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Alcohol and anxiety - what is the connection?

Alcohol and anxiety can become interlinked. When suffering from anxiety, a person may drink alcohol to feel relaxed and forget their worries. However, these effects can be short-lived and people often find that over time, alcohol actually contributes to or worsens the anxiety they have been trying to suppress. 

Dr Wayne Kampers, consultant psychiatrist at Priory Hospital Roehampton, has outlined the short and long-term effects of alcohol on anxiety. He has also looked at the anxiety treatment and support options that are available to someone who has anxiety and believes that they have a drinking problem or an alcohol addiction.

Alcohol and anxiety - can drinking alcohol contribute to or worsen anxiety?

When it comes to alcohol and anxiety, alcohol may initially reduce your fears, lower your stress levels and take your mind off any troubles. However, drinking alcohol, especially heavily and over a long period of time, can increase your anxiety and worsen any other mental health conditions by reducing your levels of serotonin and other brain chemicals, which are already low in anxious and depressed people.

If you have been drinking alcohol - particularly in excess – this can lead to increased anxiety the next day. 

Can anxiety lead to people drinking alcohol or abusing alcohol?

While we are culturally conditioned to have a drink to ‘calm our nerves’ or cope with social interactions, it can end up being a vicious cycle where alcohol and anxiety become interlinked. Drinking initially decreases anxiety but then increases hangover anxiety and depression the next day.

People who suffer with social anxiety may find that the only way they are able to cope in social situations is to drink alcohol. This may develop into alcohol abuse, particularly if they have to socialise often, say as part of their work, or if their tolerance to alcohol increases meaning they need larger amounts to reduce their anxiety.

What treatment is available for anxiety and alcohol abuse?

When alcohol and anxiety become interconnected, and a person has an alcohol abuse problem alongside a mental illness such as anxiety, this is classed as a co-occurring disorder. Though the symptoms of one disorder may have existed before the other, both disorders are likely to exacerbate one another.

For someone looking to receive support, we can provide you with an initial, no obligation assessment to talk through your alcohol use and anxiety, during which we will determine the type of treatment that you need. This may include one of the following options:

Residential treatment

It is recommended that a person dealing with issues related to alcohol and anxiety receives intensive medical and therapeutic interventions for both disorders at the same time. 

At Priory we are able to offer a 28-day residential Addiction Treatment Programme for more severe cases of alcohol addiction and anxiety. This inpatient treatment is highly effective and provides you with a safe and secure place to begin your journey to recovery. Through intensive one-to-one and group therapies, you can work on addressing the source of your behaviours, increase your self-awareness and take steps towards a long lasting recovery. 

Our day care programme

Our day care programme can also be provided for someone affected by alcohol and anxiety that needs structured support, but is better suited to living at home during their treatment. During this time, you will attend full or half day session each week, where you undergo therapy for your mental health and substance abuse challenges. We offer a range of tried and tested therapy types, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and our specialists will assess and work with you to determine the most suitable therapeutic approaches for you.

Outpatient therapy packages

We also have outpatient treatment, where you can receive therapy tailored to your individual needs in a friendly and relaxed setting.

This provides you with a safe and supportive space where you are able to explore personal issues, connect with feelings and learn strategies to manage your relationship with alcohol and anxiety going forward.

Outpatient treatment typically consists of you attending one of our Priory sites on a weekly basis to undergo therapy. Each session usually lasts for one hour, and can be scheduled at a time that is convenient to you.

As alcohol and anxiety can affect people in different ways, our flexible treatment pathways ensure that you are able to receive the most suitable support at the right moment in your journey. We can support you as you step-down or step-up your treatment, to make sure you are given the care that you need to recover and better manage your life going forward.

Get in Touch Today

For details of how Priory can provide you with assistance regarding addiction treatment and rehabilitation, please call 0800 144 8969 or click here to book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT. For professionals looking to make a referral, please click here

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