How Can Alcohol Worsen the Anxiety?

According to a study, almost 40 million people in the United States suffer from anxiety, and 1-in-5 people use alcohol to cope with anxiety, depression, and stressful situations. Consumption of alcohol while suffering from anxiety can negatively affect your health. In some extreme cases, it can be life-threatening.

In the beginning, alcohol may help you reduce or alleviate anxiety symptoms, but after some time, it will start deteriorating your health.

Continue reading to learn more about alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Key Takeaways

Alcoholism and anxiety are common co-occurring disorders. This is because one can cause the other. It is easy for a person practicing unhealthy drinking habits to develop anxiety over time.

This is also the case for someone with anxiety developing an addiction from self-medicating. If you are concerned your loved one is struggling, the following are key points from this reading:

  • Drinking alcohol relieves anxiety and depression only for a limited time.
  • Many individuals drink when stressed, yet it can enhance anxiety because alcohol is a CNS depressant.
  • Many molecules in the brain are affected by alcohol, including neurotransmitters, which have a role in stress, panic, and anxiety.
  • Cutting back on alcohol can be beneficial for persons suffering from anxiety, especially if the alcohol is causing or exacerbating the symptoms.

If you are suffering from a co-occurring disorder, get in touch with The Recovery team at (800) 817-1247 and discuss how our treatment approaches can lead you to recovery.

What Is Anxiety?

The term “anxiety” refers to feelings of fear, nervousness, shyness, and uneasiness. Anxiety is how your brain reacts in stressful situations. You may feel nervous and fearful when going through an unfamiliar experience. In some situations, anxiety is a normal reaction, such as feeling anxious while giving a presentation at a university or office.

However, when your feelings and negative emotions are on edge, and you cannot control them, it may indicate that you are suffering from an “anxiety disorder.” Anxiety disorder is a medical condition in which your anxiety does not go away naturally and only progresses with time. Dealing with typical anxiety is easy, but coping with a full-blown anxiety disorder can be challenging.

Types of Anxiety Disorder

There are various types of anxiety disorders which are as follows:

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

People who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) typically worry about everyday issues like health, job, and family. It is a long-term condition in which you have unrealistic worries about multiple situations. For instance, you may frequently feel that something terrible will happen or experience extreme fear for your safety.

To cope with a generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), many people begin consuming alcohol as self-medication despite its harmful effects.

Panic Disorder

A panic disorder is a medical condition in which you frequently have unexpected and unreasonable feelings of stress, resulting in fear or panic attacks. When you are in a stressful situation or the situation which is unusual for you, then you may face panic attacks.

During panic attacks, you may feel that you are having a heart attack or even feel like dying in some extreme situations. Moreover, panic attacks are not life-threatening, but they are frightening.

Social Anxiety Disorder

Social anxiety disorder is also known as social phobia. In accordance to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), approximately 15 million United States young adults are suffering from a social anxiety disorder.

Panic disorder is a long-term condition in which you feel fear when in a social situation. It is an anxiety disorder that may start in your early teenage years.

Social phobia is very distressing and can affect the quality of your life. There are various times in everyone’s life when they have to be social such as meeting new people at work and social gatherings/meetings. Therefore, you will likely lose out on a few opportunities if you are not social.

Medication-induced Anxiety Disorder

Medication-induced anxiety disorder happens when you are using some medications. During the usage of these medications, you will have panic attacks. It last as long as you continue using the medication.

Medication-induced anxiety also occurs during the drug or substance detoxification process. It is common for detox medications to cause some anxiety. During detox, you are already experiencing withdrawal, accompanied by anxiety.

Causes of Anxiety Disorder

No direct cause for anxiety has been found. However, various things play a significant role in causing anxiety. Some of the common causes are as follows:


One of the leading causes of anxiety is finances. There are a lot of people who do not care and take tension when they are broke. However, some people take the financial stress even when living hand-to-mouth.

It is challenging to manage your anxiety trigger, but it can be calming for you if you plan how to improve your finances. Planning things can significantly reduce anxiety.

Work Environment

When you work in a stressful environment and have a lot of burden work, then you may get anxiety. If work stress is a daily part of your job, you’re more likely to have panic attacks.

If you find your job stressful and becoming the cause of your anxiety attacks, you should seek a medical professional or psychological doctor. The health care provider can help you manage stress and also guide you to manage your work and personal life.


Conflict also plays a significant role in causing anxiety. You may trigger anxiety if you conflict with your parents, friends, siblings, spouse, or co-workers.

By finding out the solution for your conflict, you can easily manage to handle your anxiety.

Social Gatherings

Some people do not like to interact with people, and the idea of going out, especially in a crowd, can cause them anxiety. These types of people are also known as introverts.

It is better to seek a mental healthcare provider to overcome this issue. Your healthcare provider will help you and guide you about making yourself comfortable around people.


If you are not getting enough sleep, you will likely have anxiety. In addition, anxiety can also happen if you have disturbed sleep patterns.

If you stay up late once or twice a month, it causes no harm, but when you do it daily, it will severely affect your physical health and increase mental health issues.

Alcohol-Induced Anxiety

Anxiety, depression, and stress are the most common reasons for drinking. People start self-medicating by drinking alcohol to cope with stress and anxiety. However, self-medicate with alcohol is not practical because alcohol is a depressant, and it can cause anxiety and depression.

Therefore, if you are also suffering from anxiety, then the consumption of alcohol is not a good option for you as it can worsen your anxiety. People do not understand how closely alcohol and anxiety are linked and how they increase their mental and physical health problems.

If you can’t resist drinking while suffering from anxiety, you may have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). When these two conditions coincide, you have a co-occurring disorder.

Moreover, while drinking may give instant relief from anxiety, the relief is temporary. The hangover from the chemical changes that alcohol creates in our brains enhances stress levels, panic, and self-medication.

How Alcohol Worsens the Anxiety?

According to research, anxiety and discomfort are frequent symptoms of alcohol misuse. Those suffering from alcohol abuse may experience withdrawal symptoms, which include physical symptoms of anxiety such as a racing heart, nausea, and shivering.

The various factors that can worsen your anxiety are listed below:

Reduced Serotonin Levels

While alcohol can momentarily increase serotonin levels and make you feel good while drinking, it reduces serotonin levels in your brain over time, making you feel worse.

Disturbed Sleep Patterns

When you consume alcohol excessively, it negatively affects your sleep quality and often results in disturbed sleep patterns. If you are not sleeping on time or not getting enough sleep, then it makes your body more anxious.

Hangovers Can Activate Panic Attacks.

Hungover symptoms such as dehydration, nausea, and fast pulse are so close to anxiety signs that they can induce anxiety episodes on their own.

Effects of Alcohol on Anxiety

Anxiety can sometimes be relieved by drinking beer or wine. This is because alcohol is both a stimulant and a sedative, which may make you feel more energized, engaged, peaceful, and rested.

Though scientists don’t fully understand how alcohol works in the brain, it appears to influence neurotransmitters such as dopamine, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), and serotonin.

This implies that alcohol can alter your mood, thoughts, and behavior and provide temporary ease from anxiety. Frequent and heavy alcohol consumption can make you feel more depressed or worsen the existing anxiety.

However, while small doses of alcohol might temporarily relieve anxiety, the effects are only brief. When the flow of alcohol stops, the happy sentiments fade and may be followed by worrisome feelings. In certain circumstances, your anxiety may worsen than it was before you started drinking.

Moreover, alcohol might also have a negative impact on your anxiety levels in different ways. Alcohol might make it challenging to obtain a good night’s sleep. It can also make falling and remaining asleep complex, exacerbating sleep apnea. And there is evidence that if you do not get the required good-quality sleep, your stress and anxiety levels rise the very next day.