Alcohol and Mental Health: What You Need to Know

Alcohol and mental health issues are often intrinsically linked.

People struggling with mental health issues often turn to alcohol to cope. Unfortunately, alcohol abuse actually worsens mental health issues. Serious alcohol abuse can also cause mental health issues.

Overuse of alcohol to cope traps people in a vicious cycle. They use alcohol to cope, but alcohol intensifies their discomfort with life. So, they start to use more alcohol to cope, which creates new mental health issues and further worsens existing mental health issues. 

Looking for more information about how alcohol use and abuse impacts mental health? Read on to get all the information you need.

Why Do People Use Alcohol to Cope with Mental Health Issues?

Mental health issues like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder make dealing with the daily tasks of life very difficult, and they cause extreme emotional distress. 

People struggling with these issues and others will do pretty much anything to lessen their symptoms, dull the pain, and feel better. Since alcohol is a mind and mood-altering substance, consuming it provides temporary relief. 

For someone who struggles almost every minute of every day, any small reprieve seems magical. So, they continue to drink in order to get temporary relief from their symptoms.

How Does Alcohol Worsen Mental Health Issues?

Unfortunately, using alcohol on a regular basis eventually worsens mental health. Frequent alcohol abuse actually changes the brain. It particularly impacts the hormones and neurotransmitters that regulate mood, like serotonin and dopamine. Consuming alcohol causes huge spikes in both, which is why people feel so good when they drink.

But when alcohol is no longer in the system, serotonin and dopamine levels crash. That’s one of the reasons people feel more anxious and depressed in the aftermath of a binge.

Longterm, frequent consumption of alcohol can permanently change the way the brain produces serotonin and dopamine. When they’re not produced or replenished in the right amounts, symptoms of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders get worse. 

Eventually, drinking no longer provides relief from the symptoms of mental health issues. By then, most people have crossed the line into Alcohol Use Disorder, so they drink more, thinking that more will help. But increased continues to make everything worse. 

Many people who seek treatment for their alcohol use disorder end up with a dual diagnosis. Click here to learn more about dual diagnosis and how it’s handled in treatment centers.

How Does Alcohol Use Cause Mental Health Issues?

Since alcohol fundamentally changes the way the brain works, people who didn’t have mental health issues before they started drinking can develop mental health issues as a result of their drinking. The imbalance of neurotransmitters caused by excessive drinking can cause depression and anxiety.

Alcohol Use Disorder is also recognized as a mental illness. People who drink excessively become physically, mentally, and emotionally dependent on alcohol. So, alcohol use creates its own mental illness as well as creating coexisting disorders.

Physical withdrawal from alcohol also causes irritability, impulsive behavior, depression, and anxiety. So, the physical reaction caused by excessive drinking causes additional mental health problems.

How to Break the Link Between Alcohol and Mental Health

Once someone is abusing alcohol to the point that it’s impacting their mental health, there’s only one way to break the link between alcohol and mental health issues. They need to seek treatment. 

Worried that someone you love is struggling with substances and mental health issues? Check out the Relationships section of our site for information about how to help loved ones who are struggling. 

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