Many individuals in recovery have long personal histories of self-medicating anxiety with alcohol. Because of this relationship, it is imperative that alcohol addiction treatment programs include a comprehensive plan to diagnose any co-occurring disorders and include plans for ongoing mental health support. At Gulf Breeze Recovery, we believe that healing must begin within the individual and address all aspects of well-being to create the foundation for lasting sobriety. Call our team today at 833.551.2304 to learn how to break the cycle of substance abuse and begin working towards the better life you deserve.
The Relationship Between Alcohol and Mental Health
The term “self-medicating” refers to using drugs or alcohol to reduce symptoms of a co-occurring mental health condition without the consultation of a licensed medical provider. In these cases, the substance use appears to offer temporary relief from other pending medical, psychological, or emotional needs. Some very common co-occurring disorders experienced by clients in recovery include:
- Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Bipolar Disorder
- Childhood trauma
- Chronic Anxiety
- High-stress levels
- Impulse control disorders
- Mood disorders
- Personality disorders
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
In the case of anxiety, alcohol dulls the brain’s ability to process heightened states, including undesirable negative emotions such as fear or panic. However, it may also induce a state of chronic depression, worsening the individual’s overall mental state. This cycle may result in increased brain activity in the amygdala when sober, worsening feelings of anxiety.
It is important to realize that you do not need to have received a formal diagnosis to self-medicate. Sometimes, the client considers their debilitating anxiety a natural part of life and has turned to drinking as a legal and socially acceptable way to quell their pain.
Other individuals may be unable to access appropriate medical and psychiatric assistance or may even be discouraged from pursuing these aids due to cultural stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Certain high-functioning clients may even have managed to maintain the illusion that their drinking is in check and have developed such a high tolerance that they never appear out of control or publicly intoxicated, despite relying on alcohol to get through the day. However, their outward composure can be highly deceiving and may prevent them from getting the help they need until it is too late.
The Damaging Effects of Self-Medicating with Alcohol
The relationship between mental health and unchecked alcohol use is highly nuanced. In some instances, a person may begin drinking to take the edge off of what feels like a minor nuisance, such as acute social anxiety or a bout of stage fright. However, if left untreated, prolonged drinking can exacerbate the original problems or even cause neurological damage that results in the presentation of a new co-occurring disorder.
Individuals who self-medicate with alcohol are far more likely to begin adding drugs to their regime, expediting the rate of cognitive decline and setting the stage for catastrophic medical problems.
Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Gulf Breeze Recovery
We now understand that to successfully treat mental health concerns such as anxiety and substance abuse problems, both issues must be addressed at the same time. Early intervention is the key to treating all alcohol and mental health problems, including a tendency towards self-medicating anxiety with alcohol. You may not know where to start, which is why you need to turn to specialists to determine a plan for healing based on your specific needs. It is always the right time to ask for help. Contact the support team at Gulf Breeze Recovery today at 833.551.2304 to learn more about the next steps in resuming control over your life.