In the year 2020, the state of Pennsylvania recorded an 851% increase in unit alcohol sales online. Isn’t that a crazy number? One must wonder what has lead to a flabbergasting increase in the number, and you guessed it right– it was the pandemic.

Across the U.S, the increase in alcohol consumption was far more than any other year in history.

The physical risks of alcohol are obvious, from heart issues, strokes, cancer, there are many diseases associated with alcohol consumption. But what about mental health?

Mental health is positively correlated to our physical health, so as much as alcohol disturbs our health physically, it severely affects our brain too.

Read on to find out what exactly happens to our minds when we flood our bodies with alcohol day in and day out.

What Does Alcohol Do To Us?

This social lubricant might make your interactions in a social gathering easier, making you feel more relaxed and confident. However, it’s a depressant which means it slows your reflexes and affects your balance and coordination. Headaches, dizziness, nausea, and vomiting are common side effects of alcohol. One might turn into a more risky person, trying out things they otherwise wouldn’t imagine doing.

The effects of alcohol depend on a person’s weight, physical, and mental health, how regularly you drink, what mood you’re in when drinking, and whom you drink with. The aftermath lasts for a day and includes being tired, thirsty, heavy-headed, and generally sick.

Connection of Alcohol and Mental Health

Our brain works best when there is a balance of chemicals within it. Since alcohol is a strong depressant, it fiddles with the balance and hormones that affect a person’s actions, mental activity, feelings, and long-term mental health.

Having a drink or two occasionally can suppress negative feelings and relax a person, making them more confident. However, as the drinking increases with heavier doses and seldom intake, the brain is likely to lose its balance, letting more negative feelings surface. This can make a person low, serving as an onset for depression, or make a person cry, fidget, and self-harm (signs of anxiety or aggression). This signifies that our hormones are mainly involved in developing mental problems such as mood and anxiety disorders.

Alcohol and Depression

According to a report by NYU in 2020, 29% of participants increased their alcohol use; however, those with depressive disorder symptoms were 64% more likely to have increased alcohol use. Moreover, adults (over 40 years) with poor mental health were far more likely to report increased drinking.

Whether drinking leads to depression or whether depression worsens due to alcohol consumption is debatable and ultimately subjective. We have so far established that alcohol affects the chemicals that regulate our mood, and reduced alcohol use can improve a person’s mood.

Alcohol and Anxiety

As our body processes alcohol, we are likely to experience depression, anxiety, and agitated conditions. Relying on alcohol for your mental health as a coping mechanism is rarely a good idea. The relaxed feeling lasts a few hours, but the aftermath drags you under the bus. This can also lead to heavier dependence on it as the more you drink it for the short-term effects, the worse the situation will get for you, turning it into a vicious cycle.

If you are somebody who experiences symptoms of anxiety in general, the hangover the next morning can aggravate the anxiety causing your symptoms to worsen. This can be relaxed through deep breathing exercises or just physical exercises in general.

Alcohol and Suicide

Imagine a person experiencing these depressive symptoms. The loss of inhibition and impulsive conditions can lead to self-harm or even suicide. Many pieces of research prove that there are connections between heavy drinking (chronic or acute) and suicidal thoughts, attempts, and death.

Alcohol And Other Psychiatric Disorders

Higher drinking levels have also shown signs of psychosis whereby a person becomes delusional and starts hallucinating. This can be caused by the consumption as well as withdrawal of the substance. Another mental health challenge faced by those with alcohol addiction is bipolar disorder, which can be rather challenging to detect when a person is an alcoholic. The reason behind this is the severely altered mental and physical activity in a person that may reduce the accuracy of a diagnosis.

Can You Drink With Mental Health Issues?

If one has a mental health condition but wants to continue drinking, at the very least they should consider the need to cut down on the number of drinks consumed. It would be best to have certain considerations around drinking habits. For example, it is strongly recommended to consume no more than 14 units of alcohol, equivalent to six standard glasses of wine, per week.

If you feel you are drinking too much, you can consider tracking your drinks and having a maximum amount that you will consume in a week.

Keep a record of when you drink and when you don’t. Having friends and peers who are constantly looking out for you during your night out is another good way to help you control your drinking habit. Avoid gatherings and friends that instigate anxiety. Moreover, watch who you hang out with and make sure the gatherings you are a part of don’t trigger your anxiety.

Need Help?

If you or someone you know is experiencing an addiction problem, get help immediately with certified professionals before the condition worsens.