Alcohol and Anxiety

What is Anxiety? Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is to come. But if your feelings of anxiety feel extreme, last for longer than six months, or are affecting your life, you may have an anxiety disorder that may require anxiety treatment. Anxiety […]

What is Anxiety?

Anxiety is our body’s natural response to stress. It is a feeling of fear or apprehension about what is to come. But if your feelings of anxiety feel extreme, last for longer than six months, or are affecting your life, you may have an anxiety disorder that may require anxiety treatment. Anxiety is a healthy emotion. However, when a person regularly feels excessive levels of anxiety and has alcohol dependence, it might become a medical alcohol and anxiety disorder.

The American Psychological Association (APA) [1] defines anxiety as “an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.” If an anxiety disorder is left untreated, it can have severe consequences. It is best to always seek out help before the worst. Also, Anxiety treatment can help you overcome the symptoms and lead a more manageable day-to-day life. Anxiety disorder is a medical condition that a variety of professionals can treat. The sooner you start the right alcohol and anxiety treatment, the better the result you can expect.

Anxiety Disorder Symptoms

  • Restlessness, and a feeling of being “on-edge.”
  • Increased irritability
  • Concentration difficulties
  • Sleep difficulties, such as problems in falling or staying asleep.
  • Uncontrollable, irrational feelings of fear and worry – that recurs for six months or more
  • Sensations of panic and uneasiness for no apparent reason
  • A decline in social relationships, social activities, job performance, or overall satisfaction with life
  • Repeated failed attempts to resolve one’s fears
  • Substance abuse/misuse, self-medication, or other compulsive behaviors such as overeating as a way of managing anxiety symptoms
Alcohol and Anxiety
Quitting alcohol, over time, can alleviate intense episodes of anxiety. It can also reduce the possibility of long-term alcohol and anxiety disorders.

However, the body has strong physical reactions to the psychological symptoms of anxiety. For instance, these physical responses may include:

  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain
  • Choking sensations
  • Shortness of breath or rapid breathing
  • Muscle tension
  • Trembling
  • Inability to remain calm
  • Stomach pain
  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid breathing, or hyperventilation
  • Sweating
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Cold or sweaty hands and feet
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands or feet

Anxiety and Depression

Depression caused by alcohol and anxiety can occur at the same time. In fact, it’s been estimated that 45 percent of people with one mental health condition meet the criteria for two or more disorders. One study found that half of the people with either anxiety or depression have the other condition. [2] Although each condition has its own causes, they may share similar symptoms and treatments.

Alcohol and Anxiety Attacks

Drinking alcohol can also trigger panic attacks. While many people do feel some anxiety after drinking, regular alcohol-induced panic attacks are a serious matter. If you are frequently getting panic attacks after consuming alcohol, it is important to take a step back and look at your drinking.

Can Alcohol Cause Anxiety or Make it Worse?

Alcohol changes levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters in the brain, which can worsen anxiety. In fact, you may feel more anxious after the alcohol wears off. Alcohol-induced anxiety can last for several hours, or even for an entire day after drinking. Using alcohol to cope with social anxiety disorder can be dangerous. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), about 7 percent of Americans have this form of anxiety. [3]

With social anxiety, you may find social situations unbearable. It’s common for people with a social anxiety disorder to drink alcohol to cope with social interactions. Doing this can lead to a dependence on alcohol during socializing, which can make anxiety symptoms worse.

Anxiety and Alcohol Abuse

The co-occurrence of addiction to alcohol and anxiety is relatively common and is associated with a complex clinical presentation. Sound diagnosis and treatment planning requires that clinicians have an integrated understanding of the developmental pathways and course of this comorbidity. Moreover, standard interventions for anxiety disorders or AUDs may need to be modified and combined in targeted ways to accommodate the unique needs of people who have both disorders. 

Alcohol and Anxiety
If you are frequently getting panic attacks after consuming alcohol, it is important to take a step back and look at your drinking. Alcohol and anxiety may cause bigger troubles in your life.

Anxiety and Alcohol Dependence

About 20 percent of people with a social anxiety disorder also suffer from alcohol dependence. Besides needing alcohol to feel comfortable when socializing, other signs of dependence include:

  • Needing a drink to get going in the morning
  • Drinking heavily four or more days per week
  • Requiring a drink at every get-together
  • An inability to stop drinking
  • Drinking five or more alcoholic beverages in one day

Alcohol’s Anxiety Hangover

Even if someone starts drinking alcohol as a way to cope with anxiety, it can quickly have the opposite effect. For one, drinking alcohol more frequently or having larger amounts can cause hangovers. The hangover symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting, dizziness, dehydration, and low blood sugar, can make it hard to function. If someone is sick because of a hangover, they might not be able to attend to their responsibilities at home, school, or work—which can, in turn, fuel their anxiety.

Heavy or regular alcohol misuse also often leads to withdrawal. The symptoms of alcohol withdrawal and anxiety disorders can be similar. Alcohol withdrawal and anxiety symptoms can include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Elevated blood pressure and heart rate
  • Increased body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Panic attacks
  • Vomiting

If a person experiences withdrawal from alcohol and anxiety symptoms, it can create a cycle of heightened anxiety and increased alcohol misuse. [4]

Effects of Alcohol on Anxiety and Depression

Alcohol works as a sedative, so it can help someone feel more at ease. Also, it may make the individual feel more socially confident at a party or help forget worries. However, these are short-term benefits. When someone drinks alcohol, it disturbs the balance of chemicals and processes in the brain. The relaxed feeling an individual may experience during the first drink is because of the chemical changes alcohol causes in the brain.

Alcohol works by depressing the part of the brain that we associate with inhibition. But these effects wear off fast, and the pleasant feelings fade. If people rely on a substance like alcohol to mask anxiety problems, they may become dependent on it to relax, leading to alcoholism.

Both alcohol and anxiety medication have the same neurotransmitter and have similar physiological results. It is common for people to build up a tolerance to their anti-anxiety medication and then turn to alcohol as a form of self-medication, sometimes resulting in a co-occurring alcohol and prescription drugs addiction.

Link Between Anxiety Medication and Alcohol

Alcohol and anxiety can become a dangerous, self-perpetuating cycle. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) [5], the co-occurrence of alcohol and anxiety disorders is relatively common. The research found that 20% of those with social anxiety have an alcohol misuse problem.

Alcohol can lower the levels of serotonin, or what’s generally known as the happiness hormone. As a result, reduced levels are associated with increased anxiety. Moreover, the body will ultimately build up a tolerance to alcohol, making it less efficient for producing relaxing and calming effects. Additionally, ongoing alcohol use can result in a different set of health issues and complications.

Alcohol and Anxiety
Chronic alcohol use affects your ability to respond to stress in healthy and effective ways, which can lead to anxiety. 

Anxiety sometimes called nervousness, is a common emotional disorder with differing levels of intensity. A person with anxiety typically has chronic, ongoing bouts of worry, fear, or concern, typically out of proportion to the actual troubles they may face in their everyday lives. Physical symptoms of anxiety can include sweating, trembling, elevated blood pressure, and rapid breathing. The symptoms can go on for an extended period of time, usually months, without relief. In this case, the person may have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Anxiety medication and alcohol are both considered psychoactive drugs.

Co-Ocurring Alcoholism and Anxiety Issues

Substance abuse is more common in people suffering from anxiety disorders than in the general population. It is common for people who suffer from anxiety to self-medicate or misuse alcohol or drugs to find a way to cope with their symptoms. But the alcohol or drugs abuse enhances the effects of anxiety.

This cycle of self-medication and rebound anxiety digs a deeper and deeper hole for the addicted person, making anxiety treatment harder and harder as time goes by. Alcohol and drug use can worsen the physical symptoms of anxiety as well, reinforcing the need to use more of these substances to function normally. The result is only going to be a cycle of substance abuse that can lead to chemical dependence and addiction.

A person with a dual diagnosis has both a mental disorder such as anxiety disorder and an alcohol or drug problem. These conditions occur together frequently. We Level Up TX Dual Diagnosis treatment center has developed an effective dual therapy program track. It is also a Gold Seal Recipient and an essential provider of dual diagnosis treatment. We Level Up TX rehab center focuses on the complete treatment required for both illnesses. We treat the entire individual as a whole – their mind, their body, and their soul. Your dual diagnosis treatment teams will provide thorough and comprehensive therapy to you and your family members. We are committed to providing a coordinated and scientific proof-based treatment that works.

Are you ready to overcome your problem with alcohol and anxiety? We Level Up Texas treatment center is here to partner with you on your journey to recovery success. There is no better time than today! Get started with a phone call!


[1] Anxiety American Psychological Association (APA)
[2] Depression and Anxiety –
[3-4] Alcohol and Anxiety –
[5] FDA –