Shoreline Sober Living, San Diego, CA
Can alcohol cause mood swings?

Everyone who has ever had a drink of alcohol has seen first-hand that alcohol can change our moods positively and negatively. Individuals often begin drinking if they have mental health issues such as depression, as they feel the alcohol can boost their emotions and make them happier. Others who struggle with mental health disorders such as anxiety will drink to allow them to become calmer when in a social setting. 

Studies show that a significant reason to drink alcohol is to change our mood. ‘Self-medicating’ with alcohol can temporarily alleviate feelings of anxiety and depression, with the depressant effects of alcohol shown to dampen the stress response. In particular, alcohol has been shown to dampen the part of the brain that we associate with inhibition – the role that makes us feel self-conscious, on edge, and unable to relax. But beyond that first drink, more prominent parts of the brain can be affected, and that happy buzz may soon be replaced with anger, anxiety, and more sinister feelings.

Alcohol is rarely considered a drug; however, it is most definitely a form of a drug. The substances act as potent depressants in the central nervous system. Alcohol can have immense adverse effects on individuals:

  • Mental health
  • Personality
  • Mood
  • Cognition
  • Behavior

How alcohol affects our brain chemistry

The brain relies on a rather delicate balance of chemicals, neurotransmitters, and processes to keep the body running at total capacity. The alcoholic substance is a well-known depressant, which can severely disrupt the balance of our thoughts, actions, and feelings.

The more an individual drinks, the more our brain function is impacted; regardless of the mood an individual is in, no form of negative emotion can creep in. This will lead to an overall negative impact on the individual’s mental health. Furthermore, alcohol has been heavily linked to increased aggression the more they drink, leaving individuals in challenging situations.

Long-term side effects of drinking alcohol

An individual who drinks a substantial amount of alcohol over prolonged periods will often begin experiencing specific side effects such as:

  • Stoke
  • Liver issues
  • Various cancers
  • Weakened immune system
  • High blood pressure
  • Brain disorders such as Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome

Alcohol and anxiety

For many individuals who experience anxiety, having a drink when in a situation or environment that they are uncomfortable with can help them feel more at ease; however, this feeling is often very short-lived. The relaxed feeling that the individual feels is due to the chemical changes that the alcoholic substance is causing to the brain.

Relying on alcohol to mask a form of anxiety will only lead that person to build up a resilience to the substance, which will result in them having to drink more to feel comfortable. The long-term result of this behavior is the individual eventually developing an alcohol dependency.

Feelings of anxiety can further appear when an individual is dealing with a hangover, which will often make the anxious feelings worse. If you are an individual who struggles with anxiety, the best way to treat this mental health issue is by seeing a medical professional. Self-medicating with alcohol is never the way to go and will likely lead to a more challenging situation.

If a person does not want to visit a medical professional, we would advise exercises such as breathing techniques, yoga, or meditation.

Drinking and depression

Drinking regularly and heavily can often be alarm bells for an individual struggling with depression. Alcohol affects several nerve-chemical systems, vital for regulating an individual’s mood. Furthermore, studies have shown that drinking heavily and regularly can lead an individual to begin experiencing depressive symptoms or intensify their depression.

Medication for most individuals is prescribed to help aid the side effects and symptoms of depression; however, it is strictly advised that the medication is not mixed with any alcoholic substance.

Alcohol and self-harm

If you have either been drinking or watched a friend or loved one drink too much, you would have witnessed them lose their inhibitions and behave rather impulsively, leading them to perform activities that they would have thought twice about when sober. These activities include individuals acting impulsively and increasing the likelihood of self-harm or even suicide. Studies have shown an increasingly strong connection between heavy drinking and suicidal thoughts, attempts, and deaths.

Intense, prolonged drinking can occasionally cause psychosis, a severe mental health illness where an individual begins hallucinating. Psychosis is known to be caused by both severe intoxication and withdrawal. It is more common among individuals who have been heavy drinkers for a prolonged period and have decided to stop suddenly.

Stay in control of your drinking

If you find yourself struggling with your drinking habits or have noticed a friend or family member struggling, speak to a medical professional. It can often feel challenging and intimidating to take the first step, but please know that you are not the only person in the world who is struggling with either their drinking habits or something similar.

If you are aware that you or a loved one has become physically dependent on alcohol and are ready to make a move to stop, please do not stop suddenly. This can cause a lot of mental, emotional, and physical harm to your body. You will need to speak to a rehab facility to detox your body safely.

If you are aware that you or a loved one furthermore suffers from a mental health disorder and a drinking dependency, you will most likely be given a dual diagnosis. The mental health disorder could take precedence over alcohol dependency. If an individual is not in the right frame of mind, the likelihood of joining the road to sobriety permanently is significantly small.

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