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Alcohol is a no-no for most people with anxiety disorders, but people who experience anxiety, particularly disorders like PTSD, social anxiety disorder and panic disorders, are 2 to 3 times more likely than people in the general population to develop a substance abuse problem.

People with anxiety are clearly drawn to the use of alcohol and drugs, but how does a substance (alcohol) that temporarily abates anxious feelings actually exacerbate these conditions?

Reasons Why Heavy Alcohol Use and Anxiety Don’t Mix

  • Many people find that while alcohol can temporarily reduce symptoms of anxiety, the day after alcohol use, anxiety symptoms rebound with severity. There can be a real temptation to counter these exacerbated anxiety symptoms with alcohol once again, and this can start off a very negative spiral into alcohol abuse or alcoholism.
  • Binge drinking can cause physiological changes in the body that can trigger a panic attack
  • People abusing alcohol (or other drugs) may be less compliant on anxiety treatments, such as medications; and even if taking these medications as directed, alcohol may lessen their efficacy.
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms (which can include anxiety) can induce (or awaken) an anxiety disorder in some people. People who suffer from an anxiety disorder may endure more severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms
  • People abusing alcohol may cause themselves family, workplace or legal problems that serve to increase anxiety provoking thoughts

Don’t cope with anxiety through the use of alcohol or drugs. Although a tempting self-medication solution, these substances always make things worse.

 If you find that you do have a problem with both anxiety and alcohol or drug abuse/addiction, remember that treatment for the two conditions needs to be integrated to be effective.

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Page last updated Dec 08, 2015

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