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The Effects of Alcohol on Depression and Anxiety

  • Posted at Apr 19, 2022
  • Written by Rebecca
The Effects of Alcohol on Depression and Anxiety

Did you know that drinking alcohol can actually worsen the effects of mental health issues like anxiety and depression? However, many people struggling with the effects of mental health issues may use alcohol as a way to reduce symptoms in the present moment – never knowing that it’s actually contributing to a life with more severe mental health symptoms. Certainly, temporarily, while the effects of alcohol are still present, people with depression or anxiety may feel a bit better. But, over time, the effects of using alcohol are counterproductive. And, can lead to even more debilitating and challenging mental and physical health problems.

So, it’s important that people who are living with mood disorders and other mental health issues understand the lasting impacts of using alcohol. This way, they can make informed decisions about using this substance as it relates to their mental health recovery.

Understanding how Alcohol Affects the Brain

Our moods and emotional management are regulated by neurotransmitters in the brain. These neurotransmitters are responsible for chemical reactions in the brain stimulated by the firing of neurons. They work by sending signals to the rest of the body in order for us to react to specific situations. Some of the neurotransmitters most responsible for mood management include serotonin, GABA, and dopamine.

Serotonin is affected by alcohol as serotonin’s role is to improve how a person feels. So, it plays a part in reducing feelings of depression. Drinking alcohol works to increase serotonin production while the substance is within the body, depleting its resource. Therefore, leading to reduce serotonin levels once the effects of alcohol wear off.

GABA is a neurotransmitter that’s responsible for feelings of calmness and tranquility. However, alcohol binds to GABA receptors, keeping GABA neurotransmitters from actually binding to these receptors. This gives the brain the signal to stop producing GABA, which can result in higher feelings of alertness and can result in overdose levels of alcohol in the body.

Finally, dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is responsible for our ‘flight or fight’ response. It’s what keeps us safe as it encourages us to use survival instincts. Alcohol and other addictive chemicals all increase dopamine production, leading to a depletion of this neurotransmitter. Therefore, leading to symptoms of risky behaviors that can be damaging to health.

Effects of Alcohol Aren’t Just on the Brain But on the Mind Too

Certainly, the effects of alcohol can leave a lasting impression on the brain. But, it can affect the mind as well. For example, when a person drinks, it can lead to worsening symptoms of depression and anxiety because a person acts differently when they’re drunk. This can include embarrassing, risky, or dangerous behaviors. Feelings of guilt and shame can arise due to these behaviors, leading to worsening symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Getting Help for Alcohol Use Disorder and Mental Health Issues Combined

People who are struggling with both alcohol abuse and mental health issues like anxiety or depression should get professional help that addresses both issues. This type of treatment is called dual diagnosis. It’s common for people who are struggling with mental health issues to lean on substances, like alcohol, to numb their feelings. However, this can make symptoms even worse. Fortunately, a treatment that involves dual diagnosis can help people struggling with these issues to identify why they drink, how to cope with mental health issues, and begin a journey toward healing.

Yellowbrick offers help to people who want to overcome the symptoms of their mental health issues and drinking behaviors. Find out more about our facility, our mental health treatment services, and how we can help today on our website.

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