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December 27, 2022

Can Alcohol Cause Anxiety?

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the United States with almost 40 million adults reporting some degree of anxiety disorder in their lifetime. 

One-third report that they experienced symptoms for 10 years or more.  People with anxiety disorders are more likely to turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication (alcohol can be sedating and relaxing). 

While this may help reduce some symptoms, it also plays a role in exacerbating the disorder over time.  Alcohol can actually cause short-term relief but it also perturbs the balance of chemicals in the brain, leading to increased anxiety over time.

If you are wondering more about the effects that alcohol can have on anxiety, continue reading. 

What Is Anxiety?

People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) experience an influx of worry about everyday occurrences like health issues or money problems.  

Other people might feel self-conscious in certain situations such a public speaking.  They constantly fear the judgment of others because of the way they act or arent acting.

Symptoms of anxiety include: 

  • Restlessness
  • Sweaty palms
  • Fatigue¬†
  • Irritability
  • Changes in concentration¬†
  • Increase heart rate
  • Muscle tension¬†
  • Difficulty controlling worry


It’s human nature to try and solve these symptoms of anxiety.  A common way to do so is the consumption of alcohol.  When dealing with these stressful or nervous situations, people may have a glass of wine or a beer to calm their nerves. 

While this is a solution in the short term, it creates long-term problems. It is actually possible to become more anxious when you drink alcohol heavily and for an extended period of time.

How Does Alcohol Affect the Anxious Brain?

There is truth to the fact that alcohol can reduce stress because it is a sedative and a depressant.  It affects the central nervous system in a way that reduces tension and nervousness. It’s human nature to try and solve these symptoms of anxiety.  A common way to do so is the consumption of alcohol.  

Alcohol can do a lot of things like make you a bit more confident, relax the tension in your body or take your mind off of troubles.  

While these things seem good on the surface, the more and more you drink the more you build up a tolerance. This means you will need more of that substance to feel the same effects. Thus making coping with anxiety that much harder. 

Being addicted to alcohol can cause various physical and mental adverse effects.  As time goes on, consuming too much alcohol for a long time can cause blackouts, loss of memory, or brain damage.

Understanding Alcoholism

Alcoholism or alcohol use disorder (AUD) is characterized by an unhealthy use of alcohol that impacts your life negatively. 

Alcohol is one of the most commonly used substances in the United States.  According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 25.8 percent of people ages 18 and older engaged in binge drinking in 2019. 

Over the past month, 6.3% reported having consumed heavy amounts of alcohol.

A healthy or proper amount of drinking according to the CDC involves drinking in moderation. For men, that’s 2 drinks or fewer for a man and 1 drink or fewer for a woman per day. 

Symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Headaches¬†
  • Impaired coordination¬†
  • Sleep disturbance¬†
  • Shaking¬†
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety¬†
  • Depression¬†
  • Irritability
  • Mood changes¬†


AUD is considered a chronic brain disorder because people who have it continue to drink regardless of the negative consequences they experience in their life from drinking. AUD involves compulsive drinking, an inability to control your alcohol use, and negative feelings when you don’t drink.

How Can Alcohol Worsen Anxiety

Alcohol influences the levels of serotonin and neurotransmitters in your brain.  This can worsen your anxiety as the effects of alcohol wear off. 

One of the most popular ways of using alcohol to cope with anxiety is to use it in social situations. Approximately 7 percent of Americans suffer from social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Individuals might find a lot of success in using alcohol to manage social anxiety.  However, as previously mentioned, this can increase tolerance forcing you to drink more when you are put into social situations again. 

This can lead to a dependence on alcohol to function ‚Äúnormally‚ÄĚ.¬† Almost¬†20 percent¬†of people with SAD suffer from alcohol dependence¬†

So Does Alcohol Cause Anxiety? Or Vice Versa?

Individuals might find a lot of success in using alcohol to manage social anxiety.  However, as previously mentioned, this can increase tolerance forcing you to drink more when you are put into social situations again. 

The long-term effects of alcohol abuse can bring a variety of health problems including mental health disorders. 

Research has also shown that people with an alcohol use disorder have a harder time recovering from traumatic events. This is due to the effects that alcohol has on brain activity.

While there is no evidence to support that moderate drinking causes anxiety, long-term heavy drinkers may be susceptible to developing an anxiety disorder.

Increased anxiety is also a symptom of alcohol withdrawal. If you’ve consumed alcohol in large amounts for a long period of time and suddenly stop drinking, your anxiety can be aggravated by the side effects of alcohol withdrawal.

If you or a loved one is suffering from alcoholism contact us today to get help. 

About Restore

Are you or someone you care about struggling with drug or alcohol addiction in San Diego, California? Look no further than Restore Detox Centers, the leading 24-hour residential treatment facility. Our dedicated team is committed to providing effective rehabilitation services tailored to your individual needs.

We understand the challenges you face on your path to recovery, which is why we offer a comprehensive range of programs, including medically assisted detox and residential treatment. Our ultimate goal is to guide you towards a life free from addiction and help you achieve long-term success. 

Rest assured that our facility is accredited by The Joint Commission, guaranteeing the highest standards of quality and safety. You can rely on our compassionate team of professionals to support you every step of the way. 

If you're ready to take the first step towards healing, don't hesitate to contact Restore Detox Centers today. Let us be your trusted partner in your journey to recovery.

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