Will My Anxiety Get Better If I Stop Drinking Alcohol?

a man is drinking alcohol and having anxiety

Will my anxiety get better if i stop drinking alcohol?

First let me make it clear that I don’t have any moral issues with drinking alcohol. I drink it myself, and sometimes, I even drink way too much of it. Like many others I have a love hate relationship with alcohol but I am really trying to keep my alcohol intake to a minimum nowadays. For many reasons, and yes…

…anxiety being one of them!

Why do we drink alcohol?

People drink alcohol for a variety of reasons. Many drink it as a social thing or because it is fun and helps them enjoy their meals and outings more. Many drink it because they enjoy the taste or the way it goes with their food.

Some people also drink to manage their anxiety because alcohol is used as a coping strategy to relax or forget about it for a while. However, alcohol can have a negative impact on anxiety and our overall well-being…

…so avoiding drinking alcohol might indeed be a strategy that helps reduce anxiety and improve our health.

This is an important strategy for people who tend to drink a lot or who use alcohol as a way to cope with anxiety, however, it can be beneficial for those who drink less or less frequently too.

Alcohol as a strategy for coping with anxiety will make everything worse in the long run

Alcohol is often seen by people as a quick and easy way to relax, and many even recommend to drink a glass of wine before a big presentation or have a shot of something stronger before flying.

While alcohol usually can relax you, it can also make you feel more anxious after a while due to its physiological effects. Also, it means that people  might struggle more to relax in situations where they cannot drink alcohol and alcohol becomes the “go-to” strategy for managing anxiety…

…this mindset can contribute to alcohol dependence and encourage an ever-growing consumption because, as time goes by, people become tolerant for it and need progressively larger or stronger doses to feel relaxed again…

…In addition to this, people who have alcohol dependence are more likely to  develop anxiety disorders as well.

On the long-term, alcohol use and especially alcohol abuse are related to an increase in anxiety and might lead to more severe symptoms.

Anxiety will get better if you stop drinking alcohol
even if not addicted to it

Even if you are a moderate drinker your anxiety will most likely get better if you stop drinking alcohol because of the way it affects the nervous system. This is important to understand.

Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it slows down our whole system. When we drink alcohol it is kind of like putting a brake on the central nervous system, making the signaling slower…

And here’s the deal

The body, smart as it is, feels that something has entered the system and is now slowing everything down. Our body likes to keep homeostasis so it presses down the “gas pedal”in order to get the nervous system back UP to the right speed again. This is all fine and dandy but the problem starts after a few hours, when the alcohol is out of our system again…

…because NOW the “gas pedal” is still pressed down but we do no longer have alcohol in our system. In other words: there is no longer a brake on our nervous system but the body is still speeding things up.

You see where I’m going with this?

thermostatThat’s right!

We are now left with an overactive nervous system that is highly sensitive an THAT is something that we DO NOT want if we are suffering from anxiety in the first place. What we are doing when we drink alcohol is, in essence, lowering our threshold for when we get anxiety, or to put it in another way…

…we are lowering our fear thermostat, making us even more vulnerable to the anxiety demon. This “speeded up nervous system” can linger several days after our last drink.

So bottom line

Even if drinking in moderation, biological factors dictates that, we will more easily get anxiety for several days after our little “party”

Then there are the other health risks which has a carryover effect on our anxiety

In general, alcohol tends to be bad for us and our bodies. Alcohol is toxic for our brains and our health, especially when it is consumed without moderation, but whenever people get drunk, they are, essentially, ingesting a substance that intoxicates then, producing alterations on different levels.

Some people find that alcohol has few effects on them while others are very sensitive to them but all people experience some type of effect due to drinking.

For people who already struggle with anxiety, alcohol might be something that contributes to it and might make it stronger. The effects of alcohol can accumulate over time and push the individual to more negative decisions, like relying on alcohol as a coping strategy to relax instead of seeking out strategies that work better on the long term.

However, alcohol doesn’t only impact our well-being in regards to anxiety. It can have a negative impact on our lives in general, which, in turn, can make our anxiety worse. For once, alcohol can have a negative impact on our physical health.

The health of our bodies is strongly related to our mental health and vice versa…
…if one suffers then it is likely that the other also will suffer

It can have a negative effect on the liver, the gastrointestinal system, the heart, and the brain as well. While this can be more prominent with heavy use, moderate use can also contribute to a variety of health issues and can, overall, bring a person’s health and well-being down.

One example of the negative effects of stress can be hangovers. Hangovers can have physical symptoms and impact the person’s performance and energy level throughout the day.

Alcohol consumption can make people feel more tired and less energetic.

Many alcoholic drinks can also be packed with excess sugar which means they can take a toll on physical health, which in turn can significantly impact mental health.

By quitting alcohol, we can feel more energized, less tired, and experience fewer negative symptoms that can hurt our mood as well as our body. In this way, alcohol can make us feel not only more anxious but also more tired, more moody, and more upset.

Guilt is one of the fastest way to low self-esteem and that is a recipe for anxiety

Another aspect associated with alcohol consumption is that it might be a source of difficult emotions, like guilt and shame. Many people lose control of their actions and words after drinking or act in a more disinhibited manner, which can lead to them doing things they regret…

…for people with anxiety, this can be especially important because it might become a constant source of regret and worry that contributes to their anxiety in other situations. Cutting alcohol out helps prevent these types of situations.

Discovering new things makes us grow and will increase our confidence and self love

Another aspect associated with alcohol is that it is something that is expected in our society and that people often don’t give themselves a chance to experience life without it. Trying to live without alcohol can open new possibilities for the things that you do and how you spend your time.

It can allow you to find new hobbies and opens a space in your life for new things and opportunities. For example, if you always go to the bar on Friday evenings, what activity can you try instead? Cutting out alcohol means cutting out the places and activities that are focused solely on drinking…

…which frees up your time and energy for new endeavors that can help reduce anxiety and improve your mental well-being…

…novelty is good for us!

Quitting alcohol can also be a way of building up your self-esteem. It can help you develop more confidence and find success in the changes you want to make in your  life. By going through with this change, you may empower yourself for other, bigger changes that can help reduce your anxiety and promote mental and emotional well-being.

Will my anxiety get better if I stop drinking alcohol?
YES But it will probably get worse before it gets better

Depending on your history with alcohol you should know that it may take some time before you will notice benefits from stopping alcohol. I wish I could give you some timelines but it is all so individual and it depends so much on if you are addicted or not.

If you just have been using alcohol to cope with your anxiety or otherwise “escape” and take a break from everything, and you have done so in moderation (in other words, if you are not addicted) then you can expect to feel better pretty soon. If you belong in that category then your anxiety levels will drop significantly after about two to three weeks.

If you are addicted and have built up a tolerance to alcohol then you will feel much worse for a couple of weeks after quitting, due to withdrawals. So expect even more anxiety than usual during this period, but if you just stick to it you can expect to start feeling better after about one month and then see additional improvements for each clean month you go…

…so don’t get discouraged by knowing that the first month is going to be tough because, once you are over the hump, it is going to be so worth it and then you really start feeling more motivated to stay clean.

What to do if I get withdrawals and my anxiety gets even worse?

If you are an alcoholic and you have been drinking huge amounts of alcohol  for a long time, then stopping suddenly could be dangerous and needs to be done  with the help of a doctor, but I’m sure you know that already so I’m not going to get into that here.

What I will focus on is the increase in anxiety you will experience and how you can deal with that. Here are a few practical things you can do when the anxiety increases after you stop drinking alcohol:

  • Take a 45-60 minute long walk
  • Meditate for 20-30 minutes
  • Have a long talk with a close friend
  • Have a soothing cup of chamomile tea

Natural anxiety supplements can also work pretty well. Personally I have had a lot of luck with a few of them. If interested you can click this link if you want to read more about my favorite anxiety supplement. This is a supplement that I have used myself when coming off of a binge and my anxiety levels have been through the roof. I also use it for anxiety in general and not only alcohol related anxiety.

While these are all helpful, remember that time heals and even if using tools you are probably going to go through a bit of a rough time.

Quitting alcohol to make anxiety better
Final words

It is safe to say that if you stop drinking alcohol, you will likely feel better overall and also feel better in regards to your anxiety. Alcohol can contribute to anxiety in insidious ways, so reducing or stopping to use it completely can be very beneficial for overcoming your anxiety and, of course, for your health in general.

I would like to invite you to seek and collect tools to have in your anxiety tool kit. We can never have too many of those. You can for example take a look at my article 16 ways to naturally deal with anxiety here.

But when it comes to stopping alcohol for your anxiety to get better then, yes…

…that might just be the most effective tools of them all, so I really recommend you give it a shot!

Thank you for reading the blog post “will my anxiety get better if I stop drinking alcohol”

-Bob Castle-

Natural Health Evolution