The Dew Blog

Alcohol's effects on stress and anxiety levels

by Dew Wellness on Sep 22, 2022

Effects of alcohol use on stress and anxiety levels

While the idea of unwinding with a glass of wine after a stressful day might seem like a great way to relax and de-stress, studies have shown that drinking alcohol can have the opposite effect. Alcohol is a depressant that slows down your brain's activity. Over time, this causes your brain to function lower than it usually would, affecting how well you respond to stressful situations. 

Alcohol is a depressant

When you drink alcohol regularly (more than once a week), you may experience anxiety or panic attacks, mood swings, and other emotional difficulties that can lead to depression. With regular use of alcohol, the body's stress-response system becomes less effective at regulating normal and abnormal responses to stressful situations—which means that after a while, even one tiny event could trigger you into an anxious or depressed state.

It can cause anxiety

Alcohol can cause anxiety. Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, which slows down brain activity. When consumed in small amounts, alcohol can reduce stress and tension by increasing the amount of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) in your brain. It also blocks the reuptake of serotonin, which helps regulate moods.

But as you consume more alcohol, your brain’s functioning slows down, and you might start to feel anxious or irritable. In fact, according to Harvard Health Publishing, “People who are prone to anxiety may experience increased symptoms when they drink alcohol because the neurotransmitters that regulate emotions become less efficient with repeated exposure to alcohol."

It can intensify negative emotions

Alcohol can intensify the negative emotions you’re already experiencing. If you are already in a state of anxiety, depression, stress, or anger, alcohol can worsen those feelings. In some cases, this may be what causes people to turn to alcohol in the first place—they use it to cope with their negative emotions. Additionally, it's common for people to experience mood swings while under the influence of alcohol. This can lead them to episodes of severe depression and intense anxiety attacks, during which they cannot function normally without help from others.

It can negatively affect your sleep

Alcohol can negatively affect your sleep, which can cause stress and anxiety. It disturbs the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle. The body produces melatonin in response to darkness, a hormone that induces sleepiness when it is dark but excites activity when you are awake during daylight hours. Drinking alcohol during the day disrupts this process by interfering with your body’s ability to produce melatonin at night.

Sleep disorders such as insomnia may also be caused by alcohol consumption; At the same time, some people fall asleep quickly after consuming alcohol, and others find their mind racing or unable to fall asleep.

It stops you from developing healthy coping mechanisms.

Alcohol is a depressant, making you feel more relaxed and less stressed. However, the stress of your life does not go away when you drink. Alcohol temporarily numbs the symptoms of anxiety and depression until they’re back in full swing once you sober up. The effects of alcohol on stress levels can be far-reaching—it also stops people from developing healthy ways of handling their everyday problems.

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