• Staff Writer

The Relationship Between Anxiety and Alcohol Abuse

Updated: Feb 2



Alcohol abuse and anxiety may seem like totally different experiences, but they are often linked more than people realize. Having anxiety can make alcoholism worse, and abusing alcohol can make anxiety worse.


About half of people who experience a mental illness will also experience a substance use disorder and vice versa. What is the link? Why are these two so connected?


What is Anxiety?


Anxiety is a feeling of fear, dread, or uneasiness. This can be a momentary feeling or become a much bigger problem. Most people will feel anxious at some point in their lives. For many people, this will happen before a big interview, date, or maybe a flight. This is anxiety, but it is not necessarily an anxiety disorder.


An anxiety disorder occurs when those feelings of dread are more than annoying but impact your daily life. If you cannot complete regular tasks, work, or enjoy your social life due to the effects of anxiety, it may be an anxiety disorder.


Anxiety is very common and is often self-diagnosed. Not reaching out for a qualified diagnosis and treatment can lead to further problems. Although both occasional anxiety and anxiety disorders may lead to alcohol use, anxiety disorders can have a lot of consequences if not treated properly. One of those consequences is alcohol abuse.


Anxiety and Self-Medicating With Alcohol


Why does anxiety often lead to alcohol abuse? A study published in Alcohol Research Current Reviews suggests that people with anxiety disorders attempt to alleviate negative consequences of these conditions by drinking alcohol to cope with their symptoms, eventually leading to the later onset of alcohol use disorders.


The fear of anxiety is intense and can become overwhelming. Drinking to reduce those emotions and feel more relaxed is extremely common but also highly risky.

Relying on alcohol to reduce symptoms of a treatable disorder increases the odds of substance abuse and alcoholism. Because alcohol abuse has its effects, this only makes things worse. Alcohol abuse can even lead to new anxiety symptoms.


Using alcohol as a remedy can make anxiety worse when you're not using, leading to a more profound desire to drink. This can quickly get out of hand and become a co-occurring disorder, needing more intense intervention to manage.


The Effects of Alcohol on Anxiety


Anxiety disorders are not just responses to triggers. Much deeper challenges often cause these disorders. Therefore, using alcohol to treat the effects of anxiety only masks the symptoms. It does not treat the underlying cause.


Using alcohol to feel better is both a temporary and unhealthy way to cope. Not only will it fade as the effects wear off, but it also leads you to a stronger dependence, worsening anxiety symptoms and leading to a further cause of anxiety and other problems.

Alcohol use disorder is a chronic brain disorder that causes a person to continue to drink alcohol despite its negative consequences on their life. Even though drinking may ease anxiety symptoms briefly, it leads to more life disturbances and increased anxiety levels in the long run.


With that, anxiety is usually not purely caused by alcohol use. That means even quitting drinking will not cure anxiety. It will likely lessen the symptoms and may give you the clarity to face the actual cause. With mental clarity, you may decide to seek treatment for anxiety and alcohol use.


Anxiety and alcohol abuse require treatment. Most treatment centers will offer integrated programs to manage both disorders together. This can help you find your way, see hope, and feel excitement rather than dread.


Although alcoholism will seem like the more imminent danger, it is essential not to treat one without the other. By just treating the alcohol abuse, the anxiety lingers and can lead to relapse. Treating both increases your odds of staying sober and managing anxiety with healthy coping mechanisms.


Discovering the deeper causes and triggers behind the anxiety is more likely to give you a positive result and reduce your likelihood of depending on alcohol in the future.

The treatment for both alcoholism and anxiety may include detox, inpatient or outpatient treatment, therapy, support groups, and other treatments. These methods are proven to help people who have a mental illness and substance use disorder.


If you find yourself or a loved one struggling with either of these problems, it is crucial to reach out for help. Professional guidance can help those with anxiety and alcohol abuse disorders find their way back to a happy and fulfilling life.


Anxiety is nothing to ignore. It is a deep-seated mental illness, often requiring treatment from a professional. Without that aid, anxiety can lead to self-medicating with substances like alcohol. This doesn't only increase the levels of anxiety but leads to co-ocurring disorders and other problems. Once alcoholism comes into play, it can become even more challenging to treat the underlying cause of anxiety and manage it properly. Finding quality help at a treatment center is the best way to find solace and rediscover happiness and tranquility. In sunny San Juan Capistrano, we at California Care Detox & Treatment offer the specific care and guidance needed to recover and move forward in life without the weight of anxiety and alcoholism. To learn more about what we offer and how we can help you or a loved one, call us today at (949) 281-0632. Our staff can't wait to help you in any way you need.

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