It may seem usual to turn to alcohol after you have experienced a bad day, or are just having a hard time with an aspect in your life. People who are struggling with alcoholism might use this excuse dozens of times within a month, as they are trying to justify their abuse and use of alcohol.
Even though that small sip of alcohol may relax their nerves and help make their day slightly more bearable, the truth is different – alcoholism has links to many mental health issues, including personality disorders, anxiety, and depression.
Depression and alcohol
When you are struggling with depression, your life seems bleak and miserable – and this leads to many people struggling with the condition to turn to alcohol to manage their symptoms. However, this creates a problem that is difficult to manage in the long term.
Depressive disorders are of four types. The first is a major depressive disorder – symptoms include feeling worthless, suicidal thoughts, lack of interest, difficulties paying attention, and feelings of hopelessness. The second is persistent depressive disorder, which is seen through low self-esteem, persistently depressed moods, difficulties concentrating and unusual sleeping and eating habits. Bipolar disorder is the third, signs include extremes in mood fluctuations, mild hallucinations and impulsive decision making. The fourth is a cyclothymic disorder, which has severe mania and depression periods alternating with each other.
When one uses alcohol to manage their depression symptoms, dependency on the substance develops very quickly, since the initial relation brings them some relief and they want to use it more often. What one fails to realize is that alcohol only provides a short-term solution from their emotions.
This issue is rampant though – up to a third of people struggling with major depressive disorders also have their struggles with alcohol abuse. The bad news is this – alcohol is a depressant, so it will worsen the symptoms after the euphoric effect is over. Alcohol affects certain sections of the brain, particularly those responsible for regulating anxiety, appetite, mood, sleep cycles, and fear; and that means you have longer and more frequent depressive episodes.
It also increases the impulsivity of depressed people, leading to impulsive decision making and poor judgment. For instance, studies from the United States CDCP(Center for Disease Control and Prevention) found that 25 percent of suicides had a relation to high levels of blood alcohol.
Anxiety and alcohol intake
Nervousness and fear are instincts that come naturally, but they can increase agitation and alertness and can result in anxiety. When these instincts start to interfere with the quality of your life, then you may be suffering from an anxiety disorder. The signs include chronic feelings of fear, insomnia, tense muscles, hypervigilance, high blood pressure, phobias, and panic attacks, as well as fears that interfere with your normal life.
Most people will experience some discomfort, although this is at low levels most of the time. People with anxiety disorders experience it at higher levels though, and some feel like they are being choked, freezing in place, or sinking in their fear.
What you may not know is that heavy drinking makes the side effects of alcohol abuse worse. This is because it has the ability to restructure the brain, making it more difficult for an alcoholic to recover from a traumatic experience, and makes them more likely to drink to cope with the problem.
This can, unfortunately, become a never-ending cycle until the person accepts treatment, as the effects of consuming alcohol lead to more stressful consequences.
Alcohol use and personality disorders
Anxiety and depression may be triggered or get worse as you consume alcohol, but other mental illnesses seem to have a more complicated relationship with the substance. For instance, one of the most common ones, antisocial personality disorder, seems to have very close ties to alcoholism, according to data from the NIAAA (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism) implies.
In fact, their research reveals that 15 to 20 percent of alcoholic men and 10 percent of alcoholic women also suffer from a personality disorder. Individuals who struggle with it also become more aggressive and impulsive many times, and they have their struggles when trying to adapt to different social contexts.
There are specific personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder, which have close ties to previous cases of trauma, as alcohol interferes with the ability of a person to deal with previous trauma, leading to future incidents or worsening of symptoms. In addition, it also leads to feelings of regret, shame, and anger, and the affected individual does not know how to deal with them effectively since there are triggers linked to abusing alcohol.
There is a problem with alcohol intake resulting in lower inhibitions, and this increases the chances of the affected person to engage in risky behavior such as sexual promiscuity, conduct themselves in an aggressive manner, or use other substances. If the alcohol is consumed while the person is under medication, it can provoke other negative associations and traumatic episodes and poses a threat to personal safety levels.
There are better alternatives for coping
This problem can be solved, however; and it takes going through integrated treatment, which addresses both the alcohol abuse as well as the personality disorder.
In addition, there are better ways to cope with mental health issues than turning to alcohol. For example, regular exercise and therapy can assist you to deal with the issues you are facing, instead of turning to substance and alcohol abuse, as they will give you ways of dealing with the stress of these problems. It will also help you avoid the problems associated with alcohol abuse, both in your health and other aspects of your life.
Heavy drinking does not only result in irrational behavior but also has a negative effect on your mental health. The effects on the brain lead to the development of these disorders, and it can even make them worse, but there are better ways of coping with the problem.