How Does Alcohol Affect Mental Health?

Laura Smart - Author for Rehab Clinics Group

Laura Smart - Last Updated: June 17, 2022

Last reviewed: June 17, 2022 by Dr Alexander Lapa. All information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

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It’s no secret that alcohol can have a negative impact on our physical health, but what about our mental health? Studies have shown that alcohol consumption can lead to depression, anxiety, and even psychosis. In this latest post, we’ll take a closer look at how alcohol affects mental health and discuss some of the best ways to protect your mental well-being.

How Does Alcohol Affect Mental Health?

The effects of alcohol on the brain

Alcohol is classed as a depressant, which means that it can alter the chemical messengers in the brain and impact the way we feel, act and behave. It takes effect in the part of the brain that controls inhibition which is why many people feel more relaxed after drinking. These effects are only temporary, though and can lead to feelings of anger, stress and anxiety when they wear off.

Not just that, but it also slows down how fast your brain processes information, which can make it harder for you to determine how you’re feeling as well as the consequences of your behaviour.

When we look at long-term alcohol use, it reduces how many neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) there are in the brain. These are essential for warding off feelings of anxiety and depression, which is why those who suffer from alcohol addiction or misuse commonly struggle with these feelings too. You might be tempted to turn to alcohol to cope with negative emotions, but this will unfortunately just restart the cycle.


The effects of alcohol on the body

Even just drinking a small amount of alcohol can lead to stomach concerns, headaches, bloating and difficulty sleeping – despite some people believing that it helps them to sleep. It may also impact your behaviour.

Long-term effects include alcohol poisoning, as well as the increased risk of serious health conditions like stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure, some cancers and liver disease. In some cases, it can even have an impact on your life and cause relationships to break down, financial difficulties and unemployment. This can all have a wider effect on your overall mental health.


The relationship between alcohol and mental health

Alcohol and mental health are closely linked. This is because research shows individuals who misuse alcohol are more likely to develop mental health problems too. Common signs that alcohol could be having an impact on your mental health include:

  • Difficulties sleeping
  • Low mood
  • Feeling tired and with no energy
  • Feeling worried and anxious

Alcohol and depression

Studies have shown that regular and heavy drinking is connected to symptoms of depression. What’s more, experts say that those suffering from depression usually start to feel better within a few weeks if they stop drinking. This can be a sign that your depression was caused by alcohol. Those on antidepressants should also refrain from drinking large amounts of alcohol as it can make feelings of depression more severe and also result in side effects.

Alcohol and anxiety

Despite many people using alcohol to relax, it can actually result in increased anxiety. This is because alcohol’s effects will mask your symptoms and feelings. When you stop drinking alcohol and begin to withdraw from its effects, your anxiety can become worse. If you use alcohol to feel more confident and less nervous, you might find yourself doing it more often, which could then lead to alcohol dependence.


Getting help for alcohol addiction

If you’re worried about your alcohol consumption or the effects of alcohol on your mental health, the first thing to do is to talk to someone. Whether a GP or someone at Rehab Clinics Group, they’ll be able to listen to your concerns and can recommend a course of action – whether that be a local support group or a rehab centre.

Stopping alcohol yourself can actually be harmful if you’ve become dependent on it, which is why speaking to a medical professional can help. You may also require dual diagnosis treatment, which is where your alcohol addiction is treated alongside a mental health condition.


Ways to help yourself

There are also ways you can try and help yourself by cutting down how much you drink and avoiding situations that might tempt you to drink. If you usually go to the pub or drink with friends to relax, then you could consider other activities like going for a walk, watching a film or trying a new hobby. Letting your friends and family know about your addiction can also be helpful as they can then support you when you are out and about.

If you’re looking to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, having soft drinks between alcoholic drinks and enjoying alcohol-free evenings can help. Switching your preferred drink to one that has low or no alcohol is a popular choice too – as is keeping a diary to track your drinking.


How Rehab Clinics Group can help

With alcohol rehab treatment centres around the UK and a proven track record for effective addiction recovery, we’re the team to turn to if you need help. In fact, at Rehab Clinics Group, we’ve helped hundreds of people through our residential treatment centres in the UK and supported them through an evidence-based rehab programme and alcohol detox plan.

What’s more, we’re also able to provide dual diagnosis treatment, which means you’ll receive a personalised care plan that takes both your mental health and alcohol addiction into consideration.

Whether you need help for yourself or a loved one or have any questions about our services, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Together, we can help you to get to grips with both your addiction and mental health – and get you back onto a path that’s happy and healthy