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For many, kicking back with a beer or cold drink at the end of a hard week is the perfect way to unwind. For some, a nice glass of red wine with dinner is a reward and guilty pleasure, even though it may provide some health benefits. However, how many of us take into account the relationship between alcohol and mental health? Here’s a look at how the two may be linked.
Alcohol And Mental Health: What You Should Know
We often read about the health benefits of alcohol to support our drinking habits, but rarely do we take a look at the negative effect alcohol can have on us. While there are some health benefits of alcohol, they usually happen when drinks are consumed in moderation.
For example, there is evidence to support a glass of red wine each night may provide health benefits for your heart, but overdrinking can quickly change that. The following are just some of the ways alcohol may be affecting your mental health.
Alcohol Affects Your Brain
Without diving too deep into the science of our brains, it’s important to understand the chemical balance that keeps us ticking. Whenever you are having a drink, the change in your mood and behavior stems from the chemicals in your brain being altered by alcohol.
While you may enjoy the short-term effects, like more confidence, over drinking can lead to a more emotional experience. Emotions like anger, aggression, and anxiety can be more pronounced, and over time, can potentially lead to permanent chemical imbalances in the brain.
Alcohol Can Lead To More Stress And Anxiety
When alcohol is consumed, it will affect your neurotransmitters, which are essentially a chemical substance in your brain that transmits signals between nerves. When neurotransmitters are altered, it can lead to an altered perception of our surroundings.
For those who already struggle with anxiety and stress, alcohol can enhance those feelings. Even for those who don’t struggle, it’s possible your altered perception can lead to uncomfortable levels of stress and anxiety when you drink heavily.
Alcohol And Depression
Alcohol consumption may also lower your serotonin levels. Serotonin is a chemical substance in your brain that keeps your mood and how you’re feeling in check. So, as you can probably guess, consuming too much alcohol can strongly affect your mood swings and highlight feelings of depression.
Spot The Signals Alcohol Is Affecting Your Mental Health
The line between social and heavy drinker sometimes gets blurred, so it’s important to try and spot the signals that alcohol affects your mental health. Here are some signs you may want to watch out for, whether it’s for yourself, friends, or family member.
Using Alcohol As A Solution
If you find yourself using alcohol to solve problems, it’s a telling sign that your mental health may be affected. For example, if you suffer from social anxiety, and need a few drinks when meeting up anywhere, take it as a sign.
Suffering From Memory Loss
People may drink to the point of blacking out, which is when you don’t remember events that took place for a period of time when you were intoxicated. High School and College aged individuals are especially susceptible to blackouts.
”Drinkers who experience blackouts typically drink too much and too quickly, which causes their blood and alcohol levels to rise very rapidly.”
Strained Relationships With Friends And Family
As mentioned before, alcohol can cause you to become more emotional, and can even lead to emotional outbursts or breakdowns. It’s not uncommon for these emotional responses to alcohol consumption to affect your relationships with friends and family.
Getting Help For Alcohol Addiction
If anything in this article hits home for you, or even a friend or family member, it’s possible to get help for alcohol addiction. You don’t want to wait until permanent damage has already been done before taking steps to getting help.
There are plenty of programs, public and private, that will give you the help and tools you need to get on the road to recovery. If you are ready to get help, or just have questions and want to explore the subject further, a good place to start is here.