Alcohol: it is used to celebrate as much as it is to console or reward after a long day, it’s social expected (not just accepted), and can make us feel confident and sassy on a night out, as well as hungover the next day. But did you know that alcohol may affect your moods in more ways than just the hangover, and could be a bit of a wolf in sheep’s clothing if you are stressed or are suffering with anxiety or depression?
Alcohol may make us more anxious
Ever been in a situation where you had a bit too much to drink and misinterpreted a scene or a comment? Perhaps someone was talking to your partner and you became jealous, which then lead to an argument or increased feelings of anxiety and insecurity (and maybe it made you drink more)? Alcohol affects our perception which means we are more likely to misinterpret information, thereby creating additional anxiety or stress in ourselves, and our relationships, unnecessarily or intensifying anxiety that was already there.
Alcohol is actually a depressant
Whilst that first drink may make you feel relaxed, the more you drink the more alcohol disrupts your neurotransmitters (brain chemicals) including serotonin which is our ‘happy hormone’. Alcohol is a depressant and can block serotonin making you feel even more depressed. In fact, self-harm and suicide are more common in people with alcohol problems. If you are taking antidepressants than it is advised that you don’t consume alcohol because it may either block the drug’s actions or make your depression worse.
Alcohol can exacerbate social anxiety
Social anxiety is a long-lasting and overwhelming fear of social situations, affecting around 12% of the population, so what better way to get through an ordeal than by having a drink or two?! However, chronic social anxiety may in fact make you drink more alcohol, and in turn exacerbate your anxiety.
Alcohol can make us more emotional
Hands up if your night out has ended up in tears after one too many? As we begin to hit the vino, alcohol starts to inhibit the front part of our brain known as the prefrontal cortex, the area that is central to our cognition and decision-making. We continue drinking, maybe moving onto spirits or even shots, which then begins to affect a different part of the brain known as the limbic system, the area that is associated with emotions. Over the course of the evening, this part of the brain begins to ‘switch off’ making us over-react or become over-emotional at the smallest of things and ending up in floods of tears.
Drinking spirits is more likely to make you aggressive too
As well as drinking too much alcohol, spirits in particular can also make around one in three of us feel more aggressive as well, which could be down to the alcohol strength in spirits, compared to wine or beer, as well as the quantity we drink.
As always, alcohol is best drunk in moderation but if you do suffer with anxiety, depression or are particularly stressed then keep an eye on how much you are drinking or look to abstain for a bit until you feel better.