Does alcohol help Anxiety symptoms ?
Does alcohol help anxiety? I’m stressed just thinking about it !
Let’s explore what anxiety is. It is a fear which can be brought on by the interaction of our mind but also the chemical reaction in our body. The probable answer of does alcohol help anxiety is probably it depends on where your are on the spectrum, any other answer can be dangerous.
It is linked to our earliest response of flight or fight, so for most part a bit out dated. ( Or as my mate insists when the Dinosaurs and cavemen were around, we have had words!)
Types of anxiety
Contrary to belief there are three types of anxiety and how alcohol plays a part is not entirely clear. However, you can work with a great anxiety specialist who will be able to help your issue and it is more common that you think, the number of people suffering with it are massive!
They can be summed up into several areas and it is really worth knowing which area is the one that affects you if indeed you know. We can then see if alcohol is a help or a hindrance, now as someone who champions an alcohol free lifestyle you may be surprised by my answer!
The symptoms can be anything physical to feeling faint, heart pumping, the floor coming towards you. There is no one symptom that affect us all and if you feel “off and out of sorts” it is probably anxiety not withstanding any medical issue which you must get checked out immediately!
As a coach and therapist this is the one area I deal with a great deal which is specific. You will know exactly when you get anxious. So with new managers for example this is related to a specific area of the job, very often “presenting” in front of new people but here are some examples:
- You don’t want to go into work as your are afraid how you look, you are paralyzed.
- You puke up in a bin before a staff briefing
- You are confident generally but feel anxious going into high level board meetings
- Your boss
- Not Hitting targets.
- You new job involves flying and your are anxious about getting on a plane ( it’s not a phobia otherwise trust me your would not get on it)
- Meeting new people
- A specific project
- A difficult conversation
- Earning more money and thinking your are not worth it.
- Whatever the reason your could tell me specifically what was the exact example is and it is “generally” only this example that makes your feel one of the symptoms I have talked about.
General Anxiety Disorder or (GAD)
This Is increasingly known as general anxiety disorder although I am not a fan of labeling people as I find it does not help so think of it as a “condition” your have right at this very moment in time and over several scenarios.
Here we are talking about lots of different things in your workplace that make your anxious. You could take my list above and rank 10 being awful 0 being fine and then start working in one in particular.
What you generally find is that when your deal with one the other starts to fall down and seem less relevant.
Think of all the connections in your house being so bad that you thought your had fixed the fridge light but when your open the door the hall light that was not working comes on. The brain has to work to sort its new beliefs system out and of course they are all linked!
The other analogy or metaphor I like to think about is those card tricks when you line them all up across a big floor and push the front one and they all come tumbling down! It’s a like life pack of anxiety issues sorted one by one and they all start to unravel. It’s a bit like my OED on leaving the flat. I got that sorted and my other checking obsession disappeared!
So this is not that common but sometimes when asked what your are anxious about your would not have an answer, you might say “everything”. This will probably needs a therapist to work with you one-to-one if your can’t pin it down and it might be a bit more complicated but perfectly sort able.
I recommend this course by one of my first therapy trainers Mark Tyrrell if your anxiety is based on going out so you increase your drinking. Click below to get more valuable information on social anxiety.
The U curve
So to answer – does alcohol help or hinder, the answer is a big “both”. According to a Swedish study that I talk about here there is a U bend approach to anxiety and drinking alcohol.
This might answer the question: does alcohol help anxiety? The answer is
YES and NO!
I was confident though the answer would be “no” 100 percent but apparently this is a bit of a double bind: The U bend describes basically benefit up to a point then it goes away, so Let’s image a line in the sand.
No Benefit ————————-Benefit—————————No Benefit
So summed up a few drinks can help calm the nerves then switch to feeling very anxious if you drink a lot too much. Then it goes back to being stressed if your don’t have an outlet and don’t drink at all.
So again does alcohol help anxiety? Yes up to a point but there is a sharp drop when you drink over a certain level.
The Swedish research illustrated by the NHS in the UK references that moderate sensible drinking can help you with having an outlet, letting go a bit, socializing, to when your is out of the so called “norm” and the benefit reverses sharply.
This seems to suggest tea total person and alcoholic whatever that means and have similar levels of anxiety albeit different symptoms and reason for their symptoms.
However, the research does on to say that social drinking above the recommended amount can bring on many illnesses like total liver failure in my case lol so I am not sure it is all good news.
We have probably heard of the phrase “dutch courage” it is ingrained now in cultures all over the world. It stems from a dutch pharmacist and the creation of gin where it was used to calm the nerves of soldiers in the great Spanish war and the Dutch Anglo wars and maybe as far back as the 16th century. Crikey!
It is still used today when people are faced with something they don’t have the courage to do. Social pressure says go on and have some “dutch coverage”. I have to say that there are better ways including hypnosis that could do that for you rather than a swift gin or whiskey.
Media answers the question does alcohol help anxiety by staying away from help and hindrance and focuses on the downside. However, with headlines such as “ a few drinks is good for the heart” you can see why people get confused.
The answer is very clear. Too much alcohol can make you very anxious as it affects the nervous system and too little seems to imply you stop yourself from having a social outlook with friends and therefore become anxious!
As someone given 48 hours to live and as a social drinker before I can testify I feel less anxious with the up and coming non-alcoholic options. I don’t feel as restricted as much as I may have done in the past. The messages are probably dangerous as much as they are helpful. Confused, I think we are back to balance, whatever that means!
What is your view on does alcohol help anxiety. Have your been tempted by Dutch coverage and did it work or have your found alcohol makes you anxious.
As someone with liver disease while I know there is a balance I will be staying on the alcohol free lifestyle forever! Comment below and I always respond as it adds to the debate on the blog and that is really important to me and the readers. It can also inspire other articles.