Alcohol and anxiety: Link, risks, and treatment

If you think you have a problem with alcohol, seek help from your doctor right away. Long-term heavy drinkers may be predisposed to developing an anxiety disorder. However, there is no evidence that moderate drinking will cause anxiety. Research shows that people with alcoholism find it difficult to recover from traumatic events. This is possibly because of the effects of alcohol abuse, which can actually change brain activity. While small amounts of alcohol may activate GABA and cause you to relax, heavier drinking can sap GABA.

Symptoms of panic disorder often start in the late teens or early adulthood and affect more women than men. Panic attacks have many variations, but symptoms usually peak within minutes. Alcohol is a natural disinhibitor — meaning it can cause you to make choices you may not make while sober.

Better ways to treat and manage panic attacks

Drinking alcohol on a regular basis can result in your body building up a tolerance to this substance over time. This means that you will need to drink larger amounts of alcohol on a more frequent basis in order to experience the same effects, increasing the risk of developing a physical or psychological addiction. Alcohol doesn’t directly cause panic attacks, in the sense that those with panic disorder suffer from panic attacks with or without alcohol. There are several reasons for this, which will be discussed below; but the key thing to remember is that those with panic attacks suffer from an issue known as hypersensitivity.

  • The long-term consequences of alcohol abuse can be a variety of health problems, including mental health disorders.
  • At this type of clinic you will undergo detox (if needed) and engage with a therapist who will listen to you and help you develop the skills you need to stay sober.
  • Those who binge drink may find that they suffer attacks in the days after a big night out.
  • The onset of symptoms related to social anxiety disorder and agoraphobia can be a trigger for some people to develop unhealthy relationships with alcohol.
  • But, if you drink a lot you can reduce your levels of GABA, causing an increase in anxiety.

Panic attacks are episodes of extreme anxiety that typically last between 5 and 20 minutes. Someone who experiences multiple panic attacks for no apparent reason may have panic disorder, a form of anxiety. While some people are able to drink responsibly and in moderation, others struggle to control their drinking and put themselves at risk of developing addiction and other physical health concerns.

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One of the best ways to know if you might have a panic attack from quitting alcohol is to undergo an alcohol use assessment. If you have concerns about your drinking, then it is better to be safe and discuss your worries with someone who understands alcohol use disorders. Although it can be hard to identify who will have a panic attack when they quit alcohol, there are some signs to watch out for that indicate that you might have a substance use disorder (SUD) that could result in withdrawal symptoms when you quit. If you’ve never had a panic attack before, then it is important to undergo a physical health exam to make sure that this is what is occurring. Your physician may also inquire about your substance use habits, and it is important to be honest. If you find out that your alcohol use is contributing to panic attacks, then finding effective ways to quit drinking can help you find relief.

If a person drinks regularly, the natural GABA and serotonin levels can get destabilised, making withdrawal symptoms and anxiety attacks worse. If you look at the biological side of things, it is well-known that alcohol causes a number of physiological symptoms such as dehydration, low blood sugar, and elevated heart rate. These may make a person feel uneasy, dizzy, and irritable, and may lead to a panic attack.

Be aware of mixing anxiety medications and alcohol

Not only do they have their panic attacks to deal with but also alcoholism. If you are not struggling with alcohol addiction, cutting out drinking is more of a personal choice. The occasional bad night’s sleep may be unpleasant, but is unlikely to have a lasting effect. However, studies have shown that a continuous lack of REM sleep can negatively affect memory and learning1, may impact our 30 Powerful Womens Recovery Memoirs to Inspire Your Own Journey emotional abilities2 and increase the risk of migraine3. Poor sleep has also been linked to an increased risk of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, hypertension, obesity, heart attack and stroke4. By Sheryl Ankrom, MS, LCPC

Sheryl Ankrom is a clinical professional counselor and nationally certified clinical mental health counselor specializing in anxiety disorders.

  • For example, they were less likely to speak up in group therapy, attend a 12-step meeting, or seek sponsorship within a 12-step group.
  • If you rely on alcohol to mask anxiety, you may find you become reliant on it to relax – putting you at risk of alcohol dependence.
  • This means that cutting out alcohol can help – but often further action is required in order to take full control of your condition.
  • In light of the current evidence, the most practical approach to combining treatments is to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of each method and apply them judiciously.

If you have a history of anxiety or mental disorders, make sure to share this with your healthcare provider so you know how alcohol or other substances may affect you differently. A night of drinking can bring up feelings of anxiety or jitteriness, even if you’re not diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Alcohol affects the levels of serotonin and other chemicals in your brain, so it affects your body and mind in various ways the next day. Every time you drink, alcohol triggers an increase in the production of insulin.

Self-medicating your panic attacks with drink can leave you psychologically dependent on alcohol because the short-term sedative effects can be addictive. Alcohol may be a temporary, unhealthy way to relieve anxiety and forget about your underlying stressors; however, using alcohol does not erase these underlying triggers. Additionally, symptoms of anxiety will still be lurking around the corner as the underlying triggers have not been properly addressed and treated. If you are more prone to these disorders, you may have a more extreme reaction to alcohol withdrawal than someone who does not suffer from panic attacks. Drinking alcohol causes a number of immediate effects in your body – your heart rate may increase, your blood sugar drops and you may eventually become dehydrated.

can alcohol cause panic attacks

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