Bad Medicine: Alcohol, Depression and Anxiety

The link between alcohol, depressive and anxiety disorders

It is widely known, and speaking from personal experience, that those with anxiety and depressive disorders are more likely to drink alcohol since it is readily-available and can bring (short-term) relief to anyone feeling nervous, anxious or stressed in a self-medicating fashion.

Alcohol and Anxiety

Anxiety and alcohol use are often connected. People often drink to relax and reduce anxiety, and in some instances, chronic alcohol abuse can lead to anxiety[1].

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America estimates that 20% of Americans with an anxiety or mood disorder such as depression have an alcohol or other substance use disorder, and about 20% of those with an alcohol or substance use disorder also have an anxiety or mood disorder. Further, those with alcohol-use disorders have a high prevalence of anxiety disorders that worsen symptoms and make treatment more difficult[2].

Alcohol and Depression

As an article from PsychCentral cites, a person with depression may sometimes also have alcoholism, and vice versa. In fact, 30-50% of people with alcoholism also suffer from clinical depression. Family history of depression or alcoholism puts a person at greater risk for developing either illness. You should know that while alcohol often causes a “good mood” at first, it is a central nervous system depressant. Its depressant effects can carry over into one’s mind, being a contributing factor to someone’s continuing depression.

The Problem

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down the brain and the central nervous system’s processes. While alcohol may help deal with stress in the short term, in the long-run it can contribute to feeling of depression and anxiety and make stress harder to deal with[3].

Made even worse, both alcohol and benzodiazepines act on the body’s central nervous system by slowing it down which can be fatal.

What to Do

If you have anxiety and/or depressive disorders try to abstain from having a drink tonight and see how much better you feel in the morning. I can attest to being much more alert and not feeling hungover, which is anxiety-inducing in and of itself.

If you or a love one struggles with alcoholism as a coping mechanism please seek professional counseling or call a hotline – you owe it to yourself and your loved ones. There is hope!


[1] https://americanaddictioncenters.org/alcoholism-treatment/anxiety

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5614930/

[3] https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/alcohol-facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/lifestyle/alcohol-a-cure-for-stress/

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