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Alcohol addiction and mental health are a dangerous combination. The physical and psychological effects of alcohol abuse are two times greater in people with mental illness than others. The longer alcohol dependency continues, the greater the risk of developing a psychological disorder. Find an alcohol addiction treatment program specializing in co-occurring disorders if you suspect you are struggling with alcohol addiction and mental health issues. When a person has an alcohol use disorder and a mental health issue, treating them both at the same time offers the best chance at long-term recovery.

The Long-Term Effects of Alcohol on Mental Health

Immediate effects of excessive drinking can cause insomnia, impaired judgment, poor impulse control, and other behavioral problems. As troubling as these reactions can be, they are only temporary. When you begin recovery, the symptoms subside. But long-term alcohol addiction can cause more significant problems to both your mental and physical health.

Quick Facts About Alcohol and Depression

People who turn to alcohol to ease depression may believe it helps them feel better, but research on the link between alcohol and depression doesn’t support that belief. Consider some facts about alcohol abuse:
  • It’s estimated around 30% of people struggling with depression are also alcohol dependent.
  • Alcohol is a depressant that affects the central nervous system.
  • Chronic alcohol abuse can change the chemistry of the brain, increasing the risk for depression.
  • Having an alcohol use disorder increases the risk of having depression.
  • Babies exposed to alcohol in utero are at greater risk for experiencing depression later in life.
  • Teens with mental health disorders who also use alcohol are at greater risk for attempting suicide or engaging in other forms of self-harm.
  • Studies have found a correlation between engaging in self-harm and alcohol use at an early age.
The weight of having a dual diagnosis can feel unbearable, but there is hope. At a depression treatment program, you will receive the medication, therapy, and support needed to manage your depression and feel like yourself again.

Alcohol and Anxiety

Alcohol use disorder and anxiety are common co-occurring disorders. As with most mental health disorders, alcohol and anxiety have a positive feedback loop. Either problem can make it challenging to get through life’s everyday activities, but together they can leave you feeling debilitated. There are several types of anxiety disorders. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) is the most frequently diagnosed type, but panic disorder and social anxiety disorder must also be considered when discussing anxiety. Triggers for anxiety may include:
  • Medication side effects
  • Health problems, especially life-threatening or chronic conditions
  • Trauma
  • Stimulants such as cocaine or amphetamines
  • Stress
  • Drug or alcohol addiction
Addiction can trigger anxiety because addiction is a significant stressor. Misusing alcohol and other substances puts stress on your physical health as well as your state of mind.

Alcohol and Panic Attacks

A significant percentage of people seeking treatment for panic disorder report a history of alcohol misuse. What is the connection? Alcohol affects brain chemicals such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA (a chemical that helps us relax). Heavy drinking can severely deplete GABA production. Without help from your brain, even minor problems can lead to severe anxiety and panic. The longer alcohol abuse goes on, the less your brain can produce the chemicals needed to manage stress naturally. The less you can cope with stress, the more you turn to alcohol for help, and so the cycle continues.

What Can I Do About Anxiety and Depression?

Learning more about alcohol addiction and mental health and finding an anxiety treatment program are the first steps to improving your overall wellness. Remember, mental health disorders aren’t cured by willpower or wishful thinking. They are natural health problems that involve an imbalance of brain chemicals. Alcohol use, and especially alcohol addiction, only makes matters worse.

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