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How Depression & Anxiety Make you More Likely to Drink Alcohol

How often do we hear the expression, “I need a drink” from someone who has had a hard day? We might not think twice when someone says this, and should not jump to the conclusion that such a statement is a sign of alcoholism, but even if the speaker is joking, the link between depression and anxiety and alcohol abuse is no laughing matter. It has been shown that people who suffer from these conditions may be more likely to drink alcohol. One reason could be out of a desire to “self-medicate” to ease the symptoms. Another factor may be that the social acceptability of drinking may mask misuse of alcohol. Regardless of the reason why those with depression and anxiety may use alcohol as a crutch, people who do so should seek help right away.

The Appeal of Self-Medicating to Calm Depression and Anxiety Symptoms

Depression and anxiety may seem like opposite conditions, but they can be similar. When we are anxious, we may feel our heart rates speed up and perceive that our thoughts are racing. Those with depression may feel listless, apathetic and may not have enough energy or motivation to get through the day. People with these issues often seek solace in alcohol because it is a depressive, which means it can soothe the nerves of an anxious person. For someone suffering from depression, alcohol can lift the spirits and make one feel less aware of the problems that are triggering their symptoms in the first place. Although serious cases of anxiety and depression require appropriate medications, the conditions can make someone more likely to drink alcohol and less likely to see a doctor and get medication. One reason is that the person may be in denial about their condition, and if if they are aware of it, may prefer to have a few drinks to facing the side effects, the cost and the trouble of taking medication.

What Is the Relationship Between Anxiety, Depression and Using Alcohol?

It is estimated that 20 percent of people who abuse alcohol have depression or an anxiety disorder. At the same time, 20 percent of people who suffer from alcoholism have anxiety or depression. It is uncertain which is the trigger and which is the effect, but it is clear that those who start out with either an alcohol problem or an emotional disorder end up in a vicious cycle that includes symptoms of anxiety and depression and abusing alcohol. The only effective way to treat this problem is to address both sides of the equation and not one to the exclusion of the other. The following conditions, in addition to regular depression and anxiety, may make someone more likely to drink alcohol:
Social Anxiety
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
Panic Disorder

How Many People with Social Anxiety Hide in Alcohol

There is little doubt that alcohol is a social drink. In fact, many people who try to quit drinking alcohol complain about being pressured to drink in social situations, because it is the expected thing to have beer, wine or cocktail at a party. This can be a slippery slope to those with social anxiety disorder. Those with this issue may drink for the following reasons:
To feel more comfortable in social situations
To mask anxiety and treat symptoms
To deal with isolation caused by their condition
This problem is characterized by anxiety when faced with social situations and an overwhelming dread of being in public talking to people. Alcohol at parties may be one way people with this issue may cope with their symptoms and overcome their initial anxiety. However, this can quickly lead to dependence and addiction. A person may feel they need a drink to function socially or may isolate themselves and drink alone. Solo drinking can be particularly dangerous because one cannot gauge the amount they are drinking if they are slowly getting drunk. Social anxiety can be a substantial trigger to alcohol abuse.

The Links Between Alcohol and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Disorder

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition suffered from those who have experienced extremely traumatic event and are living in persistent anxiety that the incident may happen again. Panic disorder is characterized by panic attacks which can be triggered suddenly. People with panic disorder live in dread of having another panic attack. People suffering from these disorders may depend on alcohol to desensitize themselves from their dread. In addition, those who have these conditions may experience hyperstimulation, and alcohol can relax them. The desire for alcohol in these cases can translate into full-blown alcoholism.

The Link Between Anxiety, Depression and Alcoholism Is Real

Unfortunately, people who are diagnosed with alcoholism may not be suffering with just one problem. In many cases, there is an underlying issue of depression and anxiety that may make people more likely to drink alcohol. When people seek help for these conditions, professionals often look for the existence of the other, since they often occur together. Dual Diagnosis treatment can help treat both of these conditions. If an alcoholic’s depression is left untreated, it can be more likely to trigger future alcohol use.