Feeling anxious? Quitting alcohol may be the answer

Quitting AlcoholCC: PhotoMIX-Company at Pixabay

Anxiety is a sensation that plagues us all from time to time. Although most of us can brush it off with a few happy thoughts, some experience anxiety as a persistent sensation.

According to new research, quitting alcohol could keep your anxious feelings at bay. If your mental wellbeing is due for a much-needed boost, it’s time to learn what this research means.

Why does alcohol make you anxious?

Alcohol is often seen as a social lubricant in the Western world. Around 70% of people over the age of 18 report drinking alcohol in the last year. Approximately 56% state that they drank alcohol in the last month.

According to Drinking and You, women can drink one alcoholic beverage per day and remain healthy, while men can drink two. That advice doesn’t count for the mental impact, though. Instead, it focuses on consuming alcohol while keeping physical diseases at bay.

Initially, alcohol’s sedating effects may help you feel at ease with the situation at hand. It’s for this reason that people choose to drink it to lighten social situations or to relax after a stressful day. As those sedating effects wear off, your anxious feelings start to creep back in and can feel amplified. There’s a risk that you may seek out more alcohol to combat them, resulting in an unwanted tolerance.

The sedation you gain from alcohol is usually paid for with neurotransmitters. As you unbalance key hormones such as serotonin, you deprive yourself of healthier levels later on. This means that the anxiety you feel following drinking could last for a few days while you wait for your neurotransmitters to replenish.

What did the study reveal?

The study was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. It compared a group of tee-total individuals with those who drink the healthy limits highlighted by Drinking and You. The study examined thousands of people and it found that those who were tee-total experience less anxiety. Additionally, it found that quitting alcohol resulted in reduced anxiety levels.

Attempts were made to adjust for other confounding factors, such as smoking, obesity, and high BMI. After each factor was examined, quitting alcohol stood out as the main determining factor in reducing anxiety levels.

It’s important to recognize that quitting alcohol alone probably wasn’t the only anxiety-reducing factor among the study’s participants. Those who choose to lead a tee-total lifestyle or quit alcohol probably make positive lifestyle changes overall. As a result, their healthier state of living results in a less anxious state. However, as the links between alcohol use and increased anxiety are already clear, quitting alcohol likely has a positive effect.

How do you start quitting alcohol?

If you suspect you have a long-standing alcohol problem that’s likely to result in withdrawal symptoms, consider using an organization such as Alcoholics Anonymous and speak to a doctor. Alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous in some cases, but only when there’s a true dependence. Fortunately, physicians are well-equipped to offset the dangerous side effects.

Otherwise, begin looking at the situations that make you turn to alcohol and think about alternatives. For example, if you regularly have a glass of wine after work, start looking at exercise or meditation. Similarly, if social situations are a trigger, try spending time in dry environments and look for ways to boost your confidence so that alcohol isn’t a perceived necessity.

Overall, quitting alcohol will change your mental and physical wellbeing for the better. To make your journey easier, consider finding an accountability partner who wants to make a positive change in their life too.

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About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.