what I need.
So does alcohol cause anxiety?
It certainly can, and yes, I’m an advocate of alcohol-free drink, but as a BWRT Practitioner who helps others, I can tell you alcohol can have a massive effect on anxiety.
Even as a social drinker, I have noticed even mild symptoms of anxiety disappear since giving up alcohol and moving to an alcohol-free lifestyle.
Even a slight change in a habit can make a massive change.
Of course, alcohol-free drinks are not for everyone and can trigger alcohol consumption in some cases, so it’s always best to check with a medical professional if you are worried.
We connect alcohol with relaxation.
If you see any drama or soap opera on TV, you will see someone walk in from work, grab a big glass of wine from the fridge and say, “oh, that’s better I feel relaxed now.”
Of course, we hardly ever see people getting a bottle of zero alcohol beer like free-star out the fridge and saying the same thing.
I hope one day dramas on TV will be an excellent advert for alcohol-free drinking.
I had often talked on the blog that I have had more prejudice since giving up alcohol than when I did drink.
What the TV is doing, of course, is making a connection between relaxation and alcohol.
The reality, of course, was very different.
But then soap operas are not meant to be accurate, but the brain loses sight of that. The brain actually can’t tell the difference between real or imagined.
So alcohol could be adding to our anxiety, not reducing it. Even the fact we might be dehydrated can make us feel on edge.
Of course, it’s a complicated picture.
But alcohol-free drinks give us a choice, and even then, the option of what is alcohol-free or not can be complicated.
Here’s the rundown of what alcohol and low alcohol means, as outlined by the website drink-aware.
- Low alcohol -Alcohol by volume (abv) above 0.5% but not more than 1.2%.
- De-alcoholised -A drink with alcohol extracted and has an abv of not more than 0.5%.
- Alcohol-free – Not more than 0.05% abv
Alcohol and anxiety are very complicated. After all, many social drinks down the pubs give us that mental connection with others.
We love social contact. The rise of bar life in Derby UK called the YADA. It is a great example of how to do it without alcohol.
One of their passions is social contact but without alcohol.
This week my fellow presenter and I talked about new alcohol, free bars opening up in the states on the ooabv.com podcast.
So there is a need; otherwise, they just would not be opening!
How great is it that we can get alcohol free, less anxiety but human contact?
What an idea, and I am sure we will see growth in many of them.
Many adults down the pub have a few drinks and leave with no apparent effects whatsoever.
Many adults can safely drink in moderation.
For others, alcohol may cause anxiety or aggravate preexisting conditions.
Why does alcohol make you feel on edge?
Embarrassing yourself at a birthday party may be an obvious danger, but there’s also a scientific explanation.
Yes, the brain, neuro-science and chemicals can provide us with enormous insight.
As a BWRT practitioner, I know how vital neuro-science is to understanding our habit, anxiety and stress.
Alcohol causes changes in your brain’s chemicals.
It is a chemical reaction happening in our head.
While standing at the bar and ordering another drink, we are still getting a chemical reaction going on in our body. Of course, we don’t see it or give it a name. And that is called anxiety.
Why worry about it! We are too busy feeling tipsy!
Alcohol causes chemical changes, and you may not have heard of them, but it affects gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which regulates anxiety.
So imagine feeling stressed after work by drinking alcohol you are affecting the very thing that is helping you not be anxious.
So, where does anxiety start then?
Your brain adjusts to the effects of alcohol, but the sense of blood sugar and chemical reactions will make you feel on edge.
It’s very often why people feel anxious during a hangover, and a panic attack kicks in.
For example, have you ever found yourself shaking and just wanting to grab another drink to calm your nerves?
That is the chemicals in your body kicking in, including hydration and alcohol, that cause this to happen.
I have known the effects of alcohol staying with people for a day or more. However, the mistake people make is that they start drinking again to sort it.
It’s like a ship going from side to side, and you can’t find your balance.
I am not talking about being drunk here either.
Lifestyle changes and professional help can make a big difference if alcohol and anxiety are disrupting your life.
Drinking in Moderation
Remember, in the UK, the NHS recommend that you never drink more than 14 units, and at the end of the day, one unit of alcohol is one regular glass of alcohol as a general rule.
It’s why alcohol-free beer, wines and gin can be so liberating. After all, 14 units is not a lot, a few glasses of sizable white wine, and you could have hit six units in some cases.
So with that in mind!
Think about the night ahead
I hate to say, but planning helps.
What do they say? Forget to plan? Plan to fail.
Could you decide to have an alcohol free mix and match night? Just setting your intent can help.
Decide what you’re going to drink before you get started.
- Do you expect a hangover?
- What have you planned for the next day?
- Can you afford it?
- What happened last time you drank too much and felt anxious?
- Does your behaviour change which could in term add to the feeling of being anxious.
- Remember, thinking ahead can mean fewer regrets the next day.
Mix Your Drinks
And I don’t mean rum and whiskey either.
I mean, can you have a mocktail rather than a cocktail.
Could you have a few alcohol free beers at the start of the evening?
It could make a difference to your anxiety long term and its relationship to alcohol and stress.
Shout out the fact you’re going alcohol-free for the evening. In my experience, people get curious and sometimes even join in!
If you are drinking alcohol, swap with water every other drink?
If you are celebrating, try some alcohol-free fizz as the quality has vastly improved and moved away from the sweet.
Yes, I know it used to taste like grape juice, well not anymore!
I was hoping you could read my review of alcohol-free fizz here.
Shove some pasta down before you go out
It seems medical research proves the occasional myths are true.
Eat before you drink alcohol. Yes, one hundred per cent.
Food can slow down the speed alcohol goes into your system. Make sense, right?
Be aware of salty snacks as that will not help with hydration!
So eat before you start drinking, or if you have a glass of wine with your meal, you could try a tremendous alcohol-free brand like Torres.
Even though we cannot rush how alcohol leaves the body, we seem to slow down the rate that alcohol enters our blood and system.
It’s known as BAC, so Blood Alcohol Level, and we know that food can help with that, and of course, if your blood sugar is balanced, it will mean less anxiety.
Remember, alcohol can give you immediate highs but the more extended lows.
What other activities could you do?
I wrote a blog a while ago about leisure activities without alcohol a time ago.
And of course, even though alcohol-free drinks options are increasing, doing something that does not involve alcohol can help.
From sport to just joining a walking group. I know a reader of the blog joined an alcohol-free knitting group.
What a great idea!
The reasons why it works are simple: it can help with social pressure, and the pressure to drink is enormous, so anything that moves us away from that is a good thing.
Even if you have just a few nights off alcohol in the week.
Think ahead to what you might say if someone asks you to have a drink, especially if you are anxious.
Could you go and stick to alcohol-free beer brands, for example?
Don’t Take time off!
Dry January is bonkers!
This may go against everything you have read, but I have seen it many times on social media with my friends.
They constantly post about how well they are doing and how they are, and everyone congratulates them but then comes February. The first drink is binge time.
Then friends congratulate them on how great it is that they have finally managed to get a drink!
Crazy given that binge drinking can be harmful.
How about making a change across the year?
Then you begin to introduce a range of alcohol-free drinks all year round. Then indeed, January will feel a bit less dismal after all.
I know Dry January is perceived as a good thing, but long term change has to be better than short term change and then reversing the good stuff one month later.
Just a thought. Let me know what you think!
There is no doubt alcohol-free drink or non-alcoholic options have improved, and sales growth is massive at around 20 per cent every year.
Of course, it’s in the manufacturer’s interest to make their products good, so they are spending an extraordinary amount of marketing and product investment to make sure customers like me, and you are happy.
That is good for choosing from alcohol-free beer to gin.
Whenever people have tried alcohol options like my fellow presenter of the alcohol-free drinks podcast, they are very impressed.
However, don’t expect going alcohol-free to be cheap, but you save money in another way especially considering what we spend money on when we have had a few.
I know one of my coaching clients who saved a fortune on taxi’s alone and impulsive shopping, of course, after getting in from post-work drinks!
How to cope with Alcohol and Anxiety
The first thing to recognise is that drinking alcohol to help any issue won’t help. It will probably make any problem worse.
Rather than thinking about the wine fridge, how could you build some of these strategies into your lifestyle?
Always deal with the cause of anxiety rather than the symptoms.
This is a bit like sticking a plaster on a wound that needs a stitch or two.
Anxiety can be helped in other ways, including.
- I am getting enough sleep.
- Eat healthily.
- Walk regularly.
- Reach out for help.
- Anxiety can affect nearly almost 20% of the population.
Or check out the resources below for reducing alcohol. It’s a great course run by Mark Tyrell, a top therapist, and all you need is some headphones!
I get a small referral fee, but the price you pay is the same.
What do you think?
How does alcohol cause anxiety for you? Have you used alcohol-free drinks as an alternative? Leave a comment below on whether alcohol causes stress, and I always get back to you.