Substance Use

Alcohol & Anxiety Attacks: Does Alcohol Cause Anxiety?

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The Correlation Between Alcohol Use and Anxiety

Alcohol consumption is a popular pastime and form of self-medication in many cultures, but it can also lead to dangerous consequences. People who drink too much or too often may experience the negative effects of alcohol on their mental health, including anxiety attacks. Find out more about how drinking alcohol can impact anxiety levels.

Are you or a loved one struggling with alcohol addiction? You don’t have to go through it alone. At Zinnia Health, we understand your struggle and are here to help. Our inpatient and outpatient facilities offer a safe and comfortable place to begin to break free from alcohol dependence. Call our 24/7 helpline at (855) 430-9439 to get started.

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Can Alcohol Trigger Anxiety Attacks?

While there are several different causes of anxiety attacks, drinking alcohol can trigger anxiety in some people. Although moderate drinking can reduce stress in some individuals, excessive or binge drinking can cause elevated levels of anxiety and panic.

Alcohol consumption can create a sharp spike in blood alcohol levels that provoke a fight-or-flight response. In other words, too much alcohol can trigger an acute fear response that may manifest as an intense feeling of impending doom or panic.

For those already prone to anxiety, alcohol can exacerbate feelings of intense fear and panic.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can result in increased jumpiness and agitation that may bring on an attack as well.

If you suspect that alcohol is contributing to your anxiety attacks, seek medical advice from a professional. Understanding the role of alcohol in triggering anxiety attacks helps you take measures, like limiting your drinking, for better emotional well-being.

Does Alcohol Cause Panic Attacks?

Alcohol use can lead to panic attacks.

Research shows a link between heavy drinking and an increase in the frequency and severity of panic attacks. In some cases, people who have had little to no experience with panic disorders suddenly find themselves dealing with alcohol-induced panic attacks after bouts of heavy drinking.

While moderate consumption may not necessarily be linked to this issue, anyone feeling uncertain about the effects of alcohol should talk to a doctor for advice.

What Does Alcohol-Induced Anxiety Feel Like?

Alcohol-related anxiety can feel like an ever-tightening noose around your chest and a constant knot in the pit of your stomach. It can be overwhelming and hard to shake even hours after the intoxication has worn off. While drinking, it can manifest as racing thoughts and irrational fears that take away from a person’s enjoyment of the moment.

People tend to blame themselves for feeling anxious in such situations, or they may find it difficult to articulate why they are feeling so anxious in the first place.

Drinking too much can also:

  • Increase heart rate or cause palpitations
  • Cause headaches, muscle tension, and chest pain
  • Limit oxygen supply to the brain

These reactions can lead to anxiety symptoms like nervousness, fear, or panic within minutes or hours of ingesting alcohol.

Zinnia Health provides addiction treatment and supportive care for individuals suffering from alcohol abuse. Our treatment options offer a safe, supervised environment for you or a loved one to begin the journey to sobriety. Call our helpline 24/7 at (855) 430-9439 today for assistance.

Is Alcohol Making My Anxiety Worse?

Drinking alcohol is a common solution for managing stress and social anxiety. For example, many people who have a social phobia use alcohol as a coping mechanism. However, research suggests that its use as an anxiety reliever can backfire and make symptoms worse.

Alcohol acts as a sedative, reducing levels of cortisol in your system and having an immediate calming effect. However, the body quickly builds up a tolerance to the suppressant effects of alcohol.

Over time, increased dependency can actually heighten your anxiety levels even more, fueling an unhealthy cycle that requires increasing levels of alcohol consumption to quell anxiety-driven emotions.

What Happens if You Have Anxiety and Drink Alcohol?

Since alcohol is a depressant, it can exacerbate feelings of anxiety, causing further intense cognitive, physical, and emotional reactions. In some cases, drinking with anxiety could lead to bouts of depression or even panic attacks.

Alcohol impacts dopamine, serotonin, and other types of neurotransmitters in the brain. This can lead to an increase in stress hormones such as cortisol, which can worsen feelings of anxiety.

Drinking alcohol can make it difficult for someone to think clearly, which could lead to risky behavior such as driving while intoxicated or engaging in activities with individuals the person does not know well.

Ingesting alcohol when already struggling with high levels of stress or worry can complicate any form of treatment that might otherwise be helping the individual cope with their anxieties.

Taking all this into consideration, it is important for anyone who is managing an anxiety disorder to avoid heavy drinking.

How Do Alcohol-Induced Anxiety Attacks Differ From Regular Anxiety Attacks?

Alcohol-induced anxiety attacks are different from regular anxiety attacks in that they often occur shortly after consuming alcohol and can be more intense and overwhelming due to the chemical changes caused by the alcohol.

Both regular and alcohol-induced anxiety may trigger panic or fear. However, with an alcoholic-induced attack, this tends to be more jarring since it can happen suddenly and without warning.

It’s important to know the difference between regular and induced attacks because treating each requires a different approach. For those suffering from chronic alcohol abuse, actively addressing any underlying issues related to drinking can help reduce or eliminate these attacks altogether.

What Are Some Warning Signs of an Alcohol-Induced Anxiety Attack?

Warning signs of an alcohol-induced anxiety attack include:

  • Feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope with stressful events
  • Having difficulty controlling emotional reactions
  • Chest tightness
  • Excessive sweating
  • Increased heart rate
  • Feelings of dread or extreme fear
  • Shortness of breath

Individuals who regularly have alcohol-induced anxiety attacks often feel like their life is out of control. Self-care becomes difficult and they may struggle to focus on simple tasks or sleep well due to their anxious thoughts.

What Is the Connection Between Alcohol and Anxiety?

Alcohol is a depressant and acts as a sedative, which can reduce levels of cortisol in our system and have an immediate calming effect. However, when consumed frequently or at high doses, alcohol will lose its ability to provide relief from anxiety.

Alcohol temporarily dulls emotion by disrupting brain chemistry and lowering inhibitions, leading to an individual taking risks they would normally avoid. This sense of carefree confidence may initially reduce feelings of anxiousness. When it wears off, the feelings of depression or worry can be worse than before, exacerbating existing anxiety issues.

Regular alcohol consumption can also create psychological and physical dependency, making underlying issues like stress and worry even worse.

In short, while drinking may help you cope at the moment, its effects on a person’s mental health over time should not be overlooked.

It’s important that those who find themselves in this pattern realize that although short-term relief may be found in alcohol, unhealthy cycles will continue if not addressed. Seeking professional help as well as finding other ways to manage stress are essential when attempting to break the connection between alcohol and anxiety.

Struggling with an alcohol addiction can be a lonely road, and left unaddressed, it can lead to destructive consequences. If you or someone close to you is combating an alcohol use disorder, help is available. At Zinnia Health, we provide treatment and supportive care to give you the best chances of beating your addiction. Call our helpline at (855) 430-9439, which is one of the alcohol hotlines available, and get started on the path to recovery today.

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